Titus: Part Two - The Pagan Poet

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one--
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou are not dead. Thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.
Epimenides - "Cretica"

If you are like me you have probably sang, danced, and clapped to the tune of a very strange pagan prophet.

Look at the poetry above. Apostle Paul quotes the last line in Acts 17 in his famous discourse on Mars Hill. That line became a popular praise chorus that went like: "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." Remember it? I never was too crazy about it myself, but I'm sure I swooned and swayed and did the Pentecostal two-step not knowing I was in agreement with a poem written to Zeus by a very strange Cretan named Epimenides.

Epimenides, hereby shortened to "Epi," was an ancient Rip Van Winkle who became a famous exorcist long before anyone ever thought of Linda Blair and pea soup. As a youth, so the story goes, he was sent like David to care for his father's sheep. He went to sleep in a cave and awakened 57 years later not having aged a day. (Caves, incidentally, are infamous on the island of Crete and are considered to be a "womb.")

The Greeks considered old Epi a god and the priestess at Delphi invited him to Athens to rid the city of a plague. He arrived there in the forty-sixth Olympiad, took some white and black sheep to the Areopagus (Mars Hill) and turned them loose. He had his fans follow them and wherever a grazing sheep stopped to lie down they were sacrificed on the spot and a small memorial was put up.

A memorial to whom? Well, Epi didn't always know because there were so many gods, so he had the altars put up without names, or whether added later or not, had them inscribed "To the unknown god."

Now this story is sounding familiar isn't it?

Hundreds of years later Paul visits Athens on a mission trip and is summoned to Mars Hill to answer to the philosophers. Paul looked around at all the idols and said, "Men of Athens, I perceive in all things that you are very religious."

Well, no, actually that is a poor translation. It was more like: "Man, you guys are really superstitious!"

Actually, it was worse than that. He said, "Yawl are dreaders of demons." "Dreaders of demons" is the actual term in that verse that many Bibles now translate as "very religious."

Paul then tried to reason with them from within their own culture by quoting the poet Aratus, the author of a long poem called Phaenomena which includes the line: "For we are also his offspring." He was trying to point out that God made all men but that God was not to be worshipped with idols made of wood and stone. In this same verse he quotes old Epi.

Old Epi wrote his poem calling his countrymen liars because there was a rumor going around that Zeus was dead. This incensed Epi and he went to the defense of Zeus. So, when you and I were doing the Charismatic Sporadic to "In Him we live, and move, and have our be-ee-innggg" we were joining in a lovefest and apologetic for Zeus.

Does it matter? Well, that's a conundrum, isn't it? Do you like conundrums? How about paradoxes? This is a bunny trail, but I'm feeling like Elmer Fudd, so let's go down it:

"A Cretan said, 'All Cretans are liars.'" If this statement was made by a Cretan can it be true?

The statement above is known as the "Epimenides Paradox," or "The Liar's Paradox." It has been debated by philosophers for over 2500 years.

"You are of your father the devil and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." John 8:44

The statement above, of course, is from Jesus and therefore, is true.

But, let me ask you this, is every thing a liar says a lie?

Let me present to you "The Deliverance Paradox." At one time in deliverance ministry it was common for the ministry team to dialog with the demons. Lately, there has been a teaching espoused that you never talk to demons because they cannot tell the truth.

So, which is the right doctrine: In a deliverance ministry can you demand answers from a demon or must you ignore them?

If you want my personal opinion, and it is only my personal opinion, here it is: Christians are always swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other. At one time there was way too much craziness in the Deliverance Ministry. Too much dialoging with demons, too much reasoning and conversing with demons, and just too much dramatics. Now, we aren't supposed to address them at all because if a demon speaks then it has to be a lie.

But if everything a liar said was a lie he would never be very convincing would he? Satan is an angel of light. He deceives through subtle deception. Sometimes he tells the truth. Sometimes he twists the truth. Sometimes he omits the truth. It is all a part of lying because it is not pure truth. My personal opinion is I treat the deliverance ministry as it comes. I like the sovereign situations where it just happens. But sometimes you have to treat the host and his parasites like Prisoners of War and get some information.

Now, let's get back to Titus. In 1:13, after saying they are all liars, Paul admonishes Titus to rebuke the Judaizers (they are the "very religious" ones, remember) sharply. Now wait a minute. Back at Mars Hill Paul did not rebuke the philosophers. He bent over backward to reason with them. Why? At Mars Hill he was dealing with the ignorant unsaved. Here is dealing with dishonest Christians.

Doesn't it seem like the Church has it backward lately? Aren't we preaching cozy messages to deceptive Christians while treating the lost and ignorant like they are the very forces of Hell?

Seems that way to me. Anyway, after rebuking these Judaizing Dreaders of Demons, Titus still must pick elders who can help him establish proper doctrine.

By the way, what is proper doctrine? (Do you speak to demons or not?) What is the difference between sound doctrine and personal opinion? How about land cleansing, prayer walking, spiritual mapping? Guess what? Old Epi became famous for "sanctifying the land."

It makes you want to make sure you are on a sound foundation when you are doing some things, does it not?

Doctrine. What is it? Perhaps we will discuss that next.

John L. Moore