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Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

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1 Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities
Before we can begin to develop a Biblical Worldview we must first come to grips with some of the barriers that prevent us from applying our faith to all things, in all areas, such as politics, philosophy, science, law and so on. Where did we lose or how did we lose the biblical perspective of the world? If we can answer that question then we can begin the process of establishing a Biblical Worldview in our own lives. As we have seen the secular/sacred divide in society is a very destructive tool for isolating Christians and for keeping them and their ideas in the “closet.” Before we can construct a proper worldview, we must spend some time in deconstructing the existing worldview. To do that we need to understand how the dualism of today came into being both in the church and society. Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

2 False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel
False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here or there, if we permit the whole collective thought of a nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. - J. Gresham Machen This quote from the well known scholar and Christian conservative J. Gresham Machen, not only express the problem facing the church today but it also summarizes the problem that face the early church. How can the church “defend its faith in resurrection of Jesus Christ against the highly developed philosophies of the day?” To answer that question we need to spend some time reviewing the impact of Greek philosophy on the church and society from the time of the early church up and till today. Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

3 Introduction Philosophical dualism plagued the church
Arose from the early beginnings of the church Early church was a small group of mostly unlearned believers surrounded by an alien culture There were language differences along with all of the cultural differences: literature, government, traditions The culture of the day was dominated by Greek Thought How could the early church maintain and defend its faith against the great Greek thinkers? In the beginning of the early church, a small group of mostly uneducated believers were surrounded by an alien culture. The culture of the day was dominated by Greek thought. The greatest of the Greek thinkers were Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the two who had the greatest impact of the world in their day and reaching down to our own time were Plato and Aristotle, and arguably the greatest of these two was Aristotle . Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

4 Impact of Greek Philosophy
The names of the great Greek thinkers are still familiar to us today Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle All spoke in some way to the rational order of the universe Inspired the development of modern science Rational order of the universe was the foundation of their philosophy These four promoted the eternal ideals of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty They stood against the materialism and hedonism of their day Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

5 Early Church Fathers Early Christian Fathers adopted the thoughts and philosophies of these famous Greek thinkers to express their biblical faith For the early church Greek philosophy gave them tools, a “conceptual language” with which to explain their beliefs to a sophisticated and educated world Francis Schaeffer identifies the problem that arose from borrowing of a Greek philosophical framework by early Christian thinkers as the “two-story view” Greeks divide reality in 2 mutually exclusive spheres of matter and spirit Physical world was less than the spiritual world and seen as evil Salvation in the church came to be understood as determining how best to liberate “the spirit from the material world so that it could ascend to God Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

6 Plato’s Matter and Form
The philosophy of Plato had the greatest impact on Christian thinkers through the Middle Ages Plato’s view of the world saw everything as being composed of what he identified as “Matter and Form” or the raw material of the world molded or ordered by rational ideas Before your eyes start to bleed let me borrow the illustration used by Nancy Pearcey to explain “Think of a statue: It consists of marble crafted into a beautiful shape according to a design or blueprint in the artist’s mind. Matter on its own was regarded as disordered and chaotic. The Forms were rational and good, bringing about order and harmony.” Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

7 The Importance of Form The realm of Form was more real than the realm of the Material The realm of Form was immaterial and it held those things of the highest good: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty The material world(realm) was filled with error and illusions Man’s goal to achieve true knowledge – Man had to free himself from his “bodily senses,” Must overcome the physical realm so that he could gain understanding in the realm of the spirit or “forms” Plato believed that Matter was preexisting from all eternity The role of the creator was to simply impose Form upon it If Matter was preexistent then it must have properties the creator could not control The creator was never completely successful in forcing Matter into the mold of the Forms For Plato this explained the “chaos, disorder, and irrationality present in the world” Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

8 Platonic Dualism Plato’s philosophy was based on a dualism between Form and Matter Both of these were understood as being eternal Form stood for reason and all that was rational in the world “Matter was inherently evil and chaotic” Eternal Reason Form Eternal Formless Flux Matter Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

9 Comparison of Worldviews
Plato Worldview Biblical Worldview Creation has two eternal parts – Matter(chaotic or evil) & Form (Reason or spiritual) Man’s problem “metaphysical” All matter is evil Man’s goal to escape the material and move to Reason(spiritual) Only God is eternal God created matter, has absolute control over it and it was good (creation ex nihilo) Man’s problem is sin Evil is attached to sin and sin distorts God’s creation Man’s goal to restore his relationship with God Metaphysical – we are physical, material beings Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

10 Augustine Augustine as a Manicheist – believed in two gods, one good, one evil – later as a Platonist – Forms: Spiritual and Material Augustine as a Christian kept the influences of his earlier beliefs He taught that “God first made the Platonic intelligible Forms, and afterward made the material world in imitation of the Forms He ends up with a view of creation that is similar to Plato’s Immaterial world / the Sensible world and Intellect / Senses To reach the higher world one had to reject the lower one Augustinianism influences most of the Christian writers in the Middle Ages Boethius, John Scotus Erigena, Anselm, and Bonaventure Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

11 Rediscovering Aristotle
In mid-twelfth century under the cloak of the Dark Ages Muslims, Jews and Christians Scholars translate Aristotle’s great works from Arabic into Latin Common goal: Resurrect the teachings of Aristotle, despite the opposition and fear of the Catholic Church Many religious scholars from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian worlds examined and embraced these “new” concepts Many of these ideas challenged the Catholic Church The re-discovery of Aristotle brought with it a new birth of ideas and possibilities that literally changed the face history This controversial event caused riots at major European universities Introduced a whole new concept of the natural world and the soul of man Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

12 Aristotle His philosophies addressed the way the world works, cause and effect, and the emphasis on reason over faith A comprehensive system: Ethics, science, aesthetics, politics as well as philosophy Teaches that the world is eternal Western religious tradition adapts Aristotle to fit its needs Thomas Aquinas bases his arguments for the existence of God on Aristotle’s concepts of an Unmoved Mover and First Cause It is difficult to grasp the depth of Aristotle’s influence on Western religions Some are aware of the effects of Aristotle’s works on Christianity Few are aware of the that all three Western religions were impacted and challenged by the writings of the fourth-century B.C. philosopher Today’s religions still bear the effects of Aristotle’s teachings and their incorporation into doctrines Perhaps it’s a stretch, but not much of one, to suggest that without the Aristotle we could still be living “in some very dark ages.” Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

13 Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle
Attempts to “Christianize” Aristotle’s philosophy Rejected what was unscriptural and tried to interpret the rest to be compatible with Christianity (As we saw with Plato) Keeps a dualistic framework- uses nature/grace Uses Aristotle’s definition of nature which is teleological, or all natural processes tend to move toward a purpose of a goal This counters Plato’s idea that the material world is inferior Aquinas argues that creation (nature) is good because it is “the handiwork of a good creator” This denies the need for asceticism so common at the time. Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

14 Aquinas’ Nature and Grace
Aquinas’ use of Aristotle’s definition of nature creates problems If the nature of things-their goal or purpose-was inherent, then there was no need for God The world was fully capable of reaching its purpose without God For mankind this meant that we could reach our purpose by using only our natural abilities - without God The Bible’s primary theme is about relationships, especially that between God and man Aquinas dealt with this problem by developing the dichotomy of nature/Grace “In the state of pure nature man needs a power added to his natural power by grace in order to do and to will supernatural good” This led to the idea that there were two distinct ends or goals; and earthly one and a heavenly one Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

15 Heaven and Mammon Aquinas’ dichotomy split man in half, allowing man to follow after two masters: the church and the state The dichotomy of nature/grace evolved the concept of spiritual dualism Common man could only achieve natural or earthly ends Religious ‘elites,” the professionals, were capable of achieving spiritual perfection The religious professionals took over the spiritual duties that lay people were unable to perform Prayers, leading masses, pilgrimages, doing and leading acts of charity – all done on behalf of the common folk Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

16 The Reformers The Reformers strive to overcome medieval dualism
They want “to recover the unity of life and knowledge under the authority of God’s word” Argue that the scholastics had placed to much emphasis on reason apart from divine revelation Reformers reject the spiritual elitism implied by the nature/grace dualism Priesthood of all believers (1 Pe 2.9) Rejected monasticism – we are not called to a life of separation from participation in the creation order of family and work but rather we are embedded in the creation order Martin Luther’s use of the term vocation to level the playing field, includes all workers – even laborers All occupations were seen as ways of obeying the Cultural Mandate – participating in God’s work in maintaining and caring for His creation Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

17 Reformers and the Doctrine of Grace
Reformers reject Aquinas’s definition of grace as something that was added to nature The Reformers understood grace to be not something added to human nature but rather that it was as God’s “merciful acceptance of sinners, whereby He redeems and restores them to their original perfect state” The Reformers “restored spiritual significance to the activities of ordinary life, performed in obedience to the Cultural Mandate Contrast of “the monastic call “from the world” with the biblical call “into the world” Calvin’s Protestant Work Ethic “The individual believer has a vocation to serve God in the world-in every sphere of human existence Elevated ordinary work and gave the worker a new dignity Christ is to be served in every part of creation and this is also true “in our everyday work” Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

18 No Words to Explain the Truth
The Reformers rejection of the dichotomy of nature/grace didn’t last The Reformers were unable to develop a new terminology to express their theological truths Without a new vocabulary they were left without a way to defend their beliefs against attack Much of the world withdrew back into the safe womb of scholastic dualism Educators continued to teach Aristotle’s logic and metaphysics Dualism continued to contaminate much of Christianity and its traditions – even up until today In our next session we will look at how Christianity came to escape from dualism Church & Culture 007 Distorted Realities

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