Athenian Religion

by Tom Wacaster

In their book, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Conybeare and Howson have this interesting note: 

It [the Greek religion, TW] was a religion which ministered to art and amusement, and was entirely destitute of moral power.  Taste was gratified by the bright spectacle to which the Athenian awoke every morning of his life.  Excitement was agreeably kept up by festal seasons, gay processions, and varied ceremonies.  But all this religious dissipation had no tendency to make him holy.  It gave him no victory over himself: it brought him no nearer to God.  A religion which addresses itself only to the taste, is as weak as one that appeals only to the intellect.  The Greek religion was a mere deification of human attributes and the power of nature...It had no real power to raise him to a higher position than that which he occupied by nature (pages 28-281). 

I found that statement to be of interest insofar as it relates to what seems to be taking place in our society.  I read somewhere that more than 85% of our population professes some sort of religious faith.  The same article pointed out, however, that less than 15% of those surveyed admitted that their religion had any direct bearing upon their lives.  In short, their religion is no better than that of the Athenian citizen. There is no real power to transform them into something different, spiritually and morally speaking.

We have all seen the pitiful soul who plays the part of the hypocrite.  He has a "form" of religion, but possesses no real substance.  James pointed out that "faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26).  It seems that our society has moved ever closer to having the type religion characteristic of the ancient Greeks.  Human wisdom is deified, and men today, like those in Athens, spend "their time in nothing else but to either tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21).  When they have determined some "new thing," they glory in their knowledge, failing to realize that such knowledge just might be wrong.  Witness if you will the constant change in our encyclopedias and libraries. Volumes hot off the press today are out-of-date history tomorrow.  Knowledge without God is vain, at best.  The Greeks placed the emphasis upon that which appealed to the flesh and the gratification of the same.  It is really sad to see men today, while professing a sense of religion, failing to control the flesh.  In fact, they go so far as to engage in the things of the flesh in the name of religion.  The bottom line?  Philosophy without application is a dead philosophy, and religion without power to change is useless.

Bogus Astronauts

by Tom Wacaster

 Several years ago there appeared an article in the Houston Chronicle that still serves as a stark reminder that things are not always as they seem. The report told of a man who was "laid back," "friendly," and very "knowledgeable." These were a few of the epitaphs used by surprised individuals as they sought for words to describe Jerry Allen Whittredge, a "wanna-be" insider in NASA, CIA, and who knows where else his dreamings might have taken him. By falsely claiming to be an astronaut, this 48-year old Galveston man gained access into NASA's most secure area. He was so convincing that he was granted a tour of Marshall Space Center and access to Mission Control and was permitted to sit at the console during a shuttle mission. Mr. Whittredge is now in custody as authorities try to sort out why and how this man was able to deceive so many. The bottom line is: SOMEONE FORGOT TO CHECK HIS CREDENTIALS. As a result, a phony gained access to otherwise restricted areas, NASA officials have 'egg on their face,' and government security is under close scrutiny. IF NASA ran her business like some our brethren would have us run the church when it comes to exposing and dealing with men like Whittredge, here is what might have happened. At first 'light' of Mr. Whittredge's activities, someone would have asked, "Well, have you gone to Mr. Whittredge yourself? Have you personally discussed your grievance with him? If not, then we find no grounds to take your accusations seriously." Who cares that the man traveled the country in his mobile home, maintained a web page touting his bogus but believable identity, and continued to gain access into important areas of government circles. According to this way of thinking, until you personally track the man down, get him to sit down and answer your questions, you have no right to restrict his access to sensitive governmental areas. Any question regarding his qualifications might just label you as some sort of a vile and vicious trouble maker. When presented with overwhelming evidence that the man was, and is, a phony, those in high places would remind you that Mr. Whittredge is really very nice, "laid back," and quite "knowledgeable." "Why-y-y, have you ever listened to this man speak?" someone might respond. "He is so good, and speaks with such sincerity and deep down love for NASA and the government." Yes sir, with that kind of personality, the man should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed continued access to these sensitive areas of government. But somewhere along the line a concerned official raises a most serious question. "Has anyone checked the man's credentials?" "Credentials? What are you, some sort of a legalist? You radical knucklehead, can't you see that this man is sincere? And besides that, what constitutes legitimate credentials? That is nothing more than your interpretation of NASA's code and qualifications list." Well, I think you get the picture by now. We are happy to report that Mr. Whittredge is now under arrest. Any harm he might have done has been effectively rendered null and void. His "mouth has been shut," and his influence curtailed. I just wish I could say the same thing about the false teachers who roam our land wrecking havoc on the Lord's church from coast to coast and beyond. Perhaps we ought to take a lesson from the government's reaction to this "bogus astronaut" and pursue the same course of action concerning false teachers that are troubling the Lord's church.