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Propel, propel, propel your craft placidly down the liquid solution
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, existence is but an illusion.
-Parody of : “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” -Author Unknown-

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“I think; therefore I am.” [Latin: Cogito ergo sum]
Discourse on Method, René Descartes (1596-1650) French Philosop
her, Mathematician

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“In him we live and move and have our being.”

Attributed to Epimenides (7th century B.C.) of Crete and quoted by the apostle Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28)

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“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,
by whom also he made the worlds [Gr. aionas]” (Heb. 1:1-2 emphasis mine).

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Speaking to the men of Athens, Paul blew the lid off Judaism as it was commonly perceived in the first-century world.  His quotation believed to be from Cretan poet-philosopher Epimenides: “. . . in him we live and move and have our being” [1] not only echoed Moses’ Genesis account, but raised the secular mirror to God’s self-identification in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM” and Jesus’ self-affirmation in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  In fact, by this quotation and one from an astronomical poem of Aratus, [2] Paul was heralding the convergence of the sacred and secular in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Even among the most adamant secularists the truth of God’s existence can burst forth, because they too bear the imago Dei [3] reflecting their Maker.  On this basis, Geneva reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) urged Christians to love even their enemies.

Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches (Matt. 5:44).  It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intentions but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allows us to love and embrace them. [4]

As Will Durant characterized Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative— “this moral law that does not come from our personal experience, but legislates imperiously and à priori for all our behavior, past, present, and future”– so God’s law is written upon human hearts however they may deny it or suppress it (Rom. 2:14-15). [5]  Further, God has displayed, no less for the secularist, his glory in the world which constitutes his handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6). The gospel of Jesus Christ, accordingly, is a perfect fit for fallen men and women, thus prompting  the old adage: “If the shoe fits, wear it!”

On Mars Hill the question of whether Christians dare involve themselves in the marketplace of ideas was forever settled.  Indeed it had been settled on a Roman cross several years before.  As George Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community, expressed it,

I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap; at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek . . .  at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died about. [6]

These facts, however, did not dissuade second century Christian apologist Tertullian from posing the rhetorical question: “What is there in common between Athens and Jerusalem–what between the academy and the church?” [7]  To be sure, Ivy League’s elite, apart from God’s grace, can never hold a candle to Ecuador’s headhunters transformed by it, any more than the former Saul of Tarsus could properly assess Stephen’s death until after his own conversion to Christ.  Neither could Rudyard Kipling, on this side of the new covenant, ever polarize East and West by his seemingly immortal poetic expression “never the twain shall meet.” [8]

Christians in the western world profit greatly from reading E. Stanley Jones’s book entitled The Christ of the Indian Road.   Jones critiqued western Christianity while presenting his own experience in India as an ambassador for Christ to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Theosophy societies, and governmental gatherings.  Indian resistance to the person and message of Jesus Christ was in process of being broken down as Jones simply presented the facts about Jesus of Nazareth and followed up with Q & A sessions.  Mahatma Gandhi, a personal friend of Jones, had his followers read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  This writer was in the audience when Jones addressed the matter of nicotine addiction.  He adroitly assisted Christians in surrendering their addiction to Christ in the wake of the Surgeon General’s report linking smoking to cancer.  Decades later, reading The Christ of the India Road resulted in this poetic response:

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Lord Jesus Christ, may I be born anew

That I of Aryan race may now become a Jew. [9]

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I pray Thee, Father, make Thy church be strong

that men of all race will to Thee belong,

that brotherhood and sisterhood prevail

And nevermore His flesh receive the nail.

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Yes, East absorbs religion when it comes along,

while we so nobly sing our sacred song.

But West absorbs the old philosophy

that sent old Alexander on conquering spree.

He only wept when no more victory

across the Ganges River could he see.

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And we absorb old Plato’s state and cry

because our infants all begin to die.

Deformity does not match Plato’s art.

We have a state without a human heart.

And also Roman military might,

Like Machiavelli, we insist it’s right. [10]

 

Endnotes

[1]. Acts 17:28

[2]. Aratus was “a Greek countryman of the apostle’s, and his predecessor by about three centuries.”  Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, 3:126

[3]. Latin for “image of God”

[4]. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:696-697

[5]. The Story of Philosophy, p. 209

[6]. http://richardlfloyd.com/2009/04/05

[7]. Tertullian, c. 200 A.D. Prescription of Heretics, vii. Quoted in Documents of the Christian Church, Selected and Edited by Henry Bettensen., p. 8

[8]. Kipling, of course, wrote The Ballad of East and West long after it was discovered that by sailing west one could eventually reach the east.  He made two exceptions to his cultural/geographical impasse poetically represented in the words “never the twain shall meet”: 1) “Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat”; and 2) “When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!”

[9]. “But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and Circumcision is, that of the heart, in the spirit, and not of the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Rom. 2:29

[10]. For the complete poem entitled “A White Man’s Prayer,” go to www.dcbcom.org, click on Advocate Enterprise,  and then within the text click on hyperlinked “poetry.”

 

Sources

Bettensen, Henry, Editor. 1963. Documents of the Christian Church. Second Edition. London: Oxford University Press.

Brand, David C. 2002. Poem: A White Man’s Prayer. DCB Publications. www.dcbcom.org

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion.  In two volumes. Library of Christian Classics. Volume XX.  Edited by John T. McNeill.  Translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles.  Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. Copyright MCMLX W.L. Jenkins.

http://richardlfloyd.com/2009/04/05

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. 2008. A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  Fourth Printing. Three Volumes. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Jones, E. Stanley. 1925. The Christ of the Indian Road. New York: Grosset and Dunlap Publishers. By arrangement with Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

Kipling, Rudyard. Poem: The Ballad of East and West. Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. 1895. A Victorian Anthology, 1837-1895.  www.Bartleby.com

 

About the Writer

David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona.  He and his wife reside in Wooster, Ohio.  They have four grown children and seven  grandchildren.  With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing.  One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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