Acts 26:16-18 – Paul and The Reasonable Faith

In Acts 26 Paul re-tells his story to Festus, the new Roman governor. While there are a few differences, the story of Paul’s conversion is fairly consistent.  He had persecuted followers of the Way until he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, whey he was commissioned to be the “light to the Gentiles.”

Festus interrupts Paul’s speech: “You are out of your mind!” (v. 24)  The Greek verb (μαίνομαι) has the sense of going too far with something, or even speech which appears crazy to an outsider (such as the reaction of outsiders to tongues in 1 Cor 14:23).  It is possible that this means that Paul’s knowledge of esoteric doctrines find things that are not necessarily true. This may reflect the common-sense “down to earth” Roman worldview. Festus is saying that the conclusions to which Paul comes is “beyond common sense,” not that these are strange and outlandish things.

Paul states that he is speaking “true and rational words” (v. 25)  This description is good Greek rhetoric, sobriety is a chief virtue in Greek philosophy.   The noun Paul chooses refers to the “exercise of care and intelligence appropriate to circumstances” (BDAG).  The noun Paul uses (σωφροσύνη) has the sense of a reasonable  conclusion based on the evidence, as opposed to someone who has crazy visions which he over-interprets to mean far more than it does.  Paul is not dreaming up some fairy tale, his conclusions are based on some rational thought and some very real evidence.

Agrippa, on the other hand, understands that Paul’s speech has a persuasive value, that he is trying to convince them both of the truth of the Gospel.  What Paul has done has “not been done in a corner,” but rather out in the open for all to hear and evaluate.  This too is a feature of good philosophy and rhetoric, those who engage in secrets and mysteries are questionable (and probably not sober and self-controlled).

To me, this is one of the most applicable sections of Acts – Paul’s faith is described by a Roman as “crazy” for believing what he does, but Paul says that he is “rational.”  I am deeply troubled by many Christians who reject reasonable thought based on evidence as a basis for Christian faith.  Too many prefer to call emphasize a “relationship with Jesus” rather than rational claims of truth about the nature of reality.  Christianity, as Paul is describing it here in Acts 26, is rational and reasonable.  Christianity, as presented in the media, or as practiced by many Americans, is irrational.  Paul would be ashamed of most of what passes for Christianity in contemporary evangelicalism.

I think that it is time to remember that God gave us minds and equipped us to think.  If we did that, what would change?

15 thoughts on “Acts 26:16-18 – Paul and The Reasonable Faith

  1. I defiantly agree that Christians today do over emphasize a “relationship with Jesus” and feelings and emotions when witnessing. However I do believe that some people need that emotional element when being witnessed to. Everyone is different; some people are more rational thinkers and need hard facts, while others are reached through a more emotional side. As Christians we should find a balance between the two. For example, in high school I had a friend from Church. He is an extremely logical, rational guy, who defiantly did not believe in God. He was homeschooled in a loving, Christian home but just simply thought that believing in God was irrational. Last year (being a junior in college) he told me later that he felt lost and like he was missing something. I am not sure the details, but one night he just came to God, “took a leap of faith.” And trusted in him. It took more than someone just spiting out facts and truth, he needed a change within the heart.

    “And to love [God] with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength…” (Mark 12:33). We are called to love God with all our understanding, all knowledge of the mind, as well as with all our heart. A balance of Intellect and emotion is involved.

    If all Christians were to witness in a balanced way, so many more people would be reached because they would see that Christianity has backbone. There is not just evidence, but proof. Also new Christians would be so much lest confused. It is like a table, you need all of the legs for it to stand. If one of the legs was shorter or missing it would destroy the strength and foundation.

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  2. This was by far my favorite post of the whole year. It is very thought provoking and I have never thought about the Christian faith like this. I completely agree with your point “I am deeply troubled by many Christians who reject reasonable thought based on evidence as a basis for Christian faith.” Paul was spot on when he said that his thoughts and beliefs about his faith were reasonable and rationale. Regardless if one thinks that Christians are crazy, one should be able to present their point in a firm and reasonable way because Christianity is the Truth. There is no doubt that God’s way is the best way but more importantly it is truth. What is crazy is the world who thinks that they can exist without giving the one who made the whole world and sent his only son to die for all the glory he deserves. Isn’t that just like humans with the media and general over all feel that Christians are crazy for believing what they do.
    If it was the other way around, there would be two significant changes. One, the media would look for ways to report God’s love, grace and mercy rather than for ways to disprove it because people would want to know how great our God is all over. The bad events would still get reported but always with a twinge of hope because God is in control. The second significant impact would be the decline of economic support for purely evil and worldly things like pornography and drugs. These are fleshly desires that if were nor advertised as accepted, cool, and available would have far less of an impact on our society.
    Romans 12:2 says to be of this world but not a part of it. If this world did accept Christianity as rational truth, I don’t think this verse would have quite the same impact and truth behind it that it does today. The world would be a place of refuge and shelter Christians agains those that felt different. Sadly, the crazy Christian stigma exists and verses like Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 4:15 (We have a high priest that understands all the temptations that we go through) give hope to Christians that this world is not where we belong but where we belong is our eternal home in heaven with the God that created us.
    I do like Hillary’s comment when she said some people need the emotional elelement. This is very true and is the reason behind teh crazy christian stereotype. There is not only rationale reason but we have the holy spirit that brings passion to our faith. I love being a christian because on the emotional and faith side we are accurate. On the science hardcore facts side we are accurate as well. That is all. Side note: Great picture

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  3. Paul’s defense before Festus and Agrippa is an incredible persuasive and logical argument to prove his innocence and at the same time explain his testimony and therefore the gospel. I think that Paul’s rational explanation of his message is appropriate for the situation as he is before the King Agrippa and governor Festus. It is fascinating to me that Paul uses this time on trial to proclaim the gospel, as it says in 26:29: “Paul replied, ‘Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.'” This just seems like a classic movie moment where the poor, beat up person is portrayed as being much better off (spiritually of course) than the rich, snobbish rulers. Paul’s rational argument seems to convince Agrippa of his innocence, and it also seems to touch him at a spiritual level also (v. 28, 31). This use of thinking and rationality is definitely valuable. I would hope that is why most of us students at GBC are pursuing a higher level of education at a Bible college. We should be gaining knowledge and critical thinking so that we can not only get a job, but that we can minister to others.
    I do have one question about the use of rational thinking in Christians. To what extent can we use that? Because I know that in many Latin American countries and other places around the world, Pentecostals and Charismatics seem to be spreading the most. It seems that relationships and emotion is winning the hearts of many. So how can we balance this emotion with rational thinking? I agree with Hilary that we should have a balance, as Paul certainly did. I think that our rational thinking and knowledge of Christ and the story of redemption will give us more of a passion to live as servants for God and spread the gospel.

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  4. One of the main arguments I hear against Christianity is that Christians do not think for themselves. They were brainwashed into believing what they believe. Many of these people’s slogans are one word, “think”. They do not think that Christians think through things in logical rational terms. Instead, we are much to busy following our rituals and making sure that we follow all of our rules. I really appreciate this post. It calls for us to actually think things out and not just believe what we are told to believe. If we go about Christianity in a logical way, then we will be able to defend our beliefs logically as well. Its a win win for us all!

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  5. This is a very relative post for me because I’m currently in philosophy class with Dr. Loverin and It has been a very educational but mind boggling course. Something that I have learned to believe that it is very hard for reason and faith to coincide because, to me, it wouldn’t make sense if you said that there was proof with faith. We were not there when Jesus died on the cross, we weren’t there when he rose again. We simply believe and have faith in what we do not see. We just read the book called, “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism,” by James Smith. I really like a place in his book where he says that one must believe before he understands and one must trust before he interprets. Taking a philosophical stance on this post I am going to say that Christians have an opportunity at this time to have a Christian Faith Philosophy. With any philosophy that exists in this world, there is bias and prejudice. In the past, Christianity has been looked down upon because of the bias and Prejudice that Christians have, however, because that is now how every philosophy has been created and interpreted, Christians are on level ground. I think that we have to remember when trying to argue with someone about faith and reason and proof, we have to know that faith is in what is unseen (Hebrews 11:1). However, there are situations in the world today that there are not answers for every question without going into beliefs. I think that where reason stops, faith starts.

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  6. I think it is so awesome to see this point of view that Paul shows us. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ, but there is so much evidence backing up Christianity. I couldn’t agree with Dr. Long more that “Christianity, as Paul is describing it here in Acts 26, is rational and reasonable.” (P.Long) To many times Christians take their belief as completely out of faith, when in all reality there is so much evidence for a God who created this world. This has really become apparent to me in the last years as looked for ways to answer questions presented to me by my atheist friends. Looking deeper to explain and understand what I believe in really helped me to show them how rational and reasonable my belief was. As I talked to them most agreed that a lot of what Christians believed seemed to be rational and reasonable but what most turned them off was all the people who claimed to follow it but their actions proved exactly the opposite!

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  7. I understand the relationship seeking aspect of Christianity. If we do not take the initiative to have a relationship then it seems to become where we have a set of rules. We were given the ability to reason and rationalize for a reason though. Paul understood that you could not give what we call the Sunday school answer to those he was ministering to. Greek’s were intelligent people and would not accept solely on the fact that he said that it was that way. Paul had to state facts and use their own philosophy. I don’t believe Paul would have tried to reaffirm scripture with scripture, because a person who does not believe scripture is not going to believe with more scripture. Broadening our scope of what the possibilities are is not a bad thing in my opinion.

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  8. All the above comments were very interesting views of the changes perhaps our community, our school and our society should change to live for God. Part of changing others, first involves changing ourselves. You cant condemn someone else without first condemning yourself and changing your heart. Paul might be shocked by the amazing resources we have like the media and textbooks. He wouldn’t even know what to do with thinks like a stapler or 3 hole punch but he would agree that we should use the knowledge and tools God has provided to spread the Gospel. I think Paul would be training and equipping people to be disciples who can make disciples rather than Christians who don’t care for ministry or do not want to “push” their beliefs on others. Paul would be the leading evangelist in the nation but also considered a religious nut.
    As far as what Paul said, that the Christian faith is rational and reasonable, it is. it is truth and many people think that Christians are crazy but we know and have experienced the living word of God, and our faith is based on the truth and now is as good a time as any to tell others. the fear of not being taken seriously is real and others don’t believe in what they do not see, but this class has made the book of acts more real and alive to me as the testimony of not just the writer but the many hundreds who were there and believed. they were witnesses and that’s all anyone wants. a witness. we have many hundreds of witnesses to the power of Jesus Christ, giving us the faith we need to confidently preach the word. Nick Vanloo’s post was interesting when he said that he thinks if the world was to accept that verse and the bible differently, and began giving God credit for his glory, then the changes would be different. there would be hope, less cause to sin and promote sin. i firmly believe that sin will exist in the world until Christ returns and only then will those who do not believe, see and believe, even if it is too late. then the world will change but until then we can only hope for the best and imagine His return!

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  9. I would agree that we have over emphasized having a relationship with our God. I would say there is a good reason for it from an evangelistic perspective. In contrast to other religions, Christianity is able to have that relationship with God. It is a central belief of ours that encourages the love of Christ and allows us to accept that love. When we go out and tell the world of our Lord, we explain why it is different from the religions that all claim to be right.
    Though we talk of the relationship with Christ, we don’t speak only of that relationship as the facts are there and the gospel needs to be presented. We were given minds to question and to seek and in our seeking we have found God’s beauty in His creation and even in our history.
    If we used our minds to question and seek the rational, prove and disprove the arguments, and engaged in the questioning; I believe we would find the logic as well as the truth which is what is in the bible. Less people would think of the ‘religion’ we have as illogical if we spoke up for what we know is rational.
    Our society bases decisions on logic and rationale. I believe that a big reason why we don’t address people with this information is because there is so much more to be questioned in fact than in feeling.

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  10. “I am deeply troubled by many Christians who reject reasonable thought based on evidence as a basis for Christian faith. Too many prefer to call emphasize a “relationship with Jesus” rather than rational claims of truth about the nature of reality.” For me, this quote really sums up the post, and has two significant points. First, that “Christians reject reasonable thought based on evidence as a basis for Christian faith.” The truth is, that Christ was real. I believe that Paul had a greater grounds and belief because I saw Jesus, experienced physical connections with Jesus. For many Christians today, there is not that pure physical evidence, so they resort to saying, “everything is faith.” However, everything is not purely faith! This is where people overemphasize the Christianity of a “relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is a very real connection that we should believe. What Christians should have faith in is God being faithful, and of the future, of the resurrection of the dead and an eternity spent with God. This has not come to full fruits, and therefore Christians must indeed have faith. However, we can say with utmost certainty that Christ did indeed live a life on earth. Obviously there is a degree of faith involved in Christianity, but Christians need to remember that there is true historical evidence for Christianity. The Bible is not a fantasy store, it is a history book full of truthful facts, among them, the foundation of Christian beliefs.

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  11. If we took the time to think about Christianity and try to understand the teachings and concepts, we would have better evangelists. We would have more effective outreaches and people wouldn’t be so turned off to the idea of Christianity. They would see that Christians are rational people who have believable stories instead of crazy Bible-thumpers who don’t know what they are talking about. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study to show ourselves approved before God. We need to think about what the Bible teaches and we need to be able to recite what it teaches effectively. Paul was able to rationally explain his conversion and his journey. We in today’s culture should be able to do the same exact thing.

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  12. Paul is a skilled speaker; he compliments King Agrippa and says that Agrippa already knows the prophets, and yet he does not come across as a fake flatterer. Paul stands firm in his faith, saying that what he believes is true and reasonable (26:25). Paul is able to defend what he believes, not to suggest that King Agrippa becomes a Christian, but Agrippa realizes that Paul is not trying to hide and cause mischief but rather be open and honest about his beliefs. If Christians today stopped living as lukewarm and chose to be either hot or cold, it seems that there would be a change in the way people view Christianity. I think that there are many Christians who float by; they do not stand up for Christ under trials or questions, but rather try to please everyone. Paul clearly offended people with his boldness as he was constantly being arrested and beaten! However, no one would doubt his faith or reasons. Imagine if we as Christians lived in such a way that people may think we were “crazy,” but we were crazy enough for our belief that we would persevere with the hope that others may know Christ.

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  13. I think that often in our current state of Christianity, too much emphasis is placed on the relational, and emotional side of the relationship with God; and forget that faith in God is actually rational and completely reasonable. Even though people now categorize him as “a crazy”, Rob Bell does a great job of proving creation with science, and with actual fact. It is a perfect way of combining the “irrational” faith side of Christian life, with the more “rational” way of life that the world practices. People look at God too often these days as a wish fulfiller, and forget that He is real, and that He is present in our lives. We forget that belief in this God is actually a rational, and intelligent thing, and it even has historical backing. It is significant to note to knowledge, and wisdom side of Christian faith. I think that Paul would be disgusted by the very odd way of Christianity that we practice these days. Paul’s statement that he is speaking “true and rational words” is an example that we ought to be taking. It’s important for us to be confident in our faith, and confident in the knowledge that we have about God. Confidence in the rationality of our faith, makes our faith even stronger, and makes our faith more real in our lives, and real to the people around us that see it.

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  14. I think that Paul provides us with a clear example of how to proclaim our witness. While there is nothing inherrently wrong about expressing that we can have a personal relationship with God, I believe in order for you to hold a belief in something, you have to have valid evidence in oder to know that your belief is true. When the evidence shows the truth of something, you are more apt to put your trust in that belief. We have direct evidence and supporting evidence that testify to the Truth of Scripture and the Person of Jesus Christ. This evidence, coupled with the fact that we can truly have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is what sets Christianity apart from the rest of the world. I agree with Zackl we overemphasize the emotin of having a personal relationship, but we must to provide evidence of the Truth in order for someone to grasp who Jesus Christ is. It is by looking at the evidence that allows a person to put trust in their religous beliefs and hold strong to them. Thereby, they can enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and the outworking of their salvation is by actively sharing the Trith with those who are in our sphere of influence.

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