What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?

This is the question raised by the second century church leader, Tertullian.

What does Athens as the center of Greek philosophy have to do with Jerusalem as the center of Jewish revelation?

What do the Greek philosophers have to do with the Jewish prophets?

These are important questions, and not just historically; they have important implications for today.

Tertullian’s question should not be understood as, “What does thought have to do with theology?” or “What does philosophy have to do with Christianity?” Thought and theology are inseparable and philosophy simply means “the love of wisdom” and the Bible clearly calls us to love wisdom.

Rather, Tertullian’s rhetorical question has to do with what is the foundation and final authority for divine knowledge?

I believe Tertullian’s question could be expanded in this manner: What do the Greek gods have to do with the God of Israel and when push comes to shove who do you side with, Plato or Moses?

For all the appreciation I have for the early church fathers, I can’t countenance their man-crush on Plato. It really does seem that they wanted to make Plato a prophet and Aristotle an apostle. They were not.

Pre-existent souls…Divine Impassibility (the doctrine that God is impassive, emotionless and incapable of suffering)…over-emphasis on heaven…tacit belief that physical bodies are evil…sexuality diminishes spirituality…this world is not our home, etc. These are all ideas derived from Greek philosophers that are in opposition to revelation given by the Jewish prophets.

Judeo-Christian or Greco-Christian?

That’s the question.

The answer should be Judeo-Christian, but for much of the church the reality has been Greco-Christian.

Of course not everything from the Greek philosophers and poets is wrong. That’s not the point. But can we discover the true nature of God and ultimate reality by philosophical thought alone or is divine revelation required to get the ball rolling? In other words, is a philosopher enough or do you need a prophet?

Answer: You need revelation. You need a prophet.

Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”

And this is the foundation for empiricism.

But Moses records God as saying, “I AM THAT I AM.”

And this is the foundation for revelation.

These are two different beginning points:
From inside your own head: “I think, therefore I am.”
From external revelation: “I AM THAT I AM.”

Is empiricism enough to give you all the knowledge you need or is revelation with corresponding faith required?

At this point let me again quote Tertullian: “I believe because it is absurd.”

The relationship between faith and absurdity was especially appreciated by Pascal and Kierkegaard — so don’t give me any lip about belief in the absurd being merely a cover for ignorance (because we all know that Pascal and Kierkegaard are both way smarter than anyone reading this blog).

The Greek philosophers can make valuable contributions to thought, but they have nothing to contribute to revelation, and revelation is where we must begin in the realm of the knowledge of God.

In general, we need to think more Jewish and less Greek.
More like Paul than Plato.
More like David than Homer.

Especially in these categories:

We are looking for the New Jerusalem, not the New Athens.



Various thoughts:

I like the ESV (English Standard Version).

It’s time for me to get in mountain shape. I need to push it pretty hard beginning today!

My big climb for this summer is McHenrys Peak via Stoneman Pass. Generally considered the most difficult 3rd class peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here are some photos from my online climbing counselor, Smudge:

McHenrys Peak

Another view of McHenrys
With Longs and Chief’s Head in the background

Just below Stoneman Pass
That’s Longs Peak in the background. A few days earlier I will lead a group of guys up Longs Peak — my ninth climb of Longs. I charge them all a dollar…that way I can call myself a professional mountain guide. Ha!

Looking down the south ridge

I do love the mountains!

Song in my head today:

High Water (For Charley Patton)
by Bob Dylan

High water risin’ – risin’ night and day
All the gold and silver are being stolen away
Big Joe Turner lookin’ East and West
From the dark room of his mind
He made it to Kansas City
Twelfth Street and Vine
Nothing standing there
High water everywhere

High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down
Folks lose their possessions – folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook it – broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, “You’re dancin’ with whom they tell you to
Or you don’t dance at all.”
It’s tough out there
High water everywhere

I got a cravin’ love for blazing speed
Got a hopped up Mustang Ford
Jump into the wagon, love, throw your panties overboard
I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind
Things are breakin’ up out there
High water everywhere

High water risin’, six inches ‘bove my head
Coffins droppin’ in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
Water pourin’ into Vicksburg, don’t know what I’m going to do
“Don’t reach out for me,” she said
“Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”
It’s rough out there
High water everywhere

Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew
“You can’t open your mind, boys
To every conceivable point of view.”
They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five
Judge says to the High Sheriff,
“I want him dead or alive
Either one, I don’t care.”
High Water everywhere

The Cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies
I’m preachin’ the Word of God
I’m puttin’ out your eyes
I asked Fat Nancy for something to eat, she said, “Take it off the shelf –
As great as you are a man,
You’ll never be greater than yourself.”
I told her I didn’t really care
High water everywhere

I’m getting’ up in the morning – I believe I’ll dust my broom
Keeping away from the women
I’m givin’ ’em lots of room
Thunder rolling over Clarksdale, everything is looking blue
I just can’t be happy, love
Unless you’re happy too
It’s bad out there
High water everywhere