Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Classic, Calvinistic, Confessional Christian Doctrine and Greek Philosophical Thought

Often, in theological debates between fellow Christians (or, sometimes, in debates involving heretical groups seeking to claim the Christian label), a certain charge will be made by the party seeking to re-examine the established doctrine. We find this charge expressed by Clark Pinnock in his infamous article, “From Augustine to Arminius” [Pinnock actually went beyond Arminius into the heresy of Open Theism]:
[T]he classical model of Christian theism, [was shaped] decisively by Augustine under the influence of Greek philosophy, [placing] high value on the Deity's being timeless, changeless, passionless, unmoved, and unmovable… classical theism [accommodated itself] to the Hellenistic culture.

Claiming that theology has been polluted with Greek philosophy: the Open Theist objects to the classical Christian theist doctrine of God’s perfect knowledge; the Arminian objects to the Calvinist doctrine of God’s perfect sovereignty; the current modifier/denier of impassibility objects to the confessional doctrine of God’s perfect affections. How should someone who seeks to defend the classical, Calvinistic, and confessional view of God evaluate and respond to the charge(s) that Christian theology has become polluted with Greek philosophy?

[The following observation and response(s) are summarized from statements made by James Dolezal, in his interview on The Reformed Forum.]

For those who seek to argue against a doctrine of classical Christian theism (or Reformed theology, or whatever doctrine[s] are being objected to) the bare assertion that the doctrine(s) are a product of Greek thought seems to suffice for an argument.

Notice: 1. the objector should have to prove that whatever Greek sources the early theologians may have been drawing upon were actually wrong; 2. the accusation of Hellenism often seems to [falsely] assume that there was a Greek consensus concerning the theology; 3. the objector should also consider whether in appropriating some forms of arguments found in Greek thought, the early Christians did not radically transform the substance of those arguments (formal similarities may exist with deep and significant differences).

Though philosophical reflection must always be subservient to Scripture, philosophy can sometimes be an aid, rather than a hindrance, to rightly understanding God. The distinction between nature and person is a philosophical distinction, yet it helps in our reflection about the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When someone raises the charge that an aspect classical, Calvinistic, and confessional Christian doctrine is a product of Greek thought, we must carefully think about this charge.

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