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
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?
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.
Labels: Christian worldview, Reformation Theology