Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

neoplatonism

Neoplatonic Systematics

In the world of ancient Greek philosophy, reality is made up of two alien substances—mind (or ideas, forms) and matter. Instead of the division of Christian thought between the uncreated being of God and the created being of all else, the division is between mind and matter. In all forms of neoplatonism, this Hellenic division pre­vails, and it is basic to the way modern man regards himself.

It is basic also to intellectualism. The intellectual may philosophi­cally reject Greek dialecticism, but in practice he applies it. The world for him is divided between the men and realm of ideas, and the men and realm of practice and work. The modern university thus perpetuates a Greek faith by its implicit faith that the realm of ideas represents a higher realm than that of practice. Much of the hostility of the intellectuals to capitalism, technology, the life of the middle classes, to manual labor, and much, much more stems from the un­acknowledged premise that the life of ideas represents a higher stage of being. This sense of superiority is implicit in academicians, writers, the press, and in all members of the intelligentsia.

The intellectual may philosophi­cally reject Greek dialecticism, but in practice he applies it.

Our concern, however, is more specifically with the seminary, a modern institution for the training of the clergy. The modern semi­nary is too often a neoplatonic institution through and through. Its concerns are ostensibly Christian; they are in reality ecclesiastical and neoplatonic. We cannot begin to grasp the reason for the falter­ing life of the church apart from that fact.

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Neoplatonism, with its division of worldy and spiritual realms, has played havoc with Christian belief. Not even a great scholar such as John Calvin was completely devoid of its influence.

For example, in the introduction to his Harmony of the Four Last Books of the Pentateuch, he makes these comments. He claims that “God protests that he never enjoined anything with respect to the Sacrifices: and he pronounced all External Rites but vain and trifling.”

The first part of this statement is rather startling. God never “enjoined” (i.e. imposed) Sacrifices? This statement is an amazing misrepresentation of the Torah. If there is one thing that is very clear, Sacrifices were not only commanded, but also expected, from God’s people.

Did God really pronounce “all External Rites but vain and trifling”? There’s a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ answer to this question. It is certainly clear that God says that External Rites without faith have no meaning and value in his sight. Time and time again God tells his people that he does not want sacrifices that were external only. The sacrifices were to come from a life of faith and obedience. But this does not mean that God did not want the sacrifices; he just wanted them done the right way and in the right spirit.

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