Hedging Bets

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)

The Greeks always were known for cleverness. They rarely took things at face value, trusted nobody, and hardly ever put all their eggs into one basket. These guys virtually invented risk management. They wanted to be sure that all their bases were covered.

This was especially true when it came to the gods. The Greek heavens were packed with crazy deities with big egos, personal agendas, cross-purposes, and even some cross-dressing. You had be careful to keep them happy. And if you happened to cross one of them through neglect or even by an innocent mistake, you found yourself in deep deep doo doo—and that’s if you were lucky. Ticking off a god has never been a good idea.

It ends up that the Greeks do pretty well juggling their responsibilities to the gods they know about. But, being Greeks, they worry that there might be some other deity out there they don’t know about, one who might take anonymity as a personal insult. So the Greeks wisely (they are Greeks, after all) set up a special altar, a kind of religious “To Whom It May Concern” marker. If, by chance, some new god actually does show up for cocktails, they can point to the altar and tell him his table is ready.

Then, lo and behold, one does show up! But it’s not just any nameless bumpkin from the backwaters of the crowded cosmos. No sirree bob. The god from the desert with no name just happens to be the Big freaking Kahuna, the Chairman of the Board, the Megalogod of all gods. His PR dude, the Apostle Paul, informs the audience that, compared to this new god, the Greek god club is nothing but a mob of dweebs, a motley crew of self-indulgent dolts, dithers, and drips. Heck, compared to the new guy in town, the Greek gods can’t even be called gods. The new guy is the King (thankyouverymuch). Some in Paul’s audience are intrigued; others write Paul off as just another song and dance man. Hey, what else is new?

Anyway, it turns out that the altar to the unknown god was a good idea after all. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So even though I’m a confirmed three-party monotheist, I don’t want to paint myself into a theological corner. I’ve taken my cue from those clever Greeks and made myself a special version of the Apostles’ Creed with blanks in it so I can change stuff fast if I need to. If we find out that there’s a fourth person in the Trinity, for example, I should be able to make the switch before he notices. Call it faith with a rider, a religious insurance policy that covers unforeseen acts of God. Whatever. It’s all Greek to me. But a person can never be too careful about such things, especially when you have a God with confirmed MPD.

 

 

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