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Jurgen Moltmann
translation: Marios P. Bezos

The Athenians always want to hear only what is new ("Athenians and all and the visiting foreigners do not listen to each other or say what or hear what is new" Acts 17,21), so it has been said since ancient times. What I am going to talk to you about today is not something new, but an ancient presumption of Christian theology: the speech of the Apostle Paul on the Mount of Olives. Despite all this, the newest is hidden within the oldest. Perhaps the best is hidden within the already long known, which is unknown to us. So we turn to the ancient speech about the Areios Pagos to see if there is a future in that past and hope in that memory.
The sermon on the Areio Pagos, which Luke describes in the 17th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, is the first evidence of the Hellenization of Christianity. This synthesis of gospel and philosophy, Paul and Plato, Jerusalem and Athens shaped the face of Europe and is still active today. From the Hellenization of Christianity arose what distinguishes Christianity from other religions: the dogma and theology. With the Hellenization of Christianity, early Christianity changed and from a Jewish heresy it became a universal religion. He left the motherland of the Jewish land and entered the great world of the Roman Empire. In Rome it was associated with the political education of the world empire, but in Athens it was combined with spiritual education. The intellectual education of Hellenism then exceeded the limits of the Roman Empire. That is why one should accept that in Athens Christianity was connected with an international, universal education. Only in this way was the Christian faith able to develop its authentic global mission.
The Apostle Paul came to Athens as an apostle of repentance and faith. That is why "his spirit was provoked in him, considering him an idol as the city" (Acts 17:16). Today, tourists from all over the world come to Athens to admire the last idols and the temples that still remain. I come today not as a missionary or as a tourist, but as your friend and guest, not to praise Athens as the "cultural capital of Europe", but to seek in Athens the source of the Hellenization of Christianity and the beginning of Christian theology. I want to return to these starting points of our culture and our Christian religion, because today the end of its history has become visible and serious anxiety has arisen regarding where Christianity and theology are going. The problem I wish to address is the following:
The magnificent synthesis of Christianity and Hellenism in the history of theology was not an era of harmony and peace, but the beginning of a history very creative but also very rich in controversies, between the Hellenization of Christianity and the Christianization of Hellenism: "He is the God of Abraham , of Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Jesus Christ, identical with the God of the idolaters and philosophers?" This was the starting point of Thomas Aquinas and the philosophizing theologians. Such a thing, however, was emphatically denied by Pascal and the biblical theologians. What is the relationship between Jesus Christ, the "man of pain" crucified on Calvary, and the Greek humanist ideals of goodness? Does "Dionysos or Crucified" apply? However, is it possible to formulate the universality of Jesus Christ as God differently than with the thought categories of the Greek metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle? But isn't the Crucified One the visible reflection (image) of the true God on this godless earth and at the same time the prototype of the true and good man in this inhuman world?
The Hellenization of Christianity shaped the religion and culture of Europe. Today, however, we notice that Asian, African and Latin American Christianity are emerging and we are seeing the limits of the old, Eurocentric Christianity. So should the Christian spirit today discard its European form and develop new forms of culture and thought in the above continents? In any case, there will be European Christianity in the future, for which its Hellenism at the time remains decisive, but Eurocentrism is blowing its wings, both the ecclesiastical Eurocentrism of Rome and the theological Eurocentrism of Athens. What implications does this have for dogma and theology, both of which are products of "the Greek spirit on the soil of the Gospel", as Adolf von Harnack so rightly said?
I will not deal with the problem immediately, but indirectly, since the four points of my speech will have as their starting point the Apostle Paul's speech on the Areio Pagos. I start from the Areopagite discourse, I present the consequences and the problems, then I criticize the composition of Hellenism and Christianity and, finally, I take a look at today's world. The four points of my speech are:

1. The future of the Unknown God
2. The transcendence of God and the human person
3. The Triune God and the human community
4. The presence of God in nature and culture.

a. The future of the Unknown God

The talk about the "Unknown God", who, although we do not know him, surrounds us from everywhere and is closer to us than we could be to ourselves, is a secret that, starting from Paul and reaching as far as Nietzsche, it occupied and enchanted all thinking people. But how does one arrive at this word about the "Unknown God"?
When Paul arrived in Athens, he was met by the rumor that he was allegedly preaching "foreign demons", that is, Jesus and the Resurrection, as heard in the Apostle's speeches. Such a thing, however, carried the risk of recalling the case of Socrates, who was accused of introducing "fiery demons" into Athens and was forced to drink hemlock. In Areio Pago, Paul defended himself by presenting the opinion that he does not preach foreign gods, but the Unknown God who is already worshiped by the Athenians. So not something foreign, but what is already present to the Athenians and known to them in an unknown way: this is precisely what Paul preaches. Of course, the historical truth is that there were never altars for "foreign Gods" or any altar for an "unknown God" in Athens. The formulation probably comes from the monotheism of the philosophical enlightenment of the ancient Greek religion.
The various forms of deities and the dramatic stories about the Gods of Homer's "mythical theology" became the object of criticism on the part of all Greek philosophers: God is one, immovable, infinite, omnipresent and yet incomprehensible, i.e. "unknown". Paul's interlocutors on the Areio Pago were obviously educated, enlightened Athenians, who had long ago abandoned simplistic polytheism and its magic and devoted themselves to the worship of "God" (v. 28), who was understood as a mysterious and invisible force. , behind all the empirical phenomena of the world. The Apostle Paul's speech on the Areio Pagos finds its starting point at precisely this point. However, in this way does he try to equate the Gospel with the popular philosophy of Stoicism?
At first it seems something like this: the infinite, mysterious essence of a God does not allow his worship in a man-made temple. No finite temple can contain the infinite God. Something like this was already claimed by Greek philosophers of Stoicism, Alexandrian Jews of the Hellenistic period and Latin poets. The one, infinite God does not need anything, "he is not healed by the hands of men, being bound by one, he gives all life and breath and all things" (verse 25). This is what Seneca and the Hermetic texts claim: "In him we live and move and have our being" (verse 28). Something like this seems pantheistic and is founded on the hymn to Zeus by the Stoic Cleanthes: "tou gar kai genos esmen". In such an interpretation of the "unknown God" no Christian or biblical representations are presented. Is such a "Hellenistic discourse about true knowledge of God" "foreign to the New Testament"?
I do not believe such a thing, because the decisive verse immediately appears in the sermon of the Apostle Paul: "God is now telling people everywhere to repent, because a day has come in which he will judge the world in righteousness in a man whom he has chosen, giving faith to all who will be resurrected him from the dead" (verses 30-31). Here, however, the position of the theological ontology of the one, eternally, omnipresent God is occupied by the eschatological ontology of the God who came once and for all. Instead of the space and the world that are filled by the Godhead, the historical time of the coming judgment and the coming reign of God's justice is subsumed. Coincidence with the divine harmony of the world gives its place to the historical decisions of repentance and faith. That is why the time determinations "now" (now) become important, God calls to repentance and faith, because he determined the "day" of His justice, so the Son of Man will judge the world, He who has already risen from the dead for for people to believe.
This is none other than the future of the Unknown God. Paul does not preach another God, but the eschatological secret of one, omnipresent and yet unknown God. He invites his listeners to move from the space of the world to the time of history and defines the historical time through the preaching of God's eschatological future. The announcement of God's judgment requires the conversion of people from injustice and violence to the path of justice and peace. That is why the preaching of Christ's Resurrection from the dead provides them with the strength of faith and the certainty of hope. On the other hand, however, the consciousness of history on the horizon of God's eschatological future can only then be offered on a global level to all people, of every place ("to people everywhere"), if the coming God is none other than the "unknown" God present to all people of every place and every time. The One who comes to judge the world with His justice and to restore the universe is not far from us ("and He is not far from each one of you who exists"). Everyone is looking for Him, because He is near them and they live by His spirit.

Read more in ANTHIVOLA issue 4-5