In Him we live and move and have our being

I thought I’d take the Apostle Paul’s tactic with Athens, and quote some poetry for Germany.

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.

Awesome Sky.JPG
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,

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)

Der Allumfasser,
    Der Allerhalter,
    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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10 Responses to In Him we live and move and have our being

  1. Frances says:

    Very true. If we could only use more of these sorts of examples it might open people’s eyes. However, Goethe himself did not apparently know the God he claimed to praise. He was a child of the Enlightenment and member of the Illuminati (see ‘Neue Berthelsmann Lexikon’ amongst other sources) so that what he claimed to worship as God could arguably be seen to be what is often touted in New Age circles as god.

  2. Jen says:

    Frances, thanks so much for the input! I agree, Goethe isn’t the perfect example…and neither was Epimenides in Paul’s day.

    Can you think of another German poet/writer? I would love to have some other well-known figures to look at. I honestly don’t know enough about German lit to offer a lot, I just really liked the idea of offering this.

    Thanks again, blessings,


  3. sagerats says:

    Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yep, I live in Central Oregon. How fun to meet you!

    I enjoyed this post, it is so very true. The poem was beautiful!

    Abiding in the Vine!

  4. Jen says:

    Sagerat – let me know if you ever plan a Central Oregon homeschool get-together…

    Enjoy the sunshine!


  5. Pingback:   International Freedom in Education Day

  6. john says:

    VERY nicely done. Luke, the author of Acts, was quoting Paul in this passage of course. But it’s very likely that he got it right, for Paul also cited the 2nd line of the same verse in Titus 1:12:

    “They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
    The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! (Titus 1:12)
    But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
    For in thee we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)”

    – Epimenides, Cretica

    I have posted an article demonstrating the use of Synoptic material in the first epistle of Clement of Rome if you are interested in this sort of thing:

    The site exists to generate pre-publication interest for a book which shows the historicity of th resurrection of Christ.

  7. Greg says:

    “For in him we live and move and have our being.”

    This points to the fact that we have never been separate from God, and we are still not.

    God is What Is.

    The kingdom of God is spread upon the earth, but men do not see it.

    This Is It.

    It speaks to an interdependence WITH God, which is the basis of compassion.

    The idea of dependence points more towards condescension than compassion.


  8. victor Choudhrie says:

    God is active and present even in heathen literature of all religions, in Hindu Vedas, Muslim Quran and just about every rligion. He was in the astrological books of the Magi, the Persian priests strongly enough for them to sell everything and take a thousand mile trip accros the desert to Bethleham. Evangelism without knowing the religious worldview of the people you are going to evangelize is doomed to failure. Paul was a master contextulizer and hence immensly successful. Christianity is not knowledge based, it is Christ based which is relational, experiential and modellling. Christ does not look at your academic achievement, He looks at your heart. V.

  9. SandiWong says:

    It was brilliant of the Apostle Paul, I believe it does help to know the world view of the people we are trying to reach for Christ but what if it’s not a people what if it’s an individual one meets on the train, on the plain at the store? I believe we rush to speak christianese and not listen to the person we are trying to reach. A knowlegde of most world views is good but no matter how intellectual we are it is the Holy spirit who draws the individual, Paul was an intellectual but it was the Holy Spirit who was guiding him what to say. It is the Holy Spirit who should guide us what to say.

  10. Jen says:

    Thanks, SandiWong, for your thoughtful comment. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who draws people to God, and all our intellectualism is dust if not brought before the Lord.

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