The BIG IDEA:
When we know what other people believe, we are better able to talk with them. This understanding helps protect us from views that don’t line up with God’s perspective and gives us insight on how to engage others in spiritual conversations.
When we don’t know what other people believe, we can be deceived without even realizing it. Many other ideas sound good but don’t line up with God’s word.
Learn more about what other people believe and be able to measure those beliefs against God’s word. This makes us better able to engage them in conversation and help them understand God’s truth.
Many worldviews emphasize some sort of meditation to empty yourself and help you open your mind to “gods,” the universe, or the “oneness.”
The SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPIC:
As Christians, we want to better understand what others believe so that we can protect ourselves from false beliefs and help others understand God’s’ truth.
- What I want the group to know and understand: Familiarity with other worldviews and how they are different from God’s word.
- What I want the group to experience: A growing awareness of other worldviews and how they could impact their lives, as well as confidence in talking with others about the Christian world view.
- How I want the group to respond: To be able to articulate what they believe but also have an understanding of what others believe
There are many ways to view the world and God. We want to be wise in knowing what we believe as well as what other people believe. Some popular worldviews of today are listed below. Some of the words look big but are really just two small words put together, so don’t be scared to learn what they mean. Which is your favorite to say and why?
Leader, the idea here is to get them familiar with these terms and to understand some basic differences between worldviews. Have fun saying the names here and pronouncing them in different ways. This is a great time to be a little goofy and help lighten the mood in a study that could otherwise be a little heady.
POLYTHEISM (many gods):
Poly means many and theism means god, so if you have this view you worship many gods. These gods might include natural or man-made objects. Religions with this view include Hinduism and Buddhism.
MONOTHEISM (one god):
Mono means one and theism means god, so if you have this view you worship only one god. Religions with this view include Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
ATHEISM (no god):
A means not or without and theism means god, so if you have this view you do not worship or believe in a god.
PANTHEISM (everything is god):
Pan means all, or of everything and theism means god, so if you have this view you believe that everything is god or god is in everything (trees, rocks, rivers, animals, people, etc). Many traditional and folk religions around the world can be considered Pantheism. The New Age movement is a modern version of Pantheism. “The Force” in Star Wars is a good example of a pantheistic worldview.
AGNOSTICISM (it’s unknowable):
This is a big word which means unknowable. If you have this view you believe nothing can be known about the existence of god, so you are not sure if there is a god.
During our lives we will likely meet people who hold one of these different worldviews. The Bible gives us insight in how to respond in wisdom, truth and kindness.
In Acts 17 16-34, our passage for this lesson, the author Paul is attending a gathering of people in Athens, Greece. Let’s see how he approaches people who have different worldviews.
1. In Acts 17:17-18, what kinds of people is Paul talking to? What do you know about them? How do they respond to Paul?
He speaks to Jews, God-fearing Greeks, and people in the marketplace as well as a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
- Jews believe in one God.
- God fearing Greeks of that time worshiped the God of the Jews but since they were not born Jewish they did not follow the same religious traditions as the Jewish people did.
- The people in the marketplace were likely your average Greeks who would have believed in the ancient greek gods (Zeus, Ares, Hades, etc)
- Epicureans – believed the best thing was to enjoy life but don’t overdo it, avoid negative situations, and live a simple peaceful life.
- Stoics – believed that to have a good life you should be a good person and develop courage, self-control, and wisdom. This will bring you peace and help you weather the hard times in life.
Some call Paul a babbler, mocking him, while others accuse him of trying to bring in foreign gods.
2. How does Paul respond to people who don’t believe what he believes? Does he ignore them, make fun of them or just hang out with them and not bring up their differences? Check out Acts 17:22-23.
He compliments them, “ I see you are very religious” and he takes time to study what they believe. He hangs out with them and talks to them with the intention of telling them about the one true God and his son Jesus Christ.
3. As Paul describes God in verses 24-28, how does he connect his beliefs to each of them and what they believe?
Paul tries to find common ground with them as they talk about their beliefs. He explains that God is not far from any of us and that our whole existence is because of Him (vs 28). He also refers to their poets and quotes them. In our day this would be like quoting words from a popular song or using lines from a movie to explain your view of God.
4. Paul also calls out the people he is addressing for their worship of man-made idols (verse 29). Which worldview from our list best describes idol worship? Why?
Polytheism is often related to idol worship as some natural and man-made objects are given god-like qualities. Some other worldviews can include it as well. The objective of this question is to have a discussion about idol worship and what other people believe.
5. What is the final response of some of the people in verse 34? Does this surprise you? Why do you think some of the people respond this way?
Some become followers of Paul and believe! Let them discuss their response. This may be surprising because during the passage it seems like many are hostile to what Paul is saying. We want them to see that when we talk about Jesus, the Holy Spirit works through our words to draw people to God even when some people ridicule what we say.
6. What worldviews do you think are represented in the Acts 17 passage? Take a look at the list in the beginning of this lesson.
The Jews represent monotheism, as do the God-fearing Greeks. The Epicureans and the Stoics could be agnostics, atheists, or even one of the other world views we have looked at, depending on their personal belief about God. We don’t know about the people in the marketplace because of lack of information, but we do know idol worshippers tend to be Polytheists. We want the students to think through what different worldviews are represented and get familiar enough to recognize them.
7. Question 4 in our lesson talked about idol worshippers. What are examples of idol worship we see in our world today?
Some religious people today–those who follow Hinduism and Buddhism for example–worship idols. There are also other examples of idol worship when people put money, sports, relationships or power above God in their lives. Help them see that modern types of idol worship are results of a worldview. Anything we elevate above God could be considered an idol.
8. Look at the chart BIG QUESTIONS AND MAJOR RELIGIONS/WORLDVIEWS at this link or on the back of this page. What do you notice? Do you know friends at school who represent some of these worldviews? What do you notice about the Christian worldview that makes what we believe different from their beliefs?
Most religions want people to be moral and the world to be a better place. Be sure to emphasize that one important difference in religions is what they say about Jesus. Some see him as a prophet, a holy man or a leader, but none but Christianity see him as God’s Son who came to save them from their sin. Some verses to consider are: John 14:6 and Acts 4:12
9. What difference does it make in your friends lives if they don’t believe that Jesus is God and can pay for their sins?
They will live a life separated from God and will not experience eternal life in heaven as a result of having their sins forgiven. Some verses to consider are John 3:36, Romans 6:23 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
10. How do we show love and respect to people who have completely different worldviews from us without compromising our own beliefs? These passages can help…. Colossians 4:2-6 and 1 Peter 3:15.
Allow the group to discuss. The power of the Holy Spirit and prayer are two things that equip us to love others even when we disagree with their beliefs. Knowing what we believe as Christians and remaining strong in what the Bible says helps us communicate our world view.
11. Are there people you would like to talk to about their worldview this week? Do you think you could explain your worldview if asked?
Allow the students to share. Help them think who they might be able to begin conversations with and how to start those conversations. Two things to consider would be a review of the Thrive study on sharing your testimony, or taking next week’s study time to go through the Perspectives Cards. These cards are great for giving students a way to engage their friends in a discussion about world views. End the lesson with some group prayer for their friends and for wisdom in explaining their own worldview.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.