Idols Beneath It All

Acts 17:16:

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

In his sermon, “A World Full of Idols” (March 29, 1998), Tim Keller said this:

What did he see? He saw idols under everything.

You say, “Of course he saw idols.” He was distressed because he saw idols. Go to Athens today, you’ll see idols everywhere. There’s Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. There’s Ares, the god of power and war. There’s Apollo, the god of music and art. There’s Bacchus, the god of fraternities. You can go to all of these and say, “Of course, they were out there. They were statues. Everybody can see them.”

But that’s not what the word “see” means. The text could easily have used a simple Greek word for “see,” blepo [βλέπω] or something for “just take a look.” But the word Luke uses to describe what Paul was doing there is the word theoreo [θεωρέω], the word “to theorize” or “to get underneath.” This is the key to working out how to be a Christian in the public world.

Paul saw that underneath all the art, underneath all the business, underneath all the government, underneath all the philosophy, were idols. The real problem with the world is not the bad things, but the good things that have become the best things. He saw what we should see, and this is how it changes the way we do things, that under every personality are idols, under all psychological problems are idols, under every culture are idols, under all moral problems are idols, under all social problems are idols, under all intellectual problems are idols. …

Rather, you have to say, “Jesus Christ is my glory, is my beauty, is my goodness, is my righteousness, is my love, is my meaning.” Then what happens? You’re going to do things differently than other artists. You’re going to dance differently than other dancers. You’re going to do business differently than other businessmen and women.

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