Back in the day, Theology was viewed as The Queen of the Sciences. This seems ridiculous in our day as theology is generally bashed on by mainstream science people.
Theology was the Queen of Sciences because Theology studied God, the greatest subject, and God provided a unifying framework all other sciences fit into. One’s knowledge of God informed his view on everything else.
This sounds good and lovely, but it also had a bad aspect to it. Since theology was a science that fit in with all other academic fields of study, theology borrowed the authorities of those other fields.
If you read theology, especially old stuff written before or during the Reformation, you will notice how frequently theologians quote philosophers.
By “philosopher” I mean pagan, heathen scum philosophers! People who were not coming from, nor going to, a God-centered view of life.
It’s somewhat bizarre to come across statements by our revered theologians praising heathen scum philosophers, but most back in the day.
Here’s an example from the fruity, mystic theologian Meister Eckhart:
What the philosophers have written about the natures and properties of things agrees with [the Bible}, especially since everything that is true, whether in being or in knowing, in scripture or in nature, proceeds from one source and one root of truth . . . Therefore Moses, Christ, and the Philosopher teach the same thing, differing only in the way they teach.
When he refers to “the Philosopher” in this quote, the context shows he is referring to Aristotle! Although I’m sure he’s not saying Aristotle and Christ are equally inspired, I do think he blurs the line.
You may not have heard of Meister Eckhart, and that’s OK, I bring him up because he’s one of many theological authors who follows the trend of his time in praising and using philosophers to prove theological points.
Perhaps you’ll know my next example better, John Calvin. Here’s a quote from his Institutes:
When, therefore, we discover the wonderful light of truth in the works of pagan authors, that should alert us to the fact that man’s nature, though fallen from its integrity and profoundly corrupt, is nevertheless adorned with many of God’s gifts. If we recognize the Spirit of God as the unique source of truth, we will not despise truth wherever it appears, unless we wish to offend God’s Spirit. For we cannot disparage the Spirit’s gifts without attracting his contempt and reproach.
I’d agree that pagans can stumble across truth and even say things that are true. No problem there. But to say that pagans are moved by God’s Spirit, so make sure you listen to pagan philosophers or else you’ll incur God’s wrath, seems a stretch.
This is also the guy who says we are totally depraved, and yet totally depraved people who are totally unable to respond to the Gospel, can still preach Spirit directed truth that you’ll be reproached for not listening to.
John Calvin was the first of many inconsistent Calvinists.
But this is standard classical theology. They like philosophers. They borrow from the academic, scientific culture around them. Calvin is based on Augustine and Augustine is based on Greek Philosophers.
Calvinism is not biblical; it’s philosophy with a handful of verses attached. This quote was taken from a chapter entitled “The Knowledge of Man and Freewill.”
Calvin’s views of freewill are based on pagan philosophy. He’s pretty much admitting that.
Augustine and Calvin are oft quoted, and they oft quoted pagan philosophers. They didn’t view the Bible as their sole source of authority. They thought philosophers could help out. In many cases, they took their philosophy and made the Bible fit it.
Be wary of basing your beliefs on people who base their beliefs on people who based their beliefs on pagan philosophers!
The believer does not need to read or understand pagan philosophy, nor does a believer need to fear the Spirit’s reproach for ignoring pagan philosophers.
Be careful out there. If classical theology confuses you, that’s probably a good thing!