One of the most obvious tensions believers face with their unbelieving neighbors is our different accounts of humanity's origin. The scientific community (and ancient astronaut theorists) offer different accounts of our "arrival" or evolution, and in so doing they deny the foundational distinction between us and God, namely, that he is the Creator and we are the creatures.
This tension presents believers with a couple of obstacles:
- Christians must be prepared to explain the biblical account of creation: God created all things from nothing and fashioned human beings in His likeness.
- Christians must consider how our evangelism ought to be shaped by an utter denial of the Creator God.
While most Christians have gone around and around with a coworker or friend about the first point, the second point receives much less attention.
That's why I was delighted to read a section on Paul's evangelism to the pagan societies of ancient Lystra and Athens in Tom Schreiner's New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (142-143). He points out that Paul's evangelistic strategy in communities that denied God's identity as the Creator was far different than his evangelism to the Jews (who affirmed the Old Testament teaching of God as Creator).
In both cases (found in Acts 14 and 17, respectively) Paul focused on God as the Creator who was the source of life and the One who was uniquely qualified to receive worship. This is significant because, as Schreiner concludes, "Those with a pagan worldview need to be nurtured in the creation theology of the OT in order understand that Jesus is the one who fulfills the promises of the creator God" (143).
Perhaps this is an important thing for us to consider as we proclaim the gospel to people who have astonishingly similar worldviews to the ancient Lystrans or Athenians. Our gospel presentations can no longer assume familiarity with the storyline of Scripture or God as Creator. Instead, we must begin where Paul began, with the Creator God.