18 And some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him and began to engage in discussion. And some said, What is this babbler with his scrap-heap learning trying to say? Others said, He seems to be an announcer of foreign deities Ė because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. Ė Acts 17:18 AMP
The word philosophy translated literally means the love of wisdom. In the city of Athens in the first century, Paul was questioned by the two most popular groups of the philosophers of that day, the Epicureans and the Stoics. And according to todayís verse, they both considered Paulís preaching to be scrap-heap learning.
As far as their individual beliefs, the Epicureans and the Stoics were at opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum. The Epicureans believed that the primary goal in life was seeking happiness and pleasure. The Stoics meanwhile were much more disciplined in their beliefs. They rose above their feelings, lived a life of reason, and suppressed any desire for pleasure. Though you may not know anyone who calls themselves today by those names, I am quite sure that you know someone who fits the mold. And some of them may even be Christians.
The truth is that these groups exist today in one form or another in the Christian faith. The Epicurean-like Christian may not fit the bill on the pleasure part, but they overflow in happiness. Iím not talking about those always upbeat, smiles twenty-five hours a day Christians. Iím talking about those Christians who only believe in the blessings of the Bible. Iím talking about the Christians who are always encouraging and never condemning. Those Christians who claim hell doesnít exist and homosexuality is not a sin.
These individuals can quote all the good stuff God promises to believers. But the Bible is full of speeches by the God Who says things like, if you do this, then I will do this and if you donít do this, then I will do that. If you have never read any of those speeches, let me assure you that you do not want to be on the receiving end of what He does if you donít do something.
This group is more than likely yelling at me now or shaking their fists at the computer screen. Yes, I know that Jesus came to forgive us, and He has. But there comes a point when we all have to realize that Jesus came fulfill the Old Testament Law (Matthew 5:17), not annul it completely.
As for the Stoics, we all know these guys very well too. The Stoic-like Christian is always at church, yet forces himself to crack a smile.
They are always involved in some in depth theological discussion with the pastor and never seem satisfied with the answers they receive. They believe in what they can understand in the Bible, yet all prophecies about end times are simply disregarded. They do not believe in the Rapture, as such an event extends beyond the depths of human reasoning. Many times they are leaders in their local church because they are very outspoken about their beliefs.
Completely unrelated to either of these groups, yet involved intimately in their discussion, is Paul. The only thing Paul had on his side was what they called scrap-heap learning. To them Paul was preaching about a foreign God. The God Paul preached about may have been foreign to them, but He wasnít foreign at all. How many Christians nowadays treat God as a foreigner? How many Christians do you know that love wisdom so much that true Christianity seems like scrap-heap learning?
Donít think Iím saying that we should all seek to be ignorant. God wants us all to be wise. Proverbs is full of sayings related to Wisdom. But read them carefully: in the Amplified Version wisdom is often clarified and read as skillful and godly Wisdom. We can seek all the knowledge the world has to offer, but seeking godly wisdom should come first.
I have met Christians for years who could be compared to both Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. They say I either take the Bible too literally or that interpretation of certain passages is not based on an educated opinion. So who is right? The same book that says train up a child in the way he should go is the same book that says Jesus will rule and reign for one thousand years after His second coming. Itís all right there in black and white.
Thatís where these opposing groups will each accuse me of being a scrap-heap Christian. I believe what the Bible says about marriage, parenting, treating others, and even managing money. None of the instructions in those pages are outdated even now in the twenty-first century. I also believe what no human reasoning can explain: an event called the Rapture, the rise of the antichrist, Jesusí thousand year reign, and after that reign a New Jerusalem descending from heaven, 1,500 miles wide.
What do you believe? Are you still holding onto the pleasures in your life? Are you so logical in your thinking that you believe that if you canít explain it then it wonít happen? Lay those lines of thinking aside and join me where Paul was. Itís a scrap-heap like no other.