The Science of God (McGrath)

McGrath, Alister. The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology.

Alister McGrath defends the idea that creation (or “nature”) is a real entity that discloses knowledge in such a way that shapes the knowledge it discloses. In other words, ontology structures epistemology without negating the latter. Echoing Thomas Torrance, we know “kata physin.”

He begins with his own life-journey from studying chemistry at Oxford to studying theology–and becoming a Christian along the way.

Contra Hellenism and Orientalism, since creation is contingent, the real can be found by acknowledging nature’s contingency (McGrath 51). For Greeks, to get to the real was to get beyond appearances and nature. For the creation-tradition, however, the opposite was the case. The natural order possesses its own goodness and rationality.

Creation (or “nature”) finds itself within an interlocking network of divine and human rationality (62). Following the Hebrew writers, particularly Job (38ff), creation is linked with the idea of God’s “ordering.” This ordering is not the result of God’s being under necessity, but is rather contingent.

McGrath defends natural theology but in a new way. Natural theology isn’t looking at a squirrel and then deducing God’s simplicity. Rather, it begins with revelation and sees the natural world as disclosing real truths.

The book then moves from “nature” to “theory.” McGrath criticizes communitarian approaches like Lindbeck and to an extent, Barth. He also interacts with John Milbank and Alasdair McIntyre.

This book is a summary and popularization of his larger Scientific Theology. It succeeds in channeling key aspects of Thomas Torrance (on epistemology and ontology) while leaving Karl Barth behind

Thucydides: The Peloponnesian War

This is the best book on geopolitics ever written.  It’s very difficult, too.  His style isn’t that difficult and the subject matter is straightforward.  The difficulty, as the school of Leo Strauss would later point out, is a dialectic between a surface reading and a deeper reading.  

Part of the book’s popularity is the parallel to the American Empire, prompting such devices as a “Thucydides Trap.” Will American overextend itself and force China to attack it?  I think that line of questioning is wrong, but the parallels remain.  America, like Athens, is a sea-based power (in the classical Halford Mackinder sense).  America, like Athens, believes in spreading Democracy by force whether others want it or not.  America, like Athens, doesn’t really practice democracy.

We also see in Athens the “rhetoric of empire.” We must rule you because if we don’t someone will rule us. 

The fatal moment for Athens is the invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Syracuse.

The first set of causes is the Corcyraen and Potidean affairs.  This put Athens in a bind.  On one hand, they were bound to a peace treaty and couldn’t get involved by helping Corinth.  They decided to risk open confrontation because they couldn’t risk Sparta’s allies gaining that much power (I.44ff).  Corinth, Sparta’s ally, saw this as Athen’s breaking a peace treaty (56).

Thucydides gives a penetrating analysis of Athenian democracy. He points out that democracy and empire are connected. In the aftermath both sides then recruit their vassals and allies to prepare for war against the other.

Key idea: “War is not so much a matter of armament as of the finance which gives effect to that armament, especially when a land power meets a sea power” (83).  Sparta fears that Athens is getting too powerful and has to act before it is too late (118).  Athens, on the other hand, knows (or at least believes) that it can “outspend Sparta to death.”

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Platea was hostile to Thebes, so the Thebans launched a pre-emptive strike to seize the key ground (II.2). Athens saw this action as breaking the peace treaty, so she began preparing for war.

The highlight of the first year of war is Pericles’ speech to the Athenians (II.35). It’s beautiful, but whitewashed, since his noble talk of democracy doesn’t include slaves or women.

Sections 48ff show the effect of plague upon the war.  It hampered Athens’ war effort, but more importantly it illustrated the social decay.  In times of plague and crisis, men reduce to their natural levels (II.53).

The book ends with Athens in chaos.  Sparta could have really exploited the situation and conquered most of Greece.  Unfortunately, they didn’t.  The democracy in Athens begins eating itself, which I suspect is the nature of democracy.

Pericles is the main figure of this narrative.  He is honest about empire.  Athens is an empire.  We shouldn’t be fooled by silly talk about democracy.  The danger with empire is that when you lose it, your enemies smell blood.  Pericles notes: “The empire you possess is now like a tyranny–dangerous to let go” (63).

Later on Athens is even more crass (but honest) in its desire for empire. She tells the Melians: “If the independents survive, it is because we are (perceived) as too frightened to attack them….It is particularly important that we, as a naval power, should not let islanders get away from us, especially you in your weak position” (V:97).

If that leaves it in any doubt, Athens goes on to say, “We dominate people at home so that others should not control us” (VI:87).

Conclusion

It’s hard to overstate this book’s importance.  It isn’t simply military history.  It explores what happens to a society during war time.  Social morals often reflect external situations.

Homer: Iliad

Rage gives way to heroism and heroism to tragedy–but Rage is a given.  

Given Achilles’ dilemma, it seems that glory is coterminous with death.   He can only get glory by dying.  This is the dialectic of tragic metaphysics: death is necessary and is interwoven in the fabric of reality.  That’s the whole point of heroism:  immortality can only be achieved by the heroic death.  Hector’s heroism is more noble, to be sure, but hardly less tragic.  In fact, it is worse.  Hector wisely sees that his fighting on the plain leaves his son a potential orphan.   However, defending his family will give him shame on the battlefield.  This is a dialectic in its most vicious sense:  he will bring shame and grief no matter what he does.  He can only eschew the dialectic by renouncing the heroic ethic.  This he does not do.  

A. Trojan priest demands his daughter be returned (Book 1)

BThe armies gather for battle (Book 2)

C. Duel (Paris and Menelaus); Book 3

C’ Duel (Hector and Achilles) Book 22

B’ Greek Armies engage in funeral games (Book 23)

A’ Trojan king, Priam, asks Achilles to return his son’s body (Book 24).

For the Greeks, virtue is timeless and motionless.  Stay in your place forever.  The Christian view is obedience to God; grow from glory to glory (103).

Divine Disharmony: An Ontology of Violence

Early Christian understandings of God rightly formed their doctrine partly in response to Hellenistic paganism.  While later views of God would posit something close to a static unmoved mover, perhaps it was not meant to be that way.   One can appreciate Christian understandings of God as impassible, for example, by contrasting Him with the Greek gods.  Ares, after being humiliated in battle, whines to Zeus of the gods’ “own conflicting wills” (V.1009).   Far removed is the One who keeps covenant forever. Put philosophically, perhaps one can understand the reason of identifying God’s essence with his will, and knowing the truth, goodness, and beauty are convertible transcendentals–something that can never be said of Ares.  

While understanding a proper place for exaggeration and anthropomorphism in the biblical text, especially where Yahweh is said “to hate,” this is still a far cry from the internecine violence in Olympia.  Athena laments, “But Zeus hates me now” (VIII.423).  How can there be peace on earth when there is war in heaven?

Herodotus: The Histories

The Histories

Herodotus writes with more narrative power than most novels.  He has more insight into the human condition than all psychology departments.  If hubris is what happens to arrogant kings in Herodotus’s account, then King Croseus is the hero of this story.  He humbles himself when he is beaten and as a result is a wise counselor to the Persian kings. Most kings, however, aren’t like Croseus.

The story isn’t straightforward.  He begins with the claim that he will give the background to the Persian war.  He does. He also gives the background to everything else. Remember how in the Iliad when Homer would introduce some random dude, spend ten pages giving his backstory, only to have him killed off on the next page?  Herodotus does the same thing.

There is a method to the madness, though.  It’s quite brilliant. All of his random sidebars add up in the very end to present a coherent narrative.  Further, there is a movement in his narrative which highlights liberty over despotism, which is the argument the Greeks used to unite themselves against Xerxes.

The ultimate showdown, first at Marathon, then at Thermopylae, and finally at Salamis, isn’t quite the “all of a sudden” event that the film 300 suggested.  Much of Asia Minor was long understood to be Persian territory.  Also, many Greek cities were quite friendly with Persia and no one saw a contradiction   The tension, urged on by dreams and omens, developed over decades.

The climax of the story is Athens, not Sparta (which makes sense, given that Herodotus wrote this in the early stages of the Peloponnesian Wars).  This compromises his neutrality, though it does make for good reading.

“Here I am forced to declare an opinion which will be displeasing to most, but I will not refrain from saying what seems to me to be true. Had the Athenians been panic-struck by the threatened peril and left their own country, or had they not indeed left it but remained and surrendered themselves to Xerxes, none would have attempted to withstand the king by sea….As it is, to say that the Athenians were the saviors of Hellas is to hit the truth. It was the Athenians who held the balance; whichever side they joined was sure to prevail. choosing that Greece should preserve her freedom, the Athenians roused to battle the other Greek states which had not yet gone over to the Persians and, after the gods, were responsible for driving the king off. Nor were they moved to desert Hellas by the threatening oracles which came from Delphi and sorely dismayed them, but they stood firm and had the courage to meet the invader of their country” (VII:139).

Book I: Greece and Persia before the War

Book I has all of the elements of dark comedy and poignant tragedy.  It isn’t a straightforward tale, though. He begins by explaining the background to the war with Persia, but it looks like he is getting sidetracked.

Book II: Egypt

Did Egypt copy Greece or did Greece copy Egypt?  Herodotus argues that Greece took much of its religious terminology from Egypt (116).  Nevertheless, while there is overlap, there are also differences. Egypt didn’t have quite the overt phallic symbolism that Greek rituals had (115), though it had obscenities of its own sort.

The Egyptians also were the first to put forth the idea of the immortality of the soul (145).

Analysis

Custom is stronger than any Nomos and rulers disregard that at their own peril. Herodotus notes:

“For if it were proposed to all nations to choose which seemed best of all customs, each, after examination, would place its own first; so well is each convinced that its own are by far the best.  It is not therefore to be supposed that anyone, except a madman, would turn such things to ridicule. I will give this one proof among many from which it may be inferred that all men hold this belief about their customs. When Darius was king, he summoned the Greeks who were with him and asked them for what price they would eat their fathers’ dead bodies. They answered that there was no price for which they would do it.  Then Darius summoned those Indians who are called Callatiae, who eat their parents, and asked them (the Greeks being present and understanding through interpreters what was said) what would make them willing to burn their fathers at death. The Indians cried aloud, that he should not speak of so horrid an act. So firmly rooted are these beliefs; and it is, I think, rightly said in Pindar’s poem that custom is lord of all” (III:38).  

While Herodotus doesn’t draw the explicit point, a point which I think Thucydides will later draw, this is why global government is always doomed to fail.

What role do humans play in history?  Herodotus is very clear that God (more on that later) and Nemesis respond to human Hubris. The “gods” (whatever that word means) also punish excess in vengeance (IV:205).

Herodotus ends with wisdom from Cyrus, who was urged to become lord over Europe:

“It is only reasonable that a ruling people should act in this way, for when will we have a better opportunity than now, when we are lords of so many men and of all Asia?”  Cyrus heard them, and found nothing to marvel at in their design; “Go ahead and do this,” he said; “but if you do so, be prepared no longer to be rulers but rather subjects. Soft lands breed soft men; wondrous fruits of the earth and valiant warriors grow not from the same soil.”  The Persians now realized that Cyrus reasoned better than they, and they departed, choosing rather to be rulers on a barren mountain side than dwelling in tilled valleys to be slaves to others” (IX:122).

 

The Myth of Eternal Return (Eliade)

Mirceau Eliade gives a fine presentation on non-biblical views of history (though he wouldn’t necessarily call it that).  Ultimately, Eliade’s analysis shows why Judeo-Christian “creational” views of reality can never be harmonized with polytheistic or classical Greek (but I repeat myself) views of ontology.

At the heart of these pagan systems is “the abolition of concrete time” (Eliade 85). In this text Eliade is going to use Jungian language about archetypes, yet I don’t think he really means what Jung means.  These archetypes are patterns in which man is to live his life. Man’s philosophy cannot be divorced from his liturgical acts (no matter how degenerate). As a Christian, we can say that these archetypes are similar to the stoichea that St Paul warned against.  We are not controlled by lunar cycles and season. That is the Old Creation. We live in the New Creation.

Archetypes and Repetition

Original ontology: revealed by a conscious repetition of paradigmatic gestures (Eliade 5).

  1. Reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype.
  2. Participation in the symbolism of the Center.
  3. Rituals materialize a meaning.

The Symbolism of the Center

This usually involves:

  1. The sacred mountain where heaven and earth meet–the center of the world (12).
  2. Every temple or palace is an extension of the sacred mountain and becomes a center.
  3. The center is an “axis of the world” and is the meeting place between heaven and hell.  

Liturgy:  Repetition of the Creation moment.

Serpent symbolizes chaos (19).

Regeneration of Time

The New Year feasts point back to a repetition of a cosmogenic act (52).

Deluge: creation reverts to chaos; fusion of all forms (59).  This is actually what an orgy is, which is precisely the liturgical function of these philosophies.  Eliade notes the “symmetry between the dissolution of the ‘form’ (here the seed) in the soil and that of social forms in the orgiastic chaos (69).

In more monistic systems like Hinduism, there is the desire for the “primordial unity [that] existed before the Creation” (78).  As in Gnosticism, creation = fall. As in Greek philosophy, distinction = dialectically violent negation. Eliade then connects these to various strands of Greek philosophy (Heraclitus Fragment 26B; Zeno, etc). Put simply, the Greeks wanted an ontology “uncontaminated by time and becoming (89).

Eliade has an excellent section on Hindu cycles.  This is more relevant today as some in the Alt Right are seeking Dugin’s philosophy of the Kali Yuga.  Which is ironic: many of the so-called “white nationalists” are embracing Hindu metaphysics (note: Dugin is not a white nationalist).  This is a “metaphysical depreciation of history, which….provokes an erosion of all forms by exhausting their ontologic substance” (115).  That is a one sentence summary of the entire book.

Criticisms

In the midst of a fine survey of Canaanite ontology, Eliade collapses Yahwism into it, noting “marriage, sexual license….were so many moments of an extensive ceremonial system” (61).  This is the complete opposite of Yahwism. It is a good description of Plato’s communal wives, but it is the antithesis of Hebrew ethics.

Intro to Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise

St_Ephrem_CNA_US_Catholic_News_5_18_12

Sebastian Brock gives an outstanding introduction to the thought-world of Ephrem the Syrian.  At the risk of people crying “Harnack Thesis,” Brock teaches you how to view reality as a Semite.  Brock’s introduction is doubly good, for St Ephrem’s mindset is not always easy to crack.

This is the best way to explain the problem.  For the Hellenized Greek, priority was given to the Form or the Real.  Whether Ephrem would have agreed or not, we don’t know. But instead of Forms, in Ephrem we see symbols.  Further, Ephrem often moves from individual to corporate to individual without telling the reader. Brock alerts us to these moves: “The Semitic mentality of the biblical writers and of the Syriac poets, such as St Ephrem, finds it very easy to move from the collective to the individual, and from the individual to the collective” (Brock 27).

Key Concepts and Symbols

While St Ephrem held to virginity as the ideal, he didn’t take it in the nigh-Galatianist heretical ways that guys like Methodius of Olympus would.  For the word “singleness” Ephrem uses a broader term, ihidaya (wholeness). “Let one such man who is divided/collect himself and become ihidaya before You.”

The meter of the poems doesn’t perfectly translate to English.  It was originally some variant of 5 + 5. 5 + 5. 7. 5 + 5. 5 + 5.

While St Ephrem has a strong theology of transcendence, he didn’t do away with the material world.  There is a symbolic link between the material and spiritual realms.

Hayla kasya: hidden power, meaning.

The Greek philosopher defined a term by its opposite, which implied a limit to both.  Not so with a Semitic thinker like Ephrem. Imagine a circle whose center is inaccessible (think of God’s essence).  Ephrem will then juxtapose paradoxical statement on the circumference. Brock explains: “The central point is left undefined, but something of its nature can be inferred by joining up the various opposite points around the circumference” (40).

Raza: symbol. Actually participates in some sense with the spiritual reality.  It expresses “relationships and connections” (42).

Kasyutha: hiddenness.  That which is to be revealed in Christ.

Galyutha: an objective reality but can only be experienced in a hidden way.

The garment of words.  God, who is inacessible, puts on names.  This is what Eastern fathers would say by the energies’ revealing who God is.

Paradise

Brock argues that for the Syriac tradition there was an opinion that Paradise was an abode of sacred time, as the Peshitta translated miqqedem (to the East) as “from the beginning.”  Brock then ties all of Ephrem’s topological details about the paradisical mountain: it is circular (I.8), encircles the Great Sea (II.6), the Flood only reached the foothills (I.4), on which is seated a barrier (syaga) guarded by the Cherub.  The Tree of Knowledge is halfway up (III.3). This is the point at which Adam and Even, presumably after death, could not cross (51-52).

The threefold concentric structure of the mountain is an analogue to the threefold structure of the human person: intellectual spirit (tar’itha), soul (naphsha), and body (gushma).

 

Semantics of Biblical Language (Barr)

Docetism is a perennial heresy, and even those who would agree with Barr’s (correct) conclusions, and perhaps even dislike the discipline of biblical theology, would probably find that they, too, practice a form of Docetism.  I’ll put my cards on the table and begin with the conclusion. Barr notes, “Thus the isolation of Hebrew from general linguistics tends to heighten the impression of Hebrew….being quite extraordinarily unique in its structure” (Barr 291).  Barr’s opponents did theology by word-studies based on the assumption that Hebrew was special. I think the danger today, as noted in the quote above, is that we isolate Hebrew from its Ancient Near Eastern culture.

Semantics: study of signification in language (Barr 1).

The problem with the Greek-Hebrew contrast:  there is posited a contrast between “Greek” and “Hebrew” thinking, yet the Biblical Theology guys rightly affirm a unity in the Bible.  So how to get around this?

Nonetheless, Barr isn’t criticising Biblical Theology per se, but only faulty methodologies (6).

Contrast of Greek and Hebrew Thought

Barr’s problem is not with “Hebrew vs Greek thought” per se.  Rather, he is saying you can’t trace the contrast to the languages.

I admit that it is dangerous to speak of a “Greek worldview,” but if we take the leading Greek thinkers (Plotinus, Plato) we will see that they are antithetical to the biblical model.  We have to be careful in not placing the antithesis at the level of word-studies.  You can find anti-biblical, anti-creational elements all over Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus.  Explode those.  

Granted, claims about “the Hebrew psychology” are silly, but we don’t need to go there.

Barr’s challenge: are there linguistic phenomena that can be tested to such claims (23)?  Remember, Barr isn’t saying there is no biblical mindset, pace some of his defenders; rather, he is saying you can’t trace that to the magical verbal roots or something.

Dangers in Interpretation

Root word fallacy (101ff): Hebrew words often have three root consonants.  Therefore, the meaning of the word is by finding its root. Barr counters by noting that bread (lhm) and war (mlhama) have the same root.  Therefore, bread and war have the same semantic domain! Indeed, many scholars think etymology is worthless. Do you need a quick refutation of Heidegger? Heidegger says truth (alethia) means unconcealment, since lethos means forgetfulness and the alpha-privative negates that.  It’s the same fallacy.

Illegitimate totality transfer: we all know that a word can have multiple shades of meaning.  Therefore, per this fallacy, any time a word is used, all of the nuances are overloaded into that meaning!

Illegitimate identity transfer: similar to above.  When we read a word’s other meaning into this usage. The Hebrew dabar can mean both word and thing.  And since an event is a thing, every time we read of dabar Yahweh, we can read of the revelation event of Yahweh!

The book has a long chapter on the fallacies in Kittel’s theological dictionary.  I won’t spend time on it simply because no one uses Kittel anymore.

Live, Hellenization thesis–live!

I am not going to cite any specific article (it’s at Calvinist International), for if I do my email inbox will be filled with “why did you misrepresent us?”  What is the Hellenization Thesis?  I think it is the claim that “Greek philosophy corrupted Hebraic forms of thought.”  Well, if that’s what it is then it is wrong.  I think Harnack and later liberals claimed that.  I don’t think anyone is claiming that today.

When I read these CI articles, I get a long quote by some scholar (whom I’ve no intention of reading) and very little analysis of said scholar.

But still–we can identify “Greekness” and note how it is opposed to Hebraic thought-patterns.

  • Contrast Methodius of Olympus’s view of sex with Proverbs 5.
  • Does definition = limit?
  • Euthyphro
  • Being vs. Becoming
  • Derrida’s comments on writing
  • Priority of heaving over seeing (faith is always contrasted with sight; not knowledge.  Even the Greek words for obedience and seeing testify to this, though I don’t want to read too much into the etymology). The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  • Is there a Philonic aisthetos cosmos/noetos cosmos distnction?
  • Name one Greek church father that praised marital, messy sexual intercourse?

Some more questions:

Which culture did Paul primarily have in mind when he wrote Romans 1:18-23?  Yes, I realize it is universally applicable, but I think the answer is somewhat close to home…

 

Chain of Being (Review)

Arthur Lovejoy analyzes a powerful if flawed concept’s “control” over Western mind since Plato. The chain of being is the continuum of “substance/essence/stuff” beginning with God (or Plato’s Good) and ending with either inorganic life or nothingness itself. The chain of being hinges around three concepts: plenitude, continuity, and gradation.

chain-of-being-multicolor
(photo courtesy of Christianciv.com)

Summary of the Idea

At the top of the chain is pure Being. At the bottom is pure nothingness. Further, Good is coterminous with Being. Thirdly, good is self-diffusive. So far this isn’t too bad. It becomes tricky when it becomes “ontologized.” a) the line between Creator and creature is fuzzy; b) if something is lower on the chain, is it less good? What’s the difference between less good and bad?

If there is an infinite distance between God and not-God, and all of this is placed on a “scale” or chain, then is there not an infinite distance between each link in the scale? This was Dr Samuel Johnson’s critique, and it highlighted the problem of the chain of being: reality had to be static and exist all at once. This called creation into question, since if the Good is necessarily self-diffusive, then it had to diffuse into creation. God had no freedom to do otherwise. Ironically, this Idea also called evolution into question: if there is an infinite distance between the links, then there is no changing from one link to another.

Analysis

This book’s value lies in its being a prime example of clear, penetrating thinking. In each chapter Lovejoy presents a new difficulty with the idea of a chain of being and the force is cumulative. The chain functions as a snapshot of the God-world relationship. Since God is perfect, and the chain is a diffusion of his goodness, and since God is eternally perfect, then we must see this eternal perfection. If not, we have to find “the missing link” (and is not evolution a mere temporalizing of the chain?)

Review of Reformation Scholasticism (Dooyeweerd)

Identifying this book is tricky.  I am reviewing Herman Dooyeweerd’s Reformation and Scholasticism volume 1.   Paideia Press, an otherwise outstanding publisher, has released what appears to be several volumes under similar titles.  This volume only covers up to Aristotle (but not Aristotle).  It is Works Series 5/1.

Herman Dooyeweerd identifies four religious ground-motives in Western thought. These aren’t just “worldviews.” They go much deeper than that and control the thought-formations in a pre-conscious way.

1. Form-Matter of Greeks
2. Creation-Fall-Recreation of Scripture
3. Nature-Grace of Western Medievalism
4. Nature-Freedom of Modernity

1, 3, and 4 are dialectical and are torn by an inner dualism (Dooyeweerd 3).

Greek Form-Matter

This ground-motive is torn between earlier nature-religions (pre-Homer) which posited a divine, eternally-flowing stream of life (5-6). It is a psychic fluid which technically isn’t material, yet it is bound to material life and is conceived materially.

The best way to review this book is to highlight a number of “pressure points” within the Greek ground-motive.

Pressure Point #1: What is the soul made of?

The Socratic “Idea” is the life-giving principle, so it is necessarily related to the sensible cosmos; yet it is exalted above the matter principle of flux (137). For Plato Like must be known by Like–so the thinking soul must share in the immobility of the eide, and even to the eidos of “life in itself.” Why is this a problem? This would make the soul the world of ideas.

But if the soul is furthered pursued on these lines, then it is “deprived of the anima rationalis of all vitality, rendering it completely inert” (154). But if the soul contains the principle of motion, is this not a move backwards towards the Elatic school and its ever-flowing physis?

The nous is only the origin of the pure form, not of the chaotic elements in matter, or the chaotic motions. Thus, if the soul is the source of all motion in the cosmos (or in the microcosmos), then its simplicity is under tension.

Plato alleviates this problem with a tripartite division of the soul.

Pressure Point #2: Forever Apart?

Dooyeweerd notes that the ontic realm of the Forms “can never be joined logically to matter…an eidos of hule is inherently contradictory” (192). He points out that if motion and rest can both be applied to Being, then there is nothing to distinguish it from temporal reality. We aren’t quite at Plato’s chorismos (sharp division) between the eternal and sensible worlds, but we are getting there.

Pressure Point #3: Is Weakness Evil?

In the Timeaus Plato notes that faulty conditions of the body give rise to bad decisions (Tim. 86D). In Christian terms, you sin because you are finite and created. Something just seems wrong about this. Given a Platonic anthropology, the rational part of the Soul is good but the rest of the body is subject to Ananke. Thus, man is both rational and irrational (Dooyeweerd 310).

Conclusion

There is no denying the book’s value in its giving a minute and precise analysis of pre-Aristotelian philosophy, yet that might also be its problem. Dooyeweerd’s “Ground-Motive” schema is accurate and with it we agree 100%. And I think Dooyeweerd is successful in identifying the problems in pre-Aristotelian philosophy. Nonetheless, one often loses the forest for the trees. It is easy to get lost in the analysis and it isn’t always clear when Dooyeweerd is bringing you back to the larger picture. Yet, this book is certainly valuable for its deconstruction of Greek thought and its indirect establishing the ground for the Creation-Fall-Redemption Ground motive.