What are the altars to the unknown god today?

I am on lunch break on my first day of class, The Bible in Tomorrow’s world. So far, the class has lived up to the billing! It’s great! I also didn’t expect (don’t know why) that I would get the chance to talk so much to other classmates. That has been a welcome side effect.

The first main session, Bishop Wright led us in a sort of Bible Study on Acts 17, where Paul preaches to the Athenians. He takes what may be a minority view in saying that Paul actually is not just seeking commonality with people, but is actually deconstructing them. He does offer some points of contact, but he also takes back. The main way Paul does this is the altar of the unknown god, where he sees a possibility of hope, a window of opportunity where the message of the gospel can reach. He ended the session by asking what are the altars of unknown gods today?

These altars are the way we navigate through our culture, saying ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to others (or ‘yes, but’ and ‘no, but’).

So I ask the same question to my readers: what are the altars of the unknown god in our culture?

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11 thoughts on “What are the altars to the unknown god today?

  1. I personally think that the main god is ‘profits before people’.

    And if you think that’s too Marxist of me, tell me stories about how people will neglect their families for their jobs. And then tell me stories of how people will cast the pursuit of profit to the wind in order to dedicate their lives to helping others.

    There are lots of others, of course. ‘Me first’ is another big one.

    And the intersection of the two gods listed above, the great mantra of ‘Generation Y’: ‘I am what I consume.’

  2. I agree with Pam on the me first culture, and believe it comes in many different guises, some even pseudo spiritual.

    Acts 17 is the basis and formational text for my minisryt amongst the New Age Community, where many God’s are worshipped, some with names, but an overarching belief in the creator holds true…. the selfish question will this work for me provides us with a challenge…how do we communicate the goispel in such an individualistic society without reducing it?

    Sounds like you are going to have a thought provoking time!

  3. It’s a good question. I would say that reputation and public image would be one of the largest, especially in church life. This sounds like it’ll be a fantastic week.

  4. Maybe I’m being too pedantic here, but one key for Paul was that the Athenians put up an idol to an unknown god. They knew there was some sort of diety out there, but they did not know who it was.

    “Profits before people” is not an unknown god as much as it is an alternative god. When someone says profit is more important that the teachings of Christ, they are choosing one god over another.

    Paul was touching a raw longing in the Athenians. There is a god, they thought, but they did not know much about it. Maybe the analogy in our day are all the people who say they are “spiritual” but not religious. They are responding to a vague sense of divinity. We need to help them be – not individualistic – but particular in their worship.

    Just my thought.

  5. “Profits before people” is not an unknown god as much as it is an alternative god. When someone says profit is more important that the teachings of Christ, they are choosing one god over another.

    Fair enough, but I think most of us deny it most of the time.

    Will, it would be really interesting to hear how the discussions developed on your course!

  6. The altar to the unknown God pictures the ultimate frustration of idolatry. It speaks of the emptiness of religious pursuits that exclude the true and living God. Idols are obstructions to the knowledge of God. They eclipse God and thus grieve God’s apostle. We have a plethora of isms today that serve the same purpose of ancient idols. We have intellectual, religious and moral obstructions. Godly Kings tore down the high places. We tear down every pretentious thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

    Steve Cornell
    http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com

  7. All will be revealed in God’s time.
    The Epicureans and Stoics were conscious that there was some unknown force that superceded their own visible and tangible consciousness.
    With open minds therefore, they , out of sheer carefulness , erected the Altar to the “unknown ” God… the supreme God.
    This unknown God, through the Apostle Paul, was then revealed to these people at that appropriate time.

  8. After reading all of the responses they all seem to be pretty good. The “Unknown God” when I read this it made me think that they did not have an understanding who God is yet the they worshiped him. I believe this is still evident today, there are many who serve God but do not have a true knowledge of who he is. Matthew 8 These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me.9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. So even today people are worshiping God yet he remains unknown. The key is having a personal relationship with God.

  9. After reading all of the responses they all seem to be pretty good. The “Unknown God” when I read this it made me think that they did not have an understanding who God is yet the they worshiped him. I believe this is still evident today, there are many who serve God but do not have a true knowledge of who he is. Matthew15: 8 These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me.9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. So even today people are worshiping God yet he remains unknown. The key is having a personal relationship with God.

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