Over the last five years, my family and I have had the privilege of frequently visiting missionary friends in Athens. Every time I have gone, I have made sure to visit the Areopagus, the scene of Paul’s address in Acts 17. Of course, you have to use your imagination when visiting today. It’s basically a big hunk of uneven shiny rock to clamber up on and walk around (being careful that the kids don’t topple off the sheer drop at the back!). But when I’m there, I always like making the point, to anyone around who’ll listen, that I’m actually standing on the place where the actual apostle Paul preached to the Athenian cognoscenti all that time ago.
Anyone interested in cultural apologetics and Christianity’s relationship to other religions will know Acts 17. Indeed, all roads seem to lead back to this Athenian outcrop. Though my students might inwardly groan at yet another theological trip there, it never becomes tired or clichéd, for it remains a ‘touchstone:’ a microcosm of the gospel of Jesus Christ encountering the religious Other in public. Whether it’s recent bathroom-related legislation, or the pronouncements of a would-be president, we are constantly faced with how to relate Christianity to other worldviews, and it often leaves Christians dizzy and disoriented. We need some basic theological clarity with regards to how we remain faithful to the gospel—handed down to us from Christians through the ages—in a multi-faith society.
So, whether it’s to clear up misunderstandings or give us fresh understandings on our mission and ministry today, I think it’s well worth yet another quick whistle-stop tour of the Areopagus.1