Frame: The Greeks

This is where neo-Puritans and Scholastics of all stripes will get mad.  Rebutting any form (or perceived form) of Harnack’s charge on Hellenism is the new sexy in theology today.

But there is a Hellenism.  And it isn’t good.   Frame does a pretty good job summarizing different Greek thinkers, but I want to pay attention to the larger picture:

Major Premise: “The Biblical God tolerates no Rivals.”  What makes Zeus less offensive than Moloch? Aphrodite than Ashteroth?

There is no way to reduce “Greek thought” to any one position.  Some thinkers were monists, others atomists.  But there are patterns that overlap and are not compatible with biblical revelation.  Here are some unifying (oops, is that a Greek concept?) principles:

  1. None of them believed in Yahweh.
  2. None believed that a personal God (absolute personality) created the cosmos.
  3. “The dictates of fate might  agree with those of morality, but not necessarily” (Frame 49).
  4. Form-matter dialectic.
  5. The gods were personifications of nature (this is clearer by the time of Plotinus).
  6. Rejected wisdom of the past; reason is now the measure.  Not only is this a break with biblical tradition, but with most other human tradition.
  7. Reason, not the fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.

General Moments

Frame does a decent job summarizing the pre-Socratics, Plato, etc.  No need to spend time on it here.

The Greeks weren’t “children looking on the world in wonder,” but “as those without the biblical God suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (53).

Man is the measure of all things = reality is what man says it is = irrationality (62).


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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