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May 06, 2010

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Brad

Dear Derek,

Nicely put.

One area that I want to challenge more broadly among our circle of friends and readers is the trendy notion that Greek philosophy and somehow infected Christianity in the early church and that we need a restoration of the Hebrew context.

You noted that the enlightenment enthroned reason, but I don't buy that Greek philosophy was the culprit. Indeed, the modernist movement read their own rationalism back into philosophers like Plato, but when you read Plato's Socrates, he's so clear that reason goes only so far and that the knowledge of God requires a grace-given enlightenment of love (that's why he goes to the oracle, Diatoma for revelation).

One of your blog critics speaks about 'Christians who happen to be patriots' .... a notion completely bizarre to me as a reader of the Sermon on the Mount. But I would agree with him on seeing Greek philosophy permeating the New Testament. Paul and John repeatedly quote, borrow, and respond to the Greek poets and philosophers as prophets. Indeed, Fathers like Clement noted that some came to Christ through the Hebrew prophets, but many through the philosophers. They foresaw the image of the invisible and transcendent God coming as a perfectly just man who would be rejected and crucified.

There's also this notion that Christianity adopted some form of dualism from Plato et al, but again, I think that's an abuse by the gnostics. John on the other hand, understood what Plato was on about. Our escape from the world is not from the world of the flesh, but the world of worldly delusion. Our escape from the flesh is not from our humanity, but from the flesh of selfishness and self-deception. Paul's 'body' analogy is directly out of Plato, he quotes a 'Hymn to Zeus' word for word twice and the author of Hebrews' double-edged sword appears to be dependent on another hymn to Jupiter. They weren't infected ... they just acknowledged the Greeks as being forerunners too and employed their work in evangelism.

I'm getting carried away, but I'd say that your article is so sound that you needn't buy into the latest fads re: Greek vs. Hebrew mindsets as representing rationalism / dualism vs. wholism. That's a card generally played by Christian Zionism and is neither sufficient nor necessary.

Cf. "Intimations of Christianity among the Early Greeks" by S. Weil who gets far more carried away than I.

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