We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Acts 17:29
Athens is the ancient home of Plato and Aristotle and still the center of philosophical ideas in the ancient world. So Paul begins his talk with reference to an altar to an “unknown God” that he has observed among their many objects of worship.
Then, he points out the error in worshiping man made objects. He presents the God who made the world and all things in it.
He is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands… He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him. 24-27
Quoting some of their own Greek poets, Paul argues that since man has been created in God’s image, it is wrong to think of God as being gold or silver or stone fashioned by men.
Even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His offspring.” Being the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 28-29
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. 30
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 32-34
Considering the audience, people of Athens who possessed great culture, love of abstract thinking and philosophy, Paul takes the right approach.
Rather than condeming them outright of being idol worshipers, Paul first acknowledges their pursuit of the supreme beings and then points out the error in their approach. He presents his case by reasoning with them.
Here, Paul was using his own knowledge and intellect not to impress but to meet with them at their level. While it is not a requirement to be knowledgeable, it is better to equip ourselves with knowledge than not. Paul’s talent in this respect, especially at this point in time, is well used.
For what and how we say things influence our listeners’ response. So, it is good to fine tune based upon the person’s thoughts and sentiments. If we know what they have in their mind and where they are coming from, we can truly meet with each other and start a meaningful conversation.
It’s safe to take this journey. To reason with people guiding them from myths to reality, from theories to facts. Because, when our attitude is that of a student, groping for what is real, the truth is already there for us to discover.