Around A.D. 50, Paul went to preach in Athens, then eminently famous for learning, philosophy, and fine arts. And godless idolatry. The Athenians actually had an altar with the inscription, “To the unknown god,” just in case they missed one in all their god-worshipping.
Paul loved these people, and in an effort to teach them the truth about the Creator and the need to worship Him alone, Paul reached out to them with the words of one of their own poets, Epimenides (c. 600 B.C.), and said, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28. These words speak to humanity’s complete dependence on God, not an image, a philosophy, or human hands.
So, on to Germany…I must say I was inspired by commenter John’s post at Principled Discovery. Regarding the German homeschool case of Melissa Busekros, which I’ve written about here and here, John gave a historical context of the intellectual elitist mentality in Germany:
Many people do not realize that prior to what took place in the late 1930’s and early to mid 1940’s Germany had become the most intellectual and erudite nation on the planet. It is this very mentality that spawned the horrible dilemma of WW2 and the Holocaust that is now part of our World history.
Germany reminds me of Athens, I must say. Intellectual, erudite…And John ended his comment with these words: Every civilization that has forgotten God has failed.
Well, the Apostle Paul was probably the greatest teacher and most successful evangelizer of all time (besides Jesus), and if he quotes Athenian poetry to Athenians, I can’t go wrong quoting German poetry to Germans.
The obvious choice is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). I must tell you that young Goethe had a terrible time in school, and ended up receiving an excellent private education AT HOME, by his PARENTS! Take that to heart, you homeschool-prohibitors.
Goethe is one of the greatest literary figures of Germany, and gets ranked with Shakespeare and Dante as one of the three most important poets of all time. Goethe’s most famous work is the poetic drama, Faust.
Excerpt from Faust, Part 1
(Gretchen asks Faust, “Do you believe in God?” Faust cannot answer her in the words she wants, but describes what he feels in his heart)
Faßt und erhält er nicht
Dich, mich, sich selbst?
Wölbt sich der Himmel nicht dadroben?
Liegt die Erde nicht hierunten fest?
Und steigen freundlich blickend
Ewige Sterne nicht herauf?
Schau ich nicht Aug in Auge dir,
Und drängt nicht alles
Nach Haupt und Herzen dir
Und webt in ewigem Geheimnis
Unsichtbar-sichtbar neben dir?
Erfüll davon dein Herz, so groß es ist,
Und wenn du ganz in dem Gefühle selig bist,
Nenn es dann, wie du willst:
Nenns Glück! Herz! Liebe! Gott!
And in English:
The all-embracing one,
The all-preserving one,
Does He not embrace and preserve
You, me, (and) Himself?
Does the sky not arch above us up there?
Does the earth not lie firm down here?
And do not with kind glance
The eternal stars rise?
Do I not look at you eye to eye,
And does not everything press
Upon your head and heart
And weave in eternal mystery
Invisible and visible around you?
Fill your heart, as big as it is, from that
And when you are completely blissful in the feeling,
Then call it what you like:
Call it happiness! Heart! Love! God!
Learned men and women of Germany, do not worship intellectualism or philosophy, but worship God, “the all-embracing one, the all-preserving one,” as your own poet has said.
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