|St. Michael and All Angels Sandhurst
The book of Acts records that when Paul arrived in Athens, alone, he found the proliferation of pagan worship distressing (Acts 17:16). The Acropolis rises up over the city with the huge Parthenon (temple of the goddess Athena) dominating the skyline. In addition to his usual practice of proclaiming Jesus in the synagogue, Paul debates with Greek philosophers, whose approach to truth might have seemed to offer some common ground and a more promising avenue for debate than an argument about the myths of popular Greek religion.
Paul's hearers are clearly fascinated with his message, and take him to the Areopagus (see photo above), a place for debating. It's not as I had imagined it - a rocky hillock, not a building at all. In his speech (briefly summarised in Acts 17:22-31), Paul uses his knowledge of Greek philosophy and poetry to present the gospel within the thought-forms of his hearers - an increasingly important strategy for the church today, as we find ourselves living within a culture shaped by ideas and values from many sources. However, as Paul discovers (17:32-34), it takes more than intellectual arguments to win people to the Christian faith!
Rev John Castle has been Rector of St Michael & All Angels Church in Sandhurst, Berks since October 2004.