If Archimedes Came to Oak Park

September 13, 2000

Many years ago (almost 20, to be exact) I took a night course called “Advanced Apologetics” from Dr. John Warwick Montgomery at a place called Melodyland School of Theology. I’m not making up that name. The school met in a big church building located right across the street from Disneyland. At that time I was pastoring a small Covenant church in a suburb of Los Angeles called Downey. I took the course because I had read many of Dr. Montgomery’s books and wanted to meet him in person. Of the course itself, I don’t recall much except that I wrote a paper offering a Christian response to Marxism. Somewhere along the way Dr. Montgomery quoted the words of Archimedes, the Greek physicist and mathematician who is famous for his work in geometry. He is also remembered for his remark illustrating the power of the lever: “Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I will move the world.” That one statement, if properly understood, revolutionizes our current discussion about morality.

How do we know that one thing is right and another thing is wrong? How do we know that theft, for instance, is wrong? Why is murder wrong? Why is honesty better than lying? There are really only two ways to answer those questions. Either we are left with personal opinion, in which case we are at the mercy of the latest Gallup Poll, or someone, somewhere, has to tell us what is right and what is wrong.

Archimedes said he could move the world if he had a long enough lever. The problem is finding a place to stand. You will never move the world by standing on the world. You have to stand outside the world to move it. Likewise, the ultimate truth about right and wrong can never be settled with certainty through public debate. We need a source of truth that gives us a “place to stand.”

More and more I am convinced that the church of Jesus Christ needs a baptism of boldness that will make us strong in these troubled and confusing times. And more than that, the world needs the church to be bold as a counterbalance against all the voices today crying out in favor of immorality and paganism. If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? One part of being salt and light is speaking the truth clearly and repeatedly so that the truth can begin to change minds and hearts.

If Archimedes came to Oak Park, he would say, “Find a place to stand!” We have found such a place-the eternal, unchanging, inerrant Word of God. Let us stand on the Word, and as we do so, we can move the world.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?