In my last post, I commented on the fact that, after teaching on biblical creation at different churches, I often receive the objection, “But that’s just your interpretation.” Another common objection we hear at Answers in Genesis is as follows: “If you say that Christians must believe in the biblical account of creation, then you are putting a stumbling block in front of people to accept the gospel, and we will look like fools!”
Unfortunately, this sort of thinking is prevalent in evangelicalism because many Christians believe that the way to impact the culture is to become like it. The idea is that when we go out into the world we should not be overtly Christian so as not to offend. Apart from overlooking the fact that the gospel is already foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18) and a stumbling block (verse 23) to unbelievers, this belief is antithetical to the apostolic example of preaching to a pagan culture.
Wherever the apostle Paul went in his missionary journeys there was either a revival (Acts 13:48–49, Acts 16:5, 19–34, 17:4) or a riot (13:50, 14:19, 16:19–24, 17:5). When it came to the biggest stage of his ministry, the Areopagus on Mars Hill in front of the leading intellectuals of his day, the apostle Paul did not compromise by trying to become like the people in order to win them over. Paul was not invited to speak because he looked or thought like the world, but because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection (17:18), something the Greeks were philosophically opposed to (verse 32). We do not need to intentionally hide the message of the Bible in order to get an opportunity to speak with people about it. God gave Paul the biggest platform of his day, and Paul did not shrink back from declaring the truth of the gospel.
Moreover, what Paul did do in Athens was to recognize that his worldview was different from the Greeks, who were evolutionary in their thinking. Consequently, he preached to them in a unique way, using the meta-narrative of the biblical worldview: Creation (verse 24), the Fall (verses 25–26), and redemption (verses 30–31). Paul was able to do this because he was not ignorant of the culture, nor was he consumed by it, but he observed the culture with the intent of proclaiming the gospel to it (verses 16, 23). Rather than being concerned about his own popularity, Paul deliberately went against the philosophies of the people in his preaching by proclaiming God as Creator of everything (Isaiah 42:5; Exodus 20:11). Today, just as in Paul’s day, people will say that we are ignorant fools or narrow minded if we believe that God created the world. Yet, those who do not hold to the view that God created the world and that we are creatures of God are not thinking rationally but irrationally (even foolishly, see Psalm 14:1) and are doing that in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–19).
As Christians, we need to remember that if we preach the gospel faithfully, the culture will mock us; but if we compromise the Bible with the thinking of the culture, they will still mock us. So why compromise to begin with? When we preach the Word of God faithfully, some will mock, some will want to know more, and some will believe (Acts 17:32–34).
Paul told the Corinthian church, which had embraced worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:5, 3:19), that “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ!” (1 Corinthians 4:10, NIV). Because of their desire for the wisdom of the world, Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians because they did not take into account the foolishness of the Christian message (1:18). His assertion that the Corinthians “are so wise” (4:10, NIV) is meant sarcastically because they thought they were wise in the world’s eyes (3:18). He was not calling into question their salvation but was trying to get them to match their thinking with what they had believed concerning Christ. The use of irony was to remind them that Christ, who is the wisdom of God (1:24), is far superior to any philosophy (Colossians 2:2–3).
The goal of our lives should not be to seek popularity in the culture so that we can use it for God. The goal of our lives must be about bringing glory to God and his Son our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 2:9–11). And when the world thinks us foolish for this, so be it.