Friday, December 9, 2011

The Angel at the Ford of Jabbok (Pt. 3)

As is inevitably the case when the conversation turns to classical descriptors for God (e.g. impassible, immutable, eternal), the question of whether or not true faith was corrupted by the evil of Hellenistic philosophy arises. It is a the common calumny of almost every contemporary Protestant theologian that at some point during its development, Christian doctrine sold its soul to "Hellenism." During the course of his discussion of this belief, in which he gladly embraces the early Christian conversation with Platonism as "the special work of the Holy Spirit," Hart uses an illuminating term to characterize this Protestant understanding of God: "Teutonism." There seems to be a common delusion among Protestant scholars--and I encountered this most recently in Paul Hinlicky's Divine Complexity--that if they can only reject the corrupting influences of Hellenism, they will automatically return to an authentic Biblical (sometimes termed "Semetic") worldview. What Hart deftly points out with this term is that this new brand of thinking is not some genuinely detached return to unblemished biblical thought (which incidentally arose in a Hellenistic context); it is deeply dependent on another extrabiblical philosophical paradigm, German Idealism. It was German historical and systematic theologians who reconstructed an early Christian narrative in which a simple faith gradually gave way to a philosophical one, who declared that this acquiescence was fundamentally unsound, and who devised a philosophically "independent" theology of God in response. (It is strange that this had never occurred to me before, especially given how much time I spend thinking about the Restorationist delusion that they were reconstruction authentic biblical Christianity rather than formulating a new Baconian Christianity.)

Without declaring either "Hellenism" or "Teutonism" superior (though it ought to be obvious from my previous posts where I fall), it seems that Hart's disposition toward philosophical "intrusion" into one's worldview is the only honest one. We must be aware of, admit, and embrace our philosophical heritage rather than laboring under the pretense that we attempt theology in a void.

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