judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “suit”

Family Law Tip: Gifts and Child Support

I  post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

 

Our Declining Empathy and Ability to See God

The somewhat questionable consequences of smartphones, social media, and the many other technologies of their ilk have been well documented. A Psychology Today article, “How Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus,” for example, had this to say about the societal effect of recent technologies: “Frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring their brain in ways very different than in previous generations.” Terms like “digital natives” and “wiring their brain” can sound vaguely ominous, maybe even apocalyptic. Of course, we could have said something similar about the baby boomers and the advent of their surrogate babysitters: television sets. And to be fair, such recent technologies also offer a lot of in the way of good for our world. Like most things in life, there are “pros” and “cons.”

If we survey the “cons,” the decrease in attention spans tends to be one of the biggest criticisms levied against the tide of technological progress. However, there is another burgeoning criticism that presents some grave implications. A recent article in The New York Times (“Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.”) explores a lesser-known drawback of recent technology: a diminished capacity for empathy. This is worth pausing over, since a society that loses its ability to empathize with others can quickly descend toward the inhumane. The article references a study conducted a few years ago by a team at the University of Michigan led by psychologist Sara Konrath. After reviewing 72 studies conducted over a 30-year period, they found that a “40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.”

The author of the article, M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle, goes on to affirm such findings, specifically among young children, by detailing her own experience of consulting with faculty at a private middle school.

“At a retreat, the dean described how a seventh grader had tried to exclude a classmate from a school social event. It’s an age-old problem, except that this time when the student was asked about her behavior, the dean reported that the girl didn’t have much to say: ‘She was almost robotic in her response. She said, “I don’t have feelings about this.” She couldn’t read the signals that the other student was hurt.’”

The problem unfolds quite logically: if we can’t empathize with others, then we can’t as easily love them. It’s worth mentioning that we can still will the good of others, and love them through acts of service even if we don’t “feel” for our neighbor, but it becomes harder to do so. (To be sure, there will always remain instances when we’re called to love without the feelings.) By cultivating a more empathetic worldview, we are making it easier to fulfill Christ’s command to heal the sick, set captives free, and spread the Gospel of life. There are times in the Gospel when we not only read about what Christ did to help others, but also about what he felt. Christ had “pity” on those suffering in his midst, which then moved him to loving action. The role that empathy plays is crucial, so any threat to our ability to “feel” for our suffering neighbor is worth taking seriously.

Many of us have been conditioned to rely on technology—be that our phones, laptops, or tablets—as a means of comfort, entertainment, information, and in the case of certain awkward social situations, escape. Honestly, when we’re eating dinner by ourselves in a restaurant, sitting on the bus alone, or waiting for a friend meeting us at a crowded venue, how many of us don’t rely on our phones to fill the empty space?

On certain days after work I head to a coffee shop to write. On those days I grab dinner somewhere quickly by myself. As I’m sitting alone at a table with a sandwich or salad in front of me, I feel the overwhelming compulsion to look at my phone. It feels strange not to be doing something and to just sit by myself, not listening to a podcast, talking on the phone, reading articles on my newsfeed, or doing anything else but eating.

Part of the reason it’s hard to sit alone is because it can be boring. I’ve conditioned myself to receive short rewards for looking at my phone. Each YouTube video, Facebook post, or email notification gives me something to chew on. I’m never bored because I have unmitigated access to something to entertain, inform, or engage me. But the less I’m able to sit in my own presence, the less I’m able to sit in another’s as well. As it turns out, being present to ourselves in the form of healthy solitude is similar to being present to our neighbor. If we can’t do one well, we can’t do the other well, either. Turkle unpacks this in her article:

“A VIRTUOUS circle links conversation to the capacity for self-reflection. When we are secure in ourselves, we are able to really hear what other people have to say. At the same time, conversation with other people, both in intimate settings and in larger social groups, leads us to become better at inner dialogue.”

There is tremendous irony in that often our gratuitous desire to connect with others, via social media for instance, can leave us more isolated. Our desire for connection is valid and worth honoring, but the best way to do this may be limiting time spent pursuing “digital connections” in order to create space for face-to-face relationships. There is something mysteriously sacramental about spending time with someone through in-person conversation devoid of expectation or distraction. When we open ourselves up to relationships with others through our presence—and nothing else—we welcome a level of vulnerability, which can then lead to real and authentic connections. It’s hard to sit in the shared space with someone else and have ordinary, boring, and meandering conversation. There are awkward pauses, moments we don’t know what to say or how to respond, feelings of restlessness and impatience. This is often the case when we’re first getting to know someone, where we have to tread lightly across a plain of superficial and sometimes bland topics in order to set the groundwork to dig deeper. However, if we are talking to others while checking our phone, or thinking about checking our phone, then how can we ever get past that initialnegand superficial level of getting to know someone, and therefore establish real, honest, and empathetic relationships?

Turkle mentions in her article that “the mere presence of a phone” in the periphery of two people in conversation influences what they talk about. With a phone present, two people will tend to only discuss things of which they are willing to endure interruption. It’s okay if the person across from me picks up their phone if I’m talking about a movie I saw or concert I attended over the weekend. However, I won’t risk talking about a struggling marriage, weakened faith, or deep yearning if I suspect that such vulnerability might be met with feigned nodding, eyes glued to a phone.

Not only does the undisciplined use of technology limit our ability to empathize and connect with another, but we ultimately miss out on experiencing God at a deeper level. For the more we enter the inner life of another—one created in the image and likeness of God—the more we come to know about the mystery of God. Charles Dickens wrote in his iconic A Tale of Two Cities that “every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” By keeping our attention on the latest tweet or email alert, we miss out on something of infinitely more beauty and mystery: the person in front of us.

By Chris Hazell and originally published in Word on Fire on March 1, 2018 and can be found here.

 

 

When You Should Accept an Early Retirement Offer

The days of working 25 or more years for the same employer are long gone. Yet many employees cling to the belief that they will have that option until they reach retirement age.  According to Money Magazine (Jan/Feb 2019) companies in 2017 offered 5,000 early retirement and buyout offers. That figure rose dramatically in 2018 when companies announced plans to
cut 46,100 jobs due to voluntary severance, which includes buyouts and early retirement offers.

Buyouts are generally offered to employees age 55 or older, who have spent a decade or more at their companies, but this can vary. It is a good idea never to ignore a buyout offer, because employees who don’t accept an optional buyout may find themselves on a layoff list a year or so later, without any buyout offer included.

So, if an offer comes your way, consider it seriously. Considerations you should take into account are:

  • Will you have the funds to support yourself without a steady paycheck? Even if you have
    a 401k, by invading it early prior to age 59 1/2 you will incur a 10% early withdrawal
    penalty for each withdrawal.
  • Will you have to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits at an earlier age than
    the optimum (70)? Earlier collection could reduce your lifetime benefits by 25%. These
    benefits generally replace only 40% of an average worker’s income.
  • Will you be required to buy individual or family health insurance to replace your company-provided or subsidized insurance? Will your income be too high to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act? Also, premiums and deductibles are likely to rise each year. Some buyouts do include healthcare coverage. Or, you may be able to negotiate a longer period of coverage if you feel you have valid negotiating grounds, such as being the victim of some type of discrimination.
  • Have you correctly estimated the amount of money you will need in retirement? Retirees
    can generally withdraw 4% of their diversified portfolio annually to pay for their
    expenses, and reasonably expect to have enough to last 30 years. The amount of savings
    should be 25 times your annual spending amount. So if you need $60,000 a year to live
    on, plus your Social Security retirement benefits, you will need a $1.5 million diversified
    portfolio to take out 4% a year.
  • Would you consider taking another job, shifting into work you find more rewarding, or
    starting your own business? In these cases, accepting a buyout is a good opportunity to
    retool.

Bear in mind that if you accept a buyout or a severance package your employer may ask you to waive any legal rights you have currently and into the future.

If you want to consider accepting a buyout or a severance package, talking to a knowledgeable employment lawyer can bring clarity to the situation and assist you in making this important decision that greatly impacts your future. The Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. brings 45 years of experience to the legal advice it provides. We may be contacted at 215.563.7776 or at frc@fayerivacohen.com.

By Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire and originally published in PBA Labor & Employment Law Section E-Newsletter Fall 2019 edition and can be found here.

6th Circuit Rules In Firefighter’s Claim of Retaliation for Religious Speech

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Hudson v. City of Highland Park, Michigan, (6th Cir., Nov. 22, 2019), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in part reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims by a firefighter that he was dismissed in retaliation for his religious views.  The court summarized the facts:

Hudson worked for the Highland Park Fire Department from 2002 to 2015. Over time, he developed a reputation for two things: being an effective firefighter and being outspoken about his Christian faith. According to Hudson, the other firefighters had reputations too—for watching pornography in communal spaces and engaging in extra-marital affairs at the fire station. All of this created tension. He criticized their behavior, and they responded with disrespectful comments about his religious practices and sexual orientation. The back and forth went on for five years.

Hudson was fired after he claimed extra hours on his time sheet and reported he had worked the same shift for two different employers. The 6th Circuit held, however, that Hudson had shown enough to avoid dismissal on the pleadings of his claim that the Chief had fired him because of his speech. The court however affirmed the dismissal of his Title VII religious discrimination claim, saying in part:

Employees are free to speak out about misconduct in the workplace without subjecting themselves to discharge for rocking the boat…. Employees are no less free to root legitimate criticisms about the workplace in their faith than in any other aspects of their worldview. For many people of faith, their religion is not an abstraction. It has consequences for how they behave and may require them to be witnesses and examples for their faith. That reality does not permit differential treatment of them because they criticize behavior on moral grounds stemming from religious convictions as opposed to moral grounds stemming from secular convictions. “Let firemen be firemen” is not a cognizable defense to Title VII claims based on gender discrimination, race discrimination, or faith-based discrimination.

Even so, Hudson’s disparate treatment claim fails…. He cannot show that the city’s justification for his discharge amounted to a pretextual basis for discriminating against him because of his faith. The fire department put forth a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for treating Hudson differently. He falsified his time-sheets while other firefighters did not.

Judge Kethledge, dissenting in part, would have affirmed the dismissal of Hudson’s claim that he was fired in retaliation for his speech. Judge Stranch dissented in part, contending that Hudson should have been allowed to move ahead on his hostile work environment claim which the majority held should be dismissed.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Is Busyness Jeopardizing Our Souls?

Today it seems everyone’s favorite response to the common, probing introductory question, “How are you?” is this: I’m busy. Very busy. Extremely busy. I’m guilty of this response more than I care to admit. Of course, many of us are—actually—extremely busy. Many of us are stretching ourselves razor thin, fulfilling the necessary obligations of life: tending to our jobs, families, and children, addressing the infinite list of errands and to-dos, scheduling time for exercise, friends, entertainment, bills, volunteer work. The list goes on. Endlessly.

Technology, despite its aim to lessen our collective human burden (which it no doubt has in some ways), has helped fuel this increasing and widespread condition known as busyness. The ease with which we can connect to the world—be it to our work emails or social media relationships—allows us to be permanently “plugged in.” We can get away from the crowd and commotion of our lives physically to seek rest, but we can still pick up our phones to engage with them just as if we never left.

There is a great Corona commercial from a few years back that comes to mind. The scene begins with the crystal blue of the ocean. The camera pulls back to reveal a woman reclining comfortably in a beach chair. To her left, and mostly off camera, a man throws stones into the ocean, leisurely skipping rocks on an afternoon in some coastal paradise. We’re left with only the lull of the ocean and soft splashing of rocks dancing on the water’s surface. Suddenly we’re interrupted by the buzz of a phone. The man, after a moment’s hesitation, picks up the disruptive object and hurls it into the ocean. He watches it skip a few times before it disappears into the blue. I’m sure many of us at times wish we could do the same and cast away any and all reminders of our stack of obligations, our plethora of duties. If only…Yet, even though tossing an expensive phone into the sea might not be the most prudent of things to do—in fact, in most cases it would be pretty stupid—I think it can be easy to forget that we do still have a choice. We can still, in a sense, turn the phone off.

The New York Times article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider explains that our “busyness” often serves as a euphemism for “exhaustion.” We’ve become so busy with keeping ourselves busy—incurring an endless list of tasks and unchecked boxes—that we’re drained, restless, and, well, exhausted. The article continues, claiming that “busyness,” despite the temptation to believe it’s been forcefully hoisted upon our shoulders—like some compulsory sentence doled out without our permission or desire—is a condition of life we’ve opted for:

“The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”

The article continues to expose the impetus of choosing such a depleting way of life:

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

And so we are left wondering how to combat this “emptiness,” this lurking sense that without our busyness—without being able to point to an impressive life of endless activity—we risk a life of little or no value.

Christianity speaks of the inestimable worth of human life not because of what it does—or even has the potential to do—but because it is made in the image and likeness of God. We are valuable and of infinite worth because God says we are with words that form reality and reveal truth. The rupture then that can occur within our souls is when that subtle lie starts to creep in: the one dictating that our actions make us worthy—that what we do makes us lovable in the eyes of God. To use the secular language of Kreider’s article, we rely on our actions to provide “existential reassurance” that we are worthy. To use Christian terminology, we rely on our actions to provide reassurance of God’s love and approval. And so, it seems, idleness isn’t the only playground on which the devil enjoys playing. He’s quite fond of its opposite as well.

It goes without saying that we’re still called to act. Our actions help reveal who we are, and as human beings gifted with reason, talents, desires, and a noble vocation to build up and spread God’s kingdom, we must do so through action. Yet, rather than our activity being the ultimate gauge of our souls, it serves instead to reflect them more perfectly. Thomas Merton, in his highly meditative and sagacious work No Man Is An Island, brilliantly explores the possible dangers of activity in the life of a soul:

“My soul can also reflect itself in the mirror of its own activity. But what is seen in the mirror is only a reflection of who I am, not my true being. The mirror of words and actions only partly manifests my being.”

Merton recognizes the value of actions—again, we are not called to do nothing, for “faith without works is dead”—but a soul’s state is not based only on the merit of its actions. We can be easily misled to look for proof of God’s love in tangible evidence, saying, “See, look here! I’ve done this, this and this, so therefore I’m a good, worthwhile and lovable person!”

“In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity…The fact that our being necessarily demands to be expressed in action should not lead us to believe that as soon as we stop acting we cease to exist. We do not live merely in order to “do something”—no matter what…We do not live fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.”

Not only does the busyness of our work—even very good work—lead to an emptying of our true selves, but we become confused, bereft of the ability to understand who we are. Activity can clue us in on how we’re doing; yet, we are not what we do. And if we fail to see that, then our good acts can become emptied of love, an attempt to win God’s favor rather than express our love for him and others. Does our busyness keep us from loving? In the words of Mother Teresa, we must “never be so busy as not to think of others.”

Merton’s words pluck a very deep chord within me. As someone who is generally motivated and intensely devoted to a routine in order to be productive, I know that I’ve fallen squarely into the trap of relying on my actions to validate my worth in God’s eyes. And just as I’ve falsely assumed I’m “more lovable” because of certain things I’ve done, I’ve also done the opposite: labeled myself unworthy of God’s love because of a failure to do certain other things.

It’s been through prayer and an honest assessment of my actions and motivations in the space of his love that I’ve come to realize the danger of idolizing a life rife with activity. I have to keep reminding myself that no matter what I do—no matter how good or noble the action—it should always be done as a response to God’s love, not a plea for it. Love respects our freedom, gently compelling us to love always in all we do, not coercing us to love in order to be loved. And loving doesn’t always have to take form in obviously good action. It can be leisurely done in a spirit of gratitude, “meaningless” conversations with friends, and even restorative play and sport.

So what can we do to ensure our lives of busyness don’t lead to exhaustion and a loss of self? It’s nothing new: we must build into our lives a space for prayer and fruitful reflection. Even if it’s not much, we must strive to sit in the presence of the Eucharist at Adoration, read scripture and meditate on its application to our lives, or sit in silence listening to the voice of love that speaks words of affection, encouragement, and counsel. We must learn to be more like Mary, and less like Martha, in a world that unremittingly asks, “What have you done for me lately?” If we do not pray, and silently reflect on who we are often and consistently, we will continue to live in a state of exhaustion and boredom. And how can we honestly say we’re Christ’s disciples if we don’t ever allow him to tell us what to do or not do? God may want us to forgo certain activities, no matter how good, so that he can invite us into something else. If we take time to reflect, we will hear the voice of God. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So let us take time to review our lives and who we are in prayerful reflection, receiving the nourishment and strength to move forward with lives filled with fruitful, grace-led, and meaningful activity.

By Chris Hazell and published on Word on Fire on February 22, 2018 and can be found here.

 

LAYOFFS AND MERGERS AND CONSOLIDATIONS AND ACQUISITIONS …OH MY!

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

In recent months, businesses and institutions in the Philadelphia area have experienced a number of closures, mergers, consolidations and acquisitions which will be devastating to the greater geographic area, and have or will result in major layoffs of skilled employees and elimination of future jobs.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The owner of Hahnemann University Hospital, in existence for 171 years, announced that it would be declaring bankruptcy and closing;
  • Drexel University, announced that about 40 percent of its physicians and clinical staff of its medical college will lose their jobs in the wake of the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital;
  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions announced that it was closing its South Philadelphia oil refinery due to a series of explosions and a catastrophic fire, and laying off more than 1,000 employees;
  • WSFS Financial Corporation acquired Beneficial Bank, founded in 1853, with 58 locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and…

View original post 855 more words

Proselytizing Does Not Rise To Level of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Trombetta v Kruse, (NY Civ. Ct., Nov. 19, 2019), a New York state trial court held that a proselytizing pamphlet and a subsequent e-mail did not amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress, nor was any injury proven. According to the court:

The pamphlet … shows a cartoon depiction of a catholic who is sent into the “lake of fire” to “burn in hell” for practicing as a catholic, instead of following the version of Christianity promoted by the pamphlet which is evangelical Baptist. The tract urges the reader to reject Catholicism, or be barred from heaven….

… [D]efendant wrote plaintiff an email that included the following statements: … My family does not believe and, if any of them were to die tomorrow, they would not go to heaven but to hell. I sent them tracts because I do not want them to go to hell. I want them to go to heaven. It is what I want for you too.

The court held in part:

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the courts of this State from evaluating the religious beliefs of a church or individual….

While the court understands why the plaintiff found the tract and email disturbing, the court does not find that the conduct rose to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “A Fire, a World of Unrighteousness.”

See also:

_____________________________

In his epistle, James warns his readers that not many of them should become teachers, because God judges teachers with greater strictness.  He goes on to say that one who does not stumble with his tongue is perfect, for ability to control the tongue means one is able to control his whole body.  A small fire sets an entire forest ablaze as the tongue negatively affects the body that results in setting our whole life ablaze.  James describes the tongue as “a world of unrighteousness” and “a restless evil, full of poison.”  He further writes that the tongue blesses God and  curses those made in God’s image.  A tongue on fire cannot come from a good source.

It is very tempting to misuse the tongue.  All of us have done this at one time or another or regularly.  But, we must be aware of the unrighteousness it manifests.  The tongue does damage to others.  This misuse is not helpful in debate.  It is certainly harmful.  We must be careful what we say to other people including those we meet for an informal or formal discussion of our theological and philosdophical differences.  We will gain no ground by being disrespectful in what we say.  And, we are not to respond with disrespect those who disrespect us.  We are to set an example as disciples of Christ.  The world does not follow these rules.  Watch a half hour or less of 24/7 news to see.  Pinhead and other such nomenclature has become common in the conservative and liberal media and in government.  We are to discredit a perspective by discrediting the perspective, not the person.

James employs the word curse. To curse someone is more serious than calling a person a name.  A curse is a malediction calling down upon someone’s head God’s disfavor and ill-fortune.  In the Lucan version of the Beatitudes, Jesus recites blessings and curses.  “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”  “But woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.”  (Luke 6: 21, 24 ESV)  Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” (Mark 11: 21 ESV)

What should one do when one is confronted with wickedness and evil?  Should not the person be pointed out for what he/she is? Shouldn’t he be reminded of the judgment of God? Such judgments are most often not necessary, and we can misjudge; but, when evil needs to be identified, we must do so after careful consideration. People need to be reminded of God’s will and His  judgment, even Christians.  Judgment is the Law speaking.  We must hear the Law before we can receive the Gospel.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus associates the misuse of the tongue with anger.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”  (Matthew 5: 21-2 ESV)   More on anger in the future.

I leave you with something James says near the beginning of his letter:  “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”  (James 1: 26 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

July 15, 2019

5th Circuit Upholds Stay of Execution For Buddhist Inmate

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Murphy v. Collier, (5th Cir., Nov. 12, 2019), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a stay of execution granted last week by a Texas federal district court in the case of a Buddhist inmate who challenges the access he will have to his religious adviser prior to his execution. The district court granted a stay to allow it time to explore factual concerns about the balance between the inmate’s religious rights and the prison’s valid concerns for security. (See prior posting.) Christian and Muslim inmates have access to chaplains until the moment they enter the execution chamber.  Members of other religions have access to their outside clergy only until 5:00 p.m.on the day of execution. In his majority opinion for the 5th Circuit, Judge Dennis wrote in part:

We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Murphy’s stay. We agree with the district court’s implicit finding that Murphy has a strong likelihood of success on the merits of his claim that the TDCJ policy violates his rights by allowing inmates who share the same faith as TDCJ-employed clergy greater access to a spiritual advisor in the death house.

Judge Elrod dissented, saying in part:

Because I believe Murphy did not demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on his brand-new, untimely, and unexhausted claim regarding the TDCJ’s pre-execution holding-area protocol, I would hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting Murphy’s motion for stay of execution.

CNN reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: The Apostle on Mars Hill (Areopagus)

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Apostle on Mars Hill (Areopagus).”

See also:

_____________________________

During his first missionary journey the Apostle Paul spent some time in Athens.  While there, he noticed with great dismay that “the city was full of idols.”  He had a dialogue with Jews in the synagogue and with people he met in the marketplace (agora in Greek).  In addition, he had a discussion with some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who objected to Paul’s teaching of “foreign divinities.”

The Epicureans followed the philosophy of the fourth/third century B.C. materialist philosopher Epicurus.  In his view the world began by chance, the swerving of atoms into one another.  He held that pleasure, that is, freedom from fear and anxiety, was the highest goal of humans. The gods, if they exist, were of no significance to us as we were no significance to them.  He wished people to be free from fear of life and death.

The Stoics followed Zeno of Citium who lived at the same time as Epicurus. The words stoic/stoicism come from the Greek word for porch.  Zeno and his followers held their discussions at the Stoa Poikile (Painted Porch) in the marketplace at Athens. Several noted ancients, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca among others, followed this philosophy.  The Stoic was devoted to virtue, was indifferent to matters that did not involve truth and morality and lived at a distance from things in the world that did not carry moral weight.  Their theology professed a material god, imminent in the universe. The universe, made of fire, is one of an eternal series that come into existence and then dissolve, making way for another.  The Stoic desired to conform to universal Reason that allowed him to achieve inner calm

Paul stands before these philososphers who took exception to the doctrines reagrding Jesus and the resurrection from the dead.  These philosophers brought Paul to the Areopagus, (Mars Hill), where an Athenian court regularly met to learn what Paul’s “new teaching” was and meant.  Addressing those who had gathered, Paul compliments them for being religious. He mentions the altar in Athens that is dedicated “To the unknown god,” whom he says is the God he worships and proclaims.  The Apostle explains that God, who made the world, does not live in temples nor does He need maintenance from human beings, for He has created humans and given them what they need to live. God has allotted dwelling places for humans to live so that they may seek God who is not far away from them.  At this point he quotes a Greek philosopher and poet, Empedocles and Aratus to confirm what he has said.  He asserts that God cannot be of the substances of silver, gold, and stone.  While He has overlooked previous times of ignorance, God is now calling all people to repent.  The day will come when the world will be judge by One (Christ’s name is unmentioned in the text) who gives assurance of these things by His resurrection.  Some in the crowd mock the idea of the resurrection of the dead.

What do we learn from this text?  Paul shows respect for his audience though he is mocked.  The respect that we show to others in defense and witness should not be dependent on the attitude of those who oppose us. We should always be respectful (a very difficult thing to do). Paul finds a way to relate to his hearers.  He applauds the fact that they are religious (without flattery).  He points out the altar to the unknown god in Athens, using this example to speak of the true God whom he represents.  He quotes one of their philosophers and one of their poets.

Though most reject what he says, converts are made. Two in particular are mentioned by name.  Apologetics and witness naturally go together.

As apologists and witnesses we are to show respect for others.  We are to listen for where non-believers are in their lives and what they believe. Paul critiques idolatry without mocking such a belief.  We are to do the same with regard to the beliefs of others.  We can point out where those beliefs are wrong without making fun of the person who holds them.  We are to find ways to identify with others and show that we understand or want to understand their concerns.

Michael G. Tavella

July 15, 2019

Post Navigation