Reflections on Biblical and
Christian Philosophy

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All Philosophy Is Religion in Disguise

Saint Augustine and John Scotus Eriugena:

St. Augustine says, "A principal point about man's salvation is the belief and teaching that philosophy or the pursuit of wisdom is not something other than religion, for those whose teaching we disapprove of are precisely those who do not share our faith."  I say, What is the practice of philosophy but the explanation of the precepts of true religion in which the first and supreme cause of all that exists is worshipped with humility and investigated by reason?  It ensues from this thought that true philosophy is true religion, and that true religion is true philosophy.  Thus every type of perfect and holy teaching wherein the rational grounds for anything is sought most earnestly and found most clearly is that branch of learning the Greeks call "philosophy" ...

John Scotus Eriugena quoting Augustine and commenting on his thoughts.  From Paul Helm, Faith and Reason, 83-84.

Herman Bavinck:

From every quarter come the demand for a new dogma, a new religion, a new faith, a new art, a new science, a new school, a new education, a new social order, a new world, and a new God.  The things offered under this label are too varied, and often also too silly, to enumerate.  Buddhism and Mohammedism and the religion of Wodan are commended to us, theosophy, occultism, magic and astrology, demonism and satan-worship, race- and hero-worship, ethical culture and the pursuit of ideals, the cult of humanity and of Jesus.  Reform movements are the order of the day.

Divergent as these tendencies may be, they all have two characteristics in common.  In the first place, the principle of autonomy, expressing itself on the one hand in anarchism of thought, on the other hand in the auto-soterism of the will.  Each individual regards himself as independent and self-governing, and shapes his own course and pursues his own way.  Having nothing to start with (that is, no first principle - Ed).... Everybody has his own religion, not merely every nation and every church, but every person.... It has become a vogue to study and expound the religion of Goethe and Lessing, of Kant and Schliermacher, of Bismarck and Tolstoi.

But in the second place these modern movements are all alike seeking after religion, after the supreme good, abiding happiness, true being, absolute worth.  Even though the word "religion" be avoided and the new-fashioned term "world-view" preferred, in point of fact the satisfaction of no other need is aimed at than what that which used to be supplied by religion.  As to the proper definition of such a world-view, there exists considerable divergence of opinion.  But whether with Windelband we define philosophy as the theory of 'the determination of values,' as the science of 'normal consciousness,' or conceive of it with Paulsen as a mode of viewing the world and life 'which shall satisfy both the demands of reason and the needs of the heart,' in any case it is plain that philosophy is not content with a scientific explanation of reality, but seeks to vindicate the higher ideals of humanity, to satisfy its deepest needs.  Philosophy wishes itself to serve as religion, and from an attitude of contempt for all theology has veered round to a profession of being itself at bottom a search after God." (Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation, pages 30-32, emphases are Ed's.)

 

"All philosophy is based upon a non-theoretical, a priori, religious commitment.  The fact is that all philosophy rests upon a fundamental existential loyalty (Ed - belief or faith).  It is founded on a radical pre-scientific choice.  It has a 'religious' root.  No philosophy maintains a purely theoretical standpoint.  All thinking is based upon assumptions (beliefs) that transcend theoretical thought." 

Henry Stob, Theological Reflections, page 176.

 

“Philosophy… a word for non-religion, as least traditionally…. an icon of the mind… more subtle than (idolatrous) worship through images…. The development of ‘philosophy’ … which came about the same time as the prophetic movement was raised up by God among His people… Buddha … Confucius … Lao-Tse … Plato and Aristotle.

Virtually from the beginning, philosophy was political philosophy, designed to support the city of man. Philosophy was the religion of the state, the new form of the “court prophet” … (rejecting) personal gods and worship … (debating) what ‘ultimate being was like. Full-fledged philosophy arrived with Socrates and Plato, who sough to bring this horrible thinking into the city and persuade the people to stop worshipping personal spirits and refound their cities on the empty consolations of philosophy….

The differences between Confucius, Plato, and Buddha should not blind us to their fundamental sameness…. Lao-Tse, the Plato of China, advocated an inner contemplation. Plato advocated a new and more radically anti-God political order, wherein contemplated abstraction such as the Good would replace the worship of living gods. Buddha took a more anti-political position, leaving the city to do its business while advocating a kind of dropping our of society. But this position is still in the overall context of doing philosophy (religion) in political terms. Aristotle, heir of Plato, managed to reconcile Plato’s radical ideas with practical politics, as Confucius, heir of Lao-Tse, did in China...." 

Moreover... the idea (is) that is on a quest for God, a quest for knowledge about ultimate things.  This is exactly the opposite of Biblical teaching, and in two ways.  First, the Bible teaches that God has clearly revealed Himself and that He speaks in the Bible, so that there is no need for any quest.  Second, sinful man hates God and is not on a quest for the true God at all, but is rather on a quest for anything that will block out his innate knowledge of the true God."

James Jordan, The Case Against Western Civilization

"Philosophy, the New Religion.  A new movement began around 600 B.C., when some thinkers tried to understand the world without the help of religion.  They were called philosophers— lovers of wisdom.  There had been wisdom teachers earlier in the ancient world, in Egypt, Babylon, and elsewhere, and the wisdom literature in Scripture (Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes) is similar to extra-biblical wisdom literature in many ways.  But, unlike it, the Biblical wisdom teachers declare that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10, 15:33; compare Ecclesiastes 12:13)."

"What distinguishes Greek philosophers from Greek religious and other ancient wisdom teachers is their insistence on the supremacy of human reason, what I shall call rational autonomy.  Wisdom teachers in other cultures treasured the traditions of fathers and mothers, the teachers of past generations... They saw themselves as collectors and guardians of such tradition, occasionally adding something and passing on the collection to their sons and daughters.  The philosophers, however, wanted to accept nothing on the basis of tradition.  Although Parmenides and Plato occasionally resorted to myth, they considered mythological explanations second best and, in the end, rationally inadequate.  Reason must be autonomous, self-authenticating, and subject to no standards than its own."

"Although the philosophers disagreed on much, they all agreed that the good life was the life of reason.  The them, reason not the fear of the Lord, was the beginning of wisdom; reason itself became something of a god— though they did not describe it as such— an object of ultimate allegiance, and the ultimate standard of truth and falsity, of right and wrong.... So Greek philosophy was indeed a "revolution in worldviews."  It represented a radical break from what had gone before."

John M. Frame, Revolutions in Worldview, pages 5-6.

"Philosophy and religion are identical" was the view of Saint Augustine.  (Clark, Thales to Dewey, page 251)

True Religion and True Philosophy Are Identical—Christianity and rationality based upon faith from its beginning.  Christianity, by construing under the forms of reason what had first been vouchsafed to faith, stood the test of criticism which so often resulted in the evaporation of the vague ideas of ancient Mysteriology. It had nothing to fear, but rather much to gain, by the application of enquiry. It possessed its symbols, but they were simple and inoffensive…. It was only natural that Christianity, as the religion of Redemption, should be more readily accepted by the downtrodden classes, among whom conservatism was less hampering; but at no time was Christianity merely a peasant religion. It satisfied the heart and mind of the subtle thinker who declared that not many wise had accepted ‘the offence of the Cross’; it appealed to cultured minds like those of the Fourth Evangelist, the author of Hebrews or the author of the graceful Epistle to Diognetus. The Christian apologists proved equal to expounding the fundamental Christian truths in the language of Greek philosophy. Under Antonines a vast apologetic literature was published by writers like Quadratus, Aristides, Tatian, Justin, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Melito, Apollinarius, and Minucius Felix. Justin retained after his conversion the philosopher’s cloak for his Christian propaganda, in which he won his double title ‘philosopher and martyr’.

He endeavored to vindicate the truth of Christianity mainly by appealing to the morality of its adherents, the proof from prophecy, and the simplicity and dignity of the Christian worship. Tatian will not surrender philosophy to unbelievers: ‘Our philosophy is older than that of the Greeks,’ and ‘rich and poor among us pursue philosophy,’ even old women and youths. Later apologists took up the battle for education in the Church, chiefly Origen and Clement. Origen boldly accepts his opponent’s contention against a faith without enquiry: ‘We should follow reason and a rational guide,’ and he claims that, without speaking arrogantly, there is at least at much enquiry among Christians as elsewhere. More striking still is Clement’s defence of the rights of philosophic enquiry in Christian doctrine and his assertions of the benefits accruing from its application. In inviting his countrymen to come to ‘the all-sufficient Physician of humanity,’ he invited them likewise to ‘the genuinely true philosophy’: ‘It is impossible to find without having sought, or to have sought without examining, or to have examined without analysing and asking questions with a view to lucidity.’ Philosophy was to the Greeks the preparatory discipline for the Gospel which the Law proved to the Jews. Since philosophy makes men virtuous it must be the work of God. No one ever more cordially welcomed enquiry upon faith than this generously educated Greek father, to whom the true Christian was the true Gnostic. None, except the Fourth Evangelist, exemplified better how Christianity may bring forth things new and old, and while borrowing transmute. ‘One indeed is the way of Truth, but into it, as into an ever-flowing river, streams from everywhere are confluent.’ Greek and non-Greek speculation was a ‘torn-off fragment of eternal Truth.’ Lactantius likewise recognized the strength of Christianity when he maintained that the true religion and true philosophy are identical. 

No other religion in such a short time called forth such a theological literature in which its adherents made explicit the truths implicit in their faith. This, of course, produced such a crop of heresy as alarmed Church leadersGnosticism, Docetism, Montanism. It was in the Gnostic controversy that Christianity was brought into closest contact with philosophy in the ancient world, by which it gained through a clearer formulation of its faith. 

Christianity offered a more profound and spiritual message than the Mysteries to the theosophic mind of the Orient, the speculative mind of Greece, and the legalist mind of Rome. However brilliant the allegorical exegesis of the Mysteries, however remote their boasted antiquity, however imposing their authority, however impressive and often beautiful their symbolism, there remained at last in the Mysteries but evanescent myths, elusive of a theology, and legends repulsive to the moral sense, whereas the Christian apologist could appeal to truth intelligible because enshrined in the Word made flesh in the Divine Humanity.  (http://www.unfitnews.com/authors/SAmr0truereligion.html)

 


 

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