Friday, 15 October 2010

A Theological Question

My youngest daughter is planning her wedding for next spring and has asked me to be involved in planning the service, form a Christian perspective. I have found wedding services form two church denominations that include the following:
One says, "Spirit of God...," the other says, "Amighty God..., in whom we live and move and have our being." Something didn't quite sit right with me, and I wonder what I should think on the matter.

This phrase, of course, comes from Acts 17:28, where Paul is speaking to the men of Athens and informing them of the One they refer to as the Unknown God. It is a quote, according to my NIV Study Bible notes, from the 7th century B.C. Cretan poet Epimenides.

My question is this: Is it acceptable and accurrate to use this phrase in a Christian prayer, even though it came from a pagan source? Does Paul quoting this poet appropriate it and make it suitable for Christian purposes? Does Paul quoting this poet make it inspired Scripture?

I still haven't quite made up my mind on the issue. What does anyone think?



Jannalou said...

Given the context, I don't see a problem with it.

Paul is quoting the poets of the culture to which he is appealing because what they wrote is truth.

...indeed he is not far from each one of us. For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' (Acts 17.27b-28, NRSV)

Paul seems, to me, to be saying that these two quotations (from non-Christian poets) describe our relationship with the One True God.

The particular phrase you are talking about is one with which I am very familiar, though at this point I couldn't tell you whether it's because I grew up hearing it at our Book of Alternative Services (BAS) worship on Sunday morning, or because it's a part of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) worship at the church I now attend. I have a feeling it's more the former; I seem to hear it in my mind being spoken in my father's voice, and he was my priest for all of my childhood.

Oh, um, I'm a lifelong member of the Anglican Church of Canada. In case that matters.

David said...

The ESV study notes say:

17:28 some of your own poets. Instead of the OT, Paul quoted some statements from pagan Greek writers who would be familiar to his audience. Though he quotes them with approval, this does not imply that he approves of other things that these writers said or wrote. The first quotation (in him we live . . .) appears to be from a hymn to Zeus by Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 B.C.); the words are found just two lines later than the quotation Paul takes from the same poem in Titus 1:12. The second quotation here is from the poem Phainomena by the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315-240 B.C.).

My feeling is that Paul, as the notes say, "quotes them with approval" and if it's good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me; the "him" when Paul - or we - use it would be God..... you and your family are the ones that have to be comfortable with it, though.

John K said...

Thank you both. I am inclined to agree with you. A number of more liberal churches nowadays tend to adopt non-christian materials and influences, but for the wrong reasons. Some may think it makes them more relevant, and others may think there is some spiritual validity to them not found in the Christian faith.
Paul, on the other hand, was just being, ",,,all things to all men," using something familiar to his audience as a springboard or common reference, to introduce them to Christ. It's the difference between synchretism and good evangelism.