Monday, January 12, 2015

The use of philosophy within the Church

‘The use of philosophical, scientific, or legal categories by the Church is a dynamic process. The goal is man’s transfiguration, his entrance into the Kingdom. He is not to remain a prisoner of rational or cosmic limitations. Greek philosophy, which was once adopted as the milieu of Christian theology because its categories were then the only understandable ones, was never absolutized as such. Did Aristotelian terms like hypostasis and physis keep their full original meaning in the Chalcedonian definition? Would Aristotle himself understand Basil of Caesarea? 

The new Christian meaning of these terms remained basically unacceptable for those in the ancient world who rejected the historical Christ of the New Testament. The dynamic, free, and critical attitude toward Greek philosophy which characterized the patristic period, and which implied an often painful process of discrimination as well as many individual mistakes, can be studied with great profit in our challenging days of change. Perhaps a greater parallelism than first appears can be drawn even between Origen and Rudolf Bultmann. The former was an honest Christian and founder of biblical scholarship, who surrendered Christianity to the Neoplatonic world view which was his own and that of his contemporaries. The latter was an honest Christian demythologizing the New Testament and thus trying to meet the consensus of modern existentialism.’[1]

[1] Meyendorff, John, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), pp. 42-43. 

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