We all have a seemingly innate desire for our lives to be meaningful. Rather than be some insignificant speck in the vast universe that will eventually die and be forgotten, we long to know that each individual life is here for a reason and purpose. Is such a hope realistic or are we all just accidental by-products of mindless forces of nature, doomed to die in the eventual heat loss death of the universe? Watch the video as Dr. William Lane Craig discusses whether it is possible to have meaning without God.
My family went to a local Independence Day celebration this past July to watch the fireworks and spend time with some other relatives. We arrived early so we sat listening to the live music while waiting for it to get dark. Typical for a mid-western summer, it was uncomfortably hot and humid. So instead of remaining seated with buckets of sweat pouring off my skin, I decided to get up and walk around to see if I could find something to fan myself with. It just so happened that a Masonic Lodge had a booth set up with pamphlets they were giving away, so I swiped one to fan myself with.
When I sat back down I actually opened the brochure and read some of it. My intention here is not to critique the Masons, but there was something in the brochure I found interesting. Under the heading of Several Masonic Principles I read this:
No one has the right to tell another person what he or she must think or believe.
Sounds very tolerant, doesn’t it? Immediately, I could tell there was something not right about that statement. Those of you who are smarter than I am have already pinpointed it, but I wasn’t really in a thinking mood at the moment so I had to mull it over for a while.
As we were driving back home later, it finally came to me. The statement commits suicide. The second the Masons typed it into their brochure, they had refuted themselves. If you are ever in a conversation and someone tosses this gem at you, I recommend you respond like this: “Then why are you telling me what to believe?”
This is what Greg Koukl, author of the book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, calls The Suicide Tactic. It’s a simple question designed to point out to the person you are speaking to the self-refuting, or suicidal, nature of the statement they just uttered. Because if the Masons are correct, and no one has the right to tell another person what to think or believe, then this statement is also true of the Masons. Yet by uttering the statement, they are telling me what to believe. They think I should believe that it is not OK to tell people what to believe. Do you see the problem?
Incidentally, it seems quite obvious that at least some people DO, in fact, have the right to tell others what to believe. Parents do it all the time. Teachers also. If no one had the right to tell others what to think or believe, education would be impossible. To clarify, I’m not saying you should be the kind of person who shoots off dogmatic assertions while demanding people believe them. Rather, it is perfectly legitimate to say, “You should believe X, and here are the reasons why.” This is how knowledge is transmitted.
If you want to learn more about the tactical approach, or how to think more clearly in general, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Tactics book. It will change the way you think for the better!
The Areopagus in Athens served different purposes over the years. Situated on a hill with a breathtaking view of the city and the Acropolis, it functioned as a council of elders, a Court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases, and a murder tribunal. Whatever its official function was, it also seemed to be a place of ideas.
In the 1st Century A.D. the Apostle Paul came to Athens. The Book of Acts tells us he spent time in the Synagogue reasoning with the Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace with all who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took notice of him speaking about Jesus and the resurrection:
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.’
I have always found this passage interesting because the wording seems to suggest the possibility that they took him by force. Regardless, Paul was glad for the opportunity and proceeded to lay out his case for Christ. It is a masterful example of subversive apologetics. Paul takes up the words and ideas of their own poets and uses them to tell the story of God and His Son Jesus. I could never hope to do it justice, so I suggest reading Paul’s own words in Acts 17.
I tell this story to explain why I chose Areopagus Forum for the name of my site. Although I am not formally trained in philosophy, theology or apologetics I do take seriously the Biblical mandate to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” To that end I hope this forum can be a place for me to give you a piece of my mind about any number of ideas pertaining to life and the Christian worldview, and in turn I offer you the chance to give me a piece of yours. I hope this can be a place of civil and fruitful dialogue between us.