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« on: May 24, 2011, 12:25:31 PM »

I understand that Christians have been using Greek philosophy and Greek philosophical terms since the first century, and I don't want to accuse Christianity of being pagan, but what purpose exactly does the use of pagan philosophy have within Christianity, specifically Orthodoxy? I'm no expert on Greek philosophy but I understand that the terms used by many Church fathers such as ousia, hypostasis, logos ect. have completely different meanings in their original context - why use these terms then, or any non-christian philosophical system?
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2011, 12:50:45 PM »

Christ is risen!
I understand that Christians have been using Greek philosophy and Greek philosophical terms since the first century, and I don't want to accuse Christianity of being pagan, but what purpose exactly does the use of pagan philosophy have within Christianity, specifically Orthodoxy? I'm no expert on Greek philosophy but I understand that the terms used by many Church fathers such as ousia, hypostasis, logos ect. have completely different meanings in their original context - why use these terms then, or any non-christian philosophical system?
Logos we are stuck with, as St. John uses it in scripture.

The rest comes from systematizing the theology of the Faith in order to defend it.
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2011, 01:19:39 PM »

It provided a language-system ready made to provide the kind of subtle distinctions necessary to explicate Christian doctrine.
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2011, 01:55:00 PM »

How do you describe something new? I would think with familiar imagery and terminology, yet redefined for the proper meaning intended.
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 03:22:17 PM »

It makes sense to use an existing system, but it is strange to see how much of Christian theology is dependant on these philosophical terms.

Has anyone well versed in philosophy heard of the criticism of the use of Greek philosophical terms in Christianity, that Aristotle's Hylomorphism and ontology were adopted and this meant that Christianity was essentially pagan in its view of the world?
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 03:29:02 PM »

It makes sense to use an existing system, but it is strange to see how much of Christian theology is dependant on these philosophical terms.

Has anyone well versed in philosophy heard of the criticism of the use of Greek philosophical terms in Christianity, that Aristotle's Hylomorphism and ontology were adopted and this meant that Christianity was essentially pagan in its view of the world?

I fail to see how Christianity and paganism share a worldview. This is a really big leap of faith which conveniently ignores important principles.
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 03:51:35 PM »

It makes sense to use an existing system, but it is strange to see how much of Christian theology is dependant on these philosophical terms.

Has anyone well versed in philosophy heard of the criticism of the use of Greek philosophical terms in Christianity, that Aristotle's Hylomorphism and ontology were adopted and this meant that Christianity was essentially pagan in its view of the world?

I fail to see how Christianity and paganism share a worldview. This is a really big leap of faith which conveniently ignores important principles.

Indeed, I have to agree.

Similar words does not equal worldview.

Paganism is a worldview of cosmic conflict, where all of nature is a conflict with itself, even having the gods themselves a war with one another. It is a struggle for survival that does not end even in death. It often holds our current state as the truest of states and thus all animal tendancies are natural and true. Every man for himself and by his self with hopeful help from any other, being they have been sufficiently bargained (be it person or god).

Christianity is about love and life. Jesus came to express and fulfill this message. Notice:

Matthew 15:
Quote
21 And Jesus went from thence, and retired into the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold a woman of Canaan who came out of those coasts, crying out, said to him: Have mercy on me, O Lord, you son of David: my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil. 23 Who answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying: Send her away, for she cries after us: 24 And he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep, that are lost of the house of Israel. 25 But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me. 26 Who answering, said: It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs. 27 But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. 28 Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is your faith: be it done to you as you will: and her daughter was cured from that hour.

The Canaanites were vile pagans. The kind of pagan that would cheat you in any business deal and steal your wife without thought. Jesus didn't refuse her because of race or other such nonsense. He came to fulfill the message of love and life. Non-Jews were not of the same worldview and would not be 'ready' for such a message. After all, Judaism was God changing the worldview of humanity for His purpose. Jesus' response was a test here. With her response, He brought forth from her a humbling submission to God, and thus blessed her for her Faith.
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2011, 04:15:06 PM »

Christ is risen!
I understand that Christians have been using Greek philosophy and Greek philosophical terms since the first century, and I don't want to accuse Christianity of being pagan, but what purpose exactly does the use of pagan philosophy have within Christianity, specifically Orthodoxy? I'm no expert on Greek philosophy but I understand that the terms used by many Church fathers such as ousia, hypostasis, logos ect. have completely different meanings in their original context - why use these terms then, or any non-christian philosophical system?
Logos we are stuck with, as St. John uses it in scripture.

The rest comes from systematizing the theology of the Faith in order to defend it.

lulz.
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2011, 05:11:26 PM »

Has anyone well versed in philosophy heard of the criticism of the use of Greek philosophical terms in Christianity, that Aristotle's Hylomorphism and ontology were adopted and this meant that Christianity was essentially pagan in its view of the world?
No, can you give us specifics?

It makes sense to use an existing system, but it is strange to see how much of Christian theology is dependant on these philosophical terms.
Not dependent; the early Christians didn't use as many. Greek philosophical words are incredibly specific and nuanced, that's one reason why they were used. Also, the early heretics often spoke Greek and so the Fathers used Greek terminology to counter those claims.
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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2011, 07:06:35 PM »

Read this: St. Basil's Address to young men on the right use of Greek literature

Christianity is not pagan, but that doesn't mean the pagans had nothing important or useful to say. The Christian opposition to paganism is primarily an opposition to idolatry; it has nothing to do with puritanical attempts to rid the Church of everything that might be a borrowing from pagan culture.
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 04:21:01 AM »

It was the Church's attempt to explain the Christian doctrine in language that would make sense to those being preached to.
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 04:21:01 AM »

It makes sense to use an existing system, but it is strange to see how much of Christian theology is dependant on these philosophical terms.

It's not necessarily. A lot of the dogmatic formulas of the Patristic period that use Hellenistic terminology are derived from doctrines you can see in the Bible. For instance, the hypostatic union of the eternal Logos and his humanity being the pinnacle of the Christological formulation is really just the logical finalization of the Bible's "Only-Begotten Son of God".
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2011, 01:21:36 PM »

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No, can you give us specifics?

Unfortunately it is not something I know much about, but the general idea is that Aristotle saw the world as being teleologically perfect ((?) every act within the world has is perfect  in itself and has a perfect goal) - apparently this was adopted at the expense of the "Christian idea", which is that the whole of creation is under the rule of sin and the devil, therefore imperfect.
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2011, 01:38:43 PM »

If you can't see the Aristotelian god working in Scholasticism and the (neo-)Platonic god in many Patristic writings and EO "spirituality" and theodicies both "Eastern" and "Western" often at the expense of Scripture, then either you are unfamiliar with Aristotle and Plato and the Neo-Platonists, or kidding yourself.

Of course, the Christians of any era are going to take on the vocabulary, customs, etc. of the time they live in and properly so, but when the apologetics formed during such times become more important in understanding Christianity and evangelicalism than the Scriptures, then that is a problem IMHO.

 
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« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2011, 02:16:45 PM »

the (neo-)Platonic god in many Patristic writings and EO "spirituality"
Can you give us an example?
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2011, 02:23:57 PM »

the (neo-)Platonic god in many Patristic writings and EO "spirituality"
Can you give us an example?

What do you mean by an example? If you asking for some third source suggesting that many of the Church Fathers drew heavily upon (neo)Platonic thought, then the most lazy of google searches will give you thousands if not millions of hits.

It ain't like this is some "secret". Nor am I suggesting it wrong (see full quote).
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« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2011, 05:08:37 PM »

the (neo-)Platonic god in many Patristic writings and EO "spirituality"
Can you give us an example?

What do you mean by an example? If you asking for some third source suggesting that many of the Church Fathers drew heavily upon (neo)Platonic thought, then the most lazy of google searches will give you thousands if not millions of hits.

It ain't like this is some "secret". Nor am I suggesting it wrong (see full quote).
There's a difference between utilizing Neo-Platonic thought and actually speaking of a Neo-Platonic god. I was asking for an example of a church father text you thought portrayed a neo-platonic god.
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if Christ does and says x. And someone else does and says not x and you are ever in doubt, follow Christ.

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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2011, 03:10:21 AM »

the (neo-)Platonic god in many Patristic writings and EO "spirituality"
Can you give us an example?

What do you mean by an example? If you asking for some third source suggesting that many of the Church Fathers drew heavily upon (neo)Platonic thought, then the most lazy of google searches will give you thousands if not millions of hits.

It ain't like this is some "secret". Nor am I suggesting it wrong (see full quote).
There's a difference between utilizing Neo-Platonic thought and actually speaking of a Neo-Platonic god. I was asking for an example of a church father text you thought portrayed a neo-platonic god.

Not to quibble, didn't say "portrayed" the (neo)Platonic god, but that the (neo)Platonic god "working in", by which I mean the conception of how the line of (neo)Platonic thought understanding god came to inform the Church Fathers.

Is this less "scandalous"? It was not meant to be a scandalous statement.

A few of the (neo)Platonic elements picked up along the way. Some have more Scriptural precedence than others.

Apophatic theology. (Over-emphasized with some Scriptural basis, but not to the extent it gets played up.)

God not the author of evil. (Disagree here, this ain't the God of the Hebrews, if you let that statement stand like that.)

God is unchanging. (Disagree here for above reason, but not without Scriptural basis, even if the bulk of Scripture speaks to a living God who does change.)

The difference between essence and energies. (Should an inquirer even be discussing such things in a catechetical class?)

Should I attach names associated with the development of such thought?

Could go on.

I doubt most EOs would argue these ideas are not important to their theology and they find their way into EO theology if not completely then systematically through (neo)Platonic thought.

Do I think anyone here would disagree? No.
Do I think it is a "bad" thing that (neo)Platonism informed the EO theology? No.
Do I observe these elements being emphasized at the ground level, especially among inquirers and catechumens and "educated laity" at the expense of more basic Scriptural understanding of Christianity? Yes.

More than a few Priests I know would agree.

EDIT: Of course, please disabuse me of my misunderstandings.

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« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2011, 09:14:56 PM »

Orthonorm,

    Believing God to be changing and the author of evil is not Orthodox.
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2011, 09:18:12 PM »

Orthonorm,

    Believing God to be changing and the author of evil is not Orthodox.

So they say. Especially the neo-Platonists.
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2011, 09:21:11 PM »

Orthonorm,

    Believing God to be changing and the author of evil is not Orthodox.

So they say. Especially the neo-Platonists.

How has He changed? How did He make evil?

Are these interpretations possibly skewed by the shifting worldview of a more pagan minded Judaism interpreting with the lens of culture and humanity the actions of the Divine?
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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2011, 09:36:06 PM »

Orthonorm, do you think there's a danger in trying to put the Lord back into the box he occupied in the Old Testament?

I acknowledge that Hebrews/Jews/Israelites understood God as changable and even as the ultimate source of evil. Is it so wrong to believe they were simply mistaken? I think it is acceptably Orthodox to acknowledge that the Hebrews/Jews/Israelites had a flawed and imperfect understanding of God before the incarnation, but I could be quite wrong in that conviction.

If we for now see through a glass darkly, they all the more so!
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2011, 09:40:36 PM »

All points given to both posts above. Obviously these are contentious issues and from my POV not mutually exclusive.

I was writing a post and decided to pause and saved it as a draft.

If work is as slow as it was today, I'll finish it up during lunch.

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« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2011, 12:10:46 AM »

Orthonorm,

    Believing God to be changing and the author of evil is not Orthodox.

So they say. Especially the neo-Platonists.

That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. -Isaiah 45:6-7

Hebrew: Ra' "adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, displeasure, distress." NASB rendering: Calamity. KJV rendering: Evil.

Since Orthodox are KJV only prooftexting protestants, they MUST believe that this verse proves God is the ultimate author of evil.  Grin
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« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2011, 09:37:25 AM »

Quote from: John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Ch 1
Some modern historians continue to pass very divergent judgments on the philosophy of the Greek Fathers. In his well-known Histoire dc la philosophic, Emile Brehier writes, "In the first five centuries of Christianity, there was nothing that could properly be called Christian philosophy and would have implied a scale of intellectual values either original or different from that of the pagan thinkers."3 According to Brehier, Christianity and Hellenic philosophy are not opposed to each other as two intellectual systems, for Christianity is based on revealed facts, not on philosophical ideas. The Greek Fathers, in accepting these facts, adopted everything in Greek philosophy, which was compatible with Christian Revelation. No new philosophy could result from such an artificial juxtaposition. A seemingly opposite view, more in line with the classical appraisal of Adolf Harnack, has been expressed by H. A. Wolfson whose book on The Philosophy of the Church Fathers presents the thought of the Fathers as "a recasting of Christian beliefs in the form of a philosophy, [which] thereby produc[ed] also a Christian version of Greek philosophy."4 Finally, the monumental work of Claude Tresmontant La Metaphysique du Christianisme et la naissancc de la philosophic chretienne (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1961) strongly maintains the historical existence of a Christian philosophy, which the Fathers consistently defended against the Hellenic synthesis. This philosophy implies basic affirmations on creation, on unity and multiplicity, on knowledge, freedom, and all other incompatible with Hellenism, and is fundamentally Biblical. "From the point of view of metaphysics," he writes, "Christian orthodoxy is defined by its fidelity to the metaphysical principles found in Biblical theology."5 Therefore, if the Greek Fathers were orthodox, they were not, properly speaking, "Greek." Actually, in modern historical and theological writing, there is no term more ambiguous than "Hellenism." Thus, Georges Florovsky makes a persistent plea for "Christian Hellenism" meaning by the term the tradition of the Eastern Fathers as opposed to Western Medieval thought,6 but he agrees fundamentally with Tresmontant on the total incompatibility between Greek philosophical thought and the Bible, especially on such basic issues as creation and freedom.7

Therefore, Tresmontant’s and Florovsky’s conclusions appear to be fundamentally correct, and the usual slogans and clichés, which too often serve to characterize patristic and Byzantine thought as exalted "Christian Hellenism," or as the "Hellenization of Christianity," or as Eastern "Platonism" as opposed to Western "Aristotelianism" should be avoided.

A more constructive method of approaching the issue and of establishing a balanced judgment consists in a preliminary distinction between the systems of ancient Greek philosophy — the Platonic, the Aristotelian, or the Neo-Platonic — and individual concepts or terms. The use of Greek concepts and terminology were unavoidable meanings of communication and a necessary step in making the Christian Gospel relevant to the world in which it appeared and in which it had to expand. But the Trinitarian terminology of the Cappadocian Fathers and its later application to Christology in the Chalcedonian and post-Chalcedonian periods clearly show that such concepts as ousia, hypostasis, or physis acquire an entirely new meaning when used out of the context of the Platonic or Aristotelian systems in which they are born. Three hypostases united in one "essence" (ousia) or two "natures" (physeis), united in one hypostasis cannot be a part of either the Platonic or Aristotelian systems of thought and imply new personalistic (and therefore non-Hellenic) metaphysical presuppositions. Still the Trinitarian and Christological synthesis of the Cappadocian Fathers would have dealt with a different set of problems and would have resulted in different concepts if the background of the Cappadocians and the audience to which they addressed themselves had not been Greek. Thus, Greek patristic thought remained open to Greek philosophical problematics but avoided being imprisoned in Hellenic philosophical systems. From Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century to Gregory Palamas in the fourteenth, the representatives of the Orthodox tradition all express their conviction that heresies are based upon the uncritical absorption of pagan Greek philosophy into Christian thought.

Among the major figures of early Christian literature, only Origen, Nemesius of Emesa, and pseudo-Dionysius present systems of thought, which can truly be defined as Christian versions of Greek philosophy. Others, including even such system-builders as Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor, in spite of their obvious philosophical mentality, stand too fundamentally in opposition to pagan Hellenism on the basic issues of creation and freedom to qualify as Greek philosophers. Origen and pseudo-Dionysius suffered quite a distinct posthumous fate, which will be discussed later, but the influence of Nemesius and of his Platonic anthropological "system" was so limited in Byzantium, in contrast to its widespread impact on Western Medieval thought, that the Latin translation of his work Peri physeos anthropou (De natura hominis) was attributed to Gregory of Nyssa.8

Thus, as most historians of Byzantine theology should admit, the problem of the relationship between philosophy and the facts of Christian experience remains at the centre of the theological thought of Byzantium, and no safe and permanent balance between them has ever been found. But is really such a balance possible if "this world" and its "wisdom" are really in permanent tension with the realities of the kingdom of God?

-John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Ch 1
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« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2011, 01:13:45 PM »

A quick reply.

First, xariskai, when offer longer quotes of text are typing them out for us or are do you have some method for get the text in an electronic format? In any case, I always appreciate the work either way.

Third, I am busy today at work and this evening and most of the weekend, so my time in the short term is limited, especially for putting together any thoughts of relative complexity.

Second, I am going to table this for a bit. My head acts up occasionally and makes typing coherently even more difficult than usual. It also affects the time I can spend thinking about complex topics and the degree to which I can. The problem I have is usually exacerbated after extreme physical or emotional stress both of which I've had over the last couple weeks from work and well the subject I posted to the prayer forum.

Third, since I think this could be a very profitable discussion for me, I will take it back up. Although when we do, I would like to lay down some basic ground rules so we might do the impossible and avoid a thread in vein of the filioque or toll house variety.

Fourth, thank you for your replies and I am sure your care for my proper understanding of Orthodoxy so that I might not only have the "right ideas" but benefit as much as possible from the incredible depth of healing the Church offers.
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« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2011, 06:30:49 PM »

xariskai... do you have some method for get the text in an electronic format?
http://www.holytrinitymission.org/books/english/byzantine_theology_j_meyendorf.htm

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