I fear some readers might have misunderstood my meaning in my “Jerusalem and Athens” article. Athens, both ancient and modern, is the pagan “city of man.” It is full of darkness, violence, and sin. So is every other city in the world. Jerusalem alone is the righteous “city of God,” i.e. the free one above us (Galatians 4:26). It is full of light, peace, and holiness. The eternal city in heaven is called the New Jerusalem, not the New Athens or the New Rome.
As St. Augustine explained in his 5th-century classic work, the city of man and the city of God are always in conflict, like oil and water. The reason is simple: the city of man is governed by the prince of this world, Satan. The city of God, however, is governed by God. He and Satan cannot co-exist in peace. The presence of peace is that of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. It is also the absence of both Satan and sin. The cities of man, like their prince, will one day be destroyed. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we are born and reared in the city of man until conversion. Through our repentance and faith, Jesus Christ translates us into the city of God (Colossians 1:13).
Can Jerusalem and Athens co-exist? Yes, but only in this world. They have no choice. This does not mean that the two cities can co-exist in peace or that Jerusalem should seek ideas and meaning from Athens. Jerusalem is spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally complete without this or any other city of man. She seeks total completeness from God alone. Jerusalem’s sole relationship with the cities of man should be to rescue their citizens from certain destruction and bring them to the city of God.
“The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.” — 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, NKJV
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among [them]. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” — 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NKJV
Houston Baptist University is mistaken if it thinks that Jerusalem and Athens are not in conflict. They are and always have been. I pray HBU is an isolated case. But I fear that other ‘Christian’ universities, churches, and organizations have followed in its path. I fear that they have been blinded by the apple of the city of man that Satan dangles in their faces, the glitter of fool’s gold.
Would we throw away our spiritual Eden, filled with the riches of God’s grace and presence through the power of the Holy Spirit? Would we throw away the finest gold, the cross and the blood? If yes, we are no longer fools for Christ’s sake. We have become instruments of Satan.