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Creation  Volume 27Issue 4 Cover

Creation 27(4):36–38
September 2005

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Turning Greeks Into Jews

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The year was 1959, a historic one for Australia—a famous American evangelist, preaching the message of the Gospel, conducted a series of evangelistic crusades there. Around a quarter of the nation’s population attended; some commentators claimed this was the closest Australia ever came to revival.1

Twenty years later, the same evangelist visited again and, along with all other such crusades since, made very little impact by comparison.

Greek book

Today, whether in Australia, America or elsewhere, statistics indicate that the small percentage who now ‘go forward’ for first-time commitments generally seem to fall away or are not incorporated into any church.2

Why was it that even though the Australian culture ‘buzzed’ as a result of these 1959 crusades, there seemed to be no lasting major impact on the culture itself? And why has this Australian culture (and other Western cultures) been continually declining since, in regard to Christian morality, despite numerous evangelistic campaigns?

It really comes down to understanding the difference between ‘Jews’ and ‘Greeks’ (using these terms as types).

In 1 Corinthians 1:23 we read, ‘But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.

In Acts 2, Peter preached a bold message that was primarily delivered to Jews.3 The main thrust of his message concerned the death and resurrection of Christ and the need for salvation.

The Scripture records that 3,000 people responded positively. This was a phenomenally successful ‘crusade’.

However, in Acts 17, when Paul preached a similar message concerning the resurrection of Christ to the Greek philosophers, their response indicated that they thought the message was really foolishness. Why the difference?

In hindsight, this approach really should have been used generations ago

In Acts 2, Peter was preaching to people who at that time believed in the God of Creation as recorded in the Old Testament. They understood the meaning of sin, as they knew about the Fall of the first human couple. They also had the law of Moses, and so they knew exactly what God expected of them, and knew they fell short. They were not indoctrinated in evolu­tionary ideas. The Word of God had credibility in their eyes and was considered sacred.

They also understood the need for a sacrifice for sin; after all, they were there on that particular day to sacrifice animals, as they had always done. However, most of the Jews had rejected Christ as the Messiah, and so Peter challenged them concerning who Christ was and what He had done on the Cross.

Here, then, is an important observation: the Jews had the foundational knowledge of creation and sin, enabling them to understand the message of salvation. Peter didn’t have to convince them that God was Creator, or that man had sinned. He could concentrate on the message of the Cross. Peter didn’t have to establish the credibility of God’s Word or to convince the Jews about Genesis creation or deal with teaching about supposed millions of years—these were not issues in the Jewish culture at that time.

In Acts 17, Paul was preaching to Greek philosophers. In their culture, they did not have any understanding of the God of Creation as the Jews did. They believed in many gods, and that the gods, like humans, had evolved. The Epicureans, for instance, believed man evolved from the dirt—in fact, they were the atheists of that age.

The Greeks had no understanding of sin or what was necessary to atone for sin. God’s Word to the Jews had no credibility in this evolution-based culture. Thus, when Paul preached the same basic message Peter had given in Acts 2, the Greeks did not understand—it was foolishness to them.

Greek god

It is fascinating to read in Acts 17 what Paul did. Refer­ring to the ‘unknown God’ mentioned on one of their altars, he defined the true God of Creation to them. He also explained (v. 26) that all people were ‘of one blood’ (from one man), thus laying the foundational history necessary to understand the meaning of sin and the need for salvation. He countered their evolutionary beliefs and thus challenged their entire way of thinking—foundationally.

Paul then again preached the message of Christ and the Resurrection. Although some continued to sneer, others were interested to hear more (their hearts were opened) and some were converted to Christ.

Even though Paul didn’t see thousands of people saved as Peter did, Paul was nonetheless very successful (from a human perspective—knowing it is God who opens people’s hearts to the truth—1 Corinthians 2:14). Remember, Paul had to first change ‘Greeks’ into ‘Jews’. In other words, he had to take pagan, evolutionist Greeks and change their whole way of thinking about life and the universe, and then get them to think like Jews concerning the true foundation of history.

No wonder only a few were converted at first. Such a dramatic change would be extremely difficult. Imagine trying to change the whole way of thinking of, for example, an Afghani tribesman into that of an urban American.

Returning to 1959 in Australia, it was common to have prayer in public (government) schools, and not uncommon in elementary schools for students to have a daily Bible ‘story’ or reading before they started the day. Even non-Christian parents commonly sent their children to Sunday schools, and ministers even gave ‘religious instruction’ in schools each week.

I suggest that generations ago, even in Australia (which has not had the same Christian heritage as America), the culture was somewhat like the ‘Jews’. Most people knew the basic concepts of the Christian religion concerning creation, sin and the message of salvation. So when an evangelist came and preached the message of the Cross, it was sort of like Peter preaching to the Jews in Acts 2. They had the foundational knowledge to understand the message and respond accordingly.

However, most church leaders did not understand that even these ‘Jews’ were really already becoming ‘Greeks’ in their thinking about reality. Even then, millions of years and evolutionary ideas were taught in a low-key way to students, already subtly undermining the credibility of the Bible’s history.

This is, I believe, one reason why there seemed to be no real lasting impact on the culture, and why the culture has progressively become more anti-Christian over time. Underneath it all, people really did have unanswered questions about the validity of the Bible as a whole.

Today, evolution is taught as ‘fact’ throughout the Australian education system. Such things as prayer or daily Bible readings are virtually unheard of in public schools. Generations now have little or no knowledge of the Bible. By and large they have been thoroughly indoctrinated in an atheistic evolutionary philosophy. Most church leaders tell their congregations it is fine to believe in millions of years and/or evolutionary ideas, as long as God is somehow involved.

Not surprisingly, generations today basically see the Genesis history as not credible—they believe in millions of years—so they doubt the reliability of the entire Bible. Thus when an evangelist preaches the message of the Cross to them, like the Greeks in Acts 17, it is ‘foolishness’ to them.

The whole of Western culture today is no longer mainly ‘Jewish’ but is more like pagan ‘Greek’—increasingly anti-Christian, with a predominantly atheistic, evolutionary secular philosophy. Indeed, things are probably even worse than in Paul’s day.

His opponents at least asked to hear him out—nowadays, many secularists try to suppress Christian teachings. There is a remnant of ‘Jews’ who still have an understanding of Christian terminology, but this group is quickly becoming the minority.

To reach today’s ‘Greeks’, they usually need to be turned into ‘Jews’. Their wrong foundation concerning evolution and millions of years needs to be changed to one of understanding and believing that the Bible’s account of Creation and the Fall of man (i.e. that man is a sinner) is true. With this different foundation, they can better understand the message of the Cross and, God willing, respond accordingly.

Billy Graham

In 1 Corinthians 1:23 we read, ‘But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.

The Billy Graham crusades drew huge Australian crowds in the 1950s, when the legacy of society’s biblical foundation—grounded in Genesis—was still evident. Today, western humanistic thought and education, underpinned by evolution, have all but eradicated this Christian foundation from modern culture. So when the same evangelist tried the same approach in Australia decades later, the results were dramatically down—the culture had shifted foundation.
Billy Graham photo courtesy Wikipedia

In hindsight, this approach really should have been used generations ago when evangelizing the ‘Jews’ (as in 1959 Australia). Generations ago, the seeds of ‘Greek’ thinking were already infiltrating the minds of people within, and outside of, the church. Even at that stage, the church needed to be giving answers to deal with evolutionary challenges and to establish the credibility of the Bible. This could have made a real difference in the way people saw the Bible. If they had understood that it wasn’t just a book of spiritual and moral issues, but a book of history that could really be trusted, then they would have been more likely to trust the Gospel based in that history.

Similar circumstances have prevailed in Britain and the US. Generations ago, their cultures were more like the ‘Jews’ in their thinking on spiritual matters; the Bible, prayer, creation etc. were a part of everyday life in government schools. But the seeds of ‘Greek’ thinking were being subtly laid down there also. Even in 1925, public school students in America were being taught that the Caucasians were the ‘highest race’ and that the earth was millions of years old—by a textbook that also promoted eugenics.4

Generations in the West have now come through an education system that is basically devoid of the knowledge of God. In fact, Christianity is often taught against, or relegated to mere personal belief instead of being regarded as objective truth about world history. Students by and large are taught evolution and millions of years as fact. The Bible is not a credible book in the eyes of most of these students. They are ‘Greeks’. The message to the ‘Jews’ will not be understood by such people until they can be changed from ‘Greeks’ into ‘Jews’.

This is why the culture today needs the answers from science and the Bible to counter the evolutionary/millions of years teaching, so that the literal history of Genesis 1–11 is established—thus giving credibility to the Gospel, which (like all Christian doctrine, ultimately) is founded in this history.

References and notes

  1. Piggin, S., Evangelical Christianity in Australia: Spirit, Word and World, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 154–171, 1996. As quoted by Manley, K., Shaping the Australia Baptist Movement. Return to Text
  2. McCune, R., Promise unfulfilled: the failed strategy of modern evangelicalism, Ambassador International, South Carolina, USA, pp. 80–82, 2004. Return to Text
  3. It also included proselytes—converts to the Jewish religion. Return to Text
  4. Hunter, G.W., A Civic Biology Presented in Problems, American Book Company, New York, USA, p. 196, 1914. Eugenics is the evolution-inspired doctrine that society’s weak should be prevented from ‘breeding’ so as to prevent their ‘inferior’ traits from being passed on. Return to Text

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