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July 2, 2022 12:01 am
Some people assert that Greek philosophy has infiltrated Christian thought and corrupted our view of God. Today, R.C. Sproul addresses this misunderstanding and considers the place of philosophy in our theological reasoning.
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Immanuel Kant was one of the greatest skeptics in history, and yet even here knowledge. There is purpose in the universe.
Kant himself said he cannot get past the starry skies above, and the moral law within because Kant was not just a philosopher Kant was also a scientist and he was overwhelmed by the manifest evidence of the presence of design in the world of nature.
Even secular philosophers come to the conclusion that there must be something bigger and smarter than us today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul continues his series on classical apologetics and will point out that while creation tells us less about God than the Bible does it still tells us enough to point skeptics to the creator they been looking for a sufficient reason to account for reality as we encounter and we looked at the four possibilities of an illusion or is that which comes into being through self creation, or that which is self existent, or that which is created ultimately from something that is self existent. And we endeavor to show that in the last two options. Both of those include a self existent eternal something in our last session we looked at the question of whether that self existent, eternal, something was transcendent and I tried to point out to you that when philosophers and theologians speak of transcendence were talking about that which is a higher order of being not as spatial location for something, but then we left at the end of that session with the question.
Well, okay, even if there is a self existent eternal something either the pulsating core of the universe or the God of the Scriptures. This is a long way from the personal being that we encounter in Judeo Christianity, the God of the Bible, all we've been able to establish so far, it may be argued, is something akin to the God of the philosophers and abstract concept of the self existent eternal being, and that leaves us with two serious problems that we have to look at briefly one is the relationship between this philosophical concept and the God of the Bible.
And then of course the second question of how do we get from a self existent eternal being, to a personal God, and of course both of those are very important questions, and will begin now with the first one in the early church, the church father Tertullian was the one who was famous for his credo.
I believe because it's absurd and Tertullian at that point was trying to show the radical difference between the God of the Bible and the God of the Greek philosophers and he raised the question really rhetorically what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens and Tertullian would answer that question as I say, since it was rhetorical. Nothing that there is no real point of contact between the personal God of the Israelites and this vague abstract concept or principle found in Greek philosophy. Now not only did we have that objection raised early in the church history by Tertullian, but the objection was raised afresh with a vengeance.
In the 19th century with the liberal school of theology, where the liberal school of theology with people like the church historian Adolph on Harnack and the theologian ritual almanac ritual indicated that early on in church history. The church was corrupted by the intrusion of Greek philosophy.
When you go as early as the fourth century to the Council of Nicaea in which the Trinity was defined and it was said that God is one in essence and three in person that the categories that were used therein to define the Trinity and the two natures of Christ with the phrase Homo Lucy Aust the Christ as the same essence as the father that this theological language of Nicaea was laden with Greek philosophical concepts and that we need to break free of the stranglehold the Greek philosophy is had on the thinking of the theologians over the ages. This was one of the concepts argued by the 19th century liberals.
While that view of liberalism has made an enormous inroads into the evangelical church of the 20th and 21st centuries where we have this new sense of a rejection of systematic theology because it seeks to have a rational coherent understanding of the whole scope of Scripture rather than looking verse by verse.
Bit by bit at the text of Scripture and allowing the Scripture to speak for itself.
The charges that system editions impose a philosophical system on the Bible and try to squeeze everything to fit into this preconceived system that is borrowed from Greek philosophy. Now I'm a systematic theologian in the course. I represent that remark could be in the sense that I hear this criticism all the time. And of course the task of systematic theology is never to impose a foreign system on the Scriptures and then force the Scripture to fit it like a progressing in bed, but rather that what we try to do a system editions is look at the whole scope of Scripture and try to have a coherent understanding, finding the system of thought that is in the Bible, not that we impose on it now. That does presuppose that when God speaks, he speaks coherently. It does presuppose that God has given us minds to understand his word in a coherent, rational way, not in an absurd, disjointed, irrational manner, and yet this anti-systemic concept.
Today is linked in many cases in many circles to this antipathy that people have towards Greek philosophy. Not one of the things that we have to understand is, for better or for worse.
Like it or not, God the Holy Spirit chose the Greek language to have the New Testament written and as long as the New Testament was written in Greek, the language of the Greeks is now with us forever.
In terms of our understanding of the gospel. Now that doesn't mean that you interpret the New Testament Greek in light strictly in Greek philosophy. You can't do that yet understand that even though the language was Greek. The concepts came from the Hebrew world and they were simply communicated through the tool of the Greek language and it's true that Hebrew writing tends to be more imaginative, more graphic in the sense of more pictures than abstractions, but it would be an insult to the Jews to assume that the Greeks were coherent and the Hebrews were incoherent or that God gave minds to the Greeks, but he didn't give minds to the Hebrews. Hebrew thought still is rational thinking, and it still seeks to be coherent and the mind is of supreme importance to the Jewish understanding of the things of God.
Just as that would be the case with the Greeks, but having said that, we are still left with this problem of the difference between the idea of God, that one would find. For example, in Aristotle and the idea of God that we find in Christianity. As for Aristotle, he defined God as thought thinking himself.
He defined God as the unmoved mover or the first cause of all things. But the idea of Aristotle's God is that Aristotle's God does not create through a voluntary act of creation, but creates, as it were, out of necessity, and he remains completely remote and is basically impersonal.
He remains removed from the world that is generated from his being, whereas in Christianity, the God who we find in the Bible is in the first page introduced to us in need in the first verse of the Bible is introduced to us as the one who acts to create all that is and that he acts in a reasonable propulsive manner to bring things to pass and that that which he creates. He sustains and commits himself to that the Bible is the story of creation and redemption that God is intimately concerned with the affairs of history and with the activity in managing the universe that he creates and so they're obviously sharp differences in the view of God that we find in Aristotle, for example, in the view of God that we find in the Scriptures.
We also find the concept in Greek philosophy of the logo loss or the word or the logic which functions in Greek philosophy as an abstract idea that is necessary to give order and harmony to the world, whereas in biblical Christianity the logo's is the incarnate Word of God and the logos is a person which is all the difference in the world from what you would find in Stoicism or in Heraclitus, both of whom employed the concept of logo loss in their Greek philosophy. But what I want us to understand when I hear Christians object to apologetics arguing for a self existent eternal being. When they say that all this does is get us to a first cause a self existent eternal being and all it does is bring us to the front door of the Lyceum the school. It was founded by Aristotle and that all we've established is Aristotle's God and not the God of the Bible and so people will then reject the whole approach to apologetics that I've been laboring since the beginning of this course.
And I remind people that one of the first principles that we have in systematic theology when were talking about the doctrine of God is the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God which means that none of us will now or ever have a totally exhausted comprehensive knowledge or understanding of God. God is infinite in his excellence, and we even in heaven will not have an infinite perspective to understand him.
We are finite we are creatures and by the virtue of our creatures willingness our understanding of God is thereby limited. Now when we say incomprehensible. We do not mean that we have no knowledge of God, but it simply means that we don't have a complete and exhaustive knowledge of God, not what I hear from people objecting to our laborers to construct the self existent eternal being is that that only gets us to the first cause, and to the God of the philosophers and it doesn't get us to the God of the Bible. Therefore, the approach is false and what we come out with is false because it is not the complete picture. It's only a partial picture of the true God. Now the question is this. Do we have to have a comprehensive knowledge of God in order to have true knowledge of God. I go back to the first principle of our theology. If indeed we would have to have a total comprehensive picture of God in order to have a true understanding of God than this would only mean if this doctrine is correct. We have no true knowledge of God, because we certainly don't have a comprehensive knowledge of God.
In other words what I'm saying is, even if our knowledge of God is partial, that does not mean that it's untrue. It is true as far as it goes. And even though we grant that what we've achieved so far in our reasoning process is only to get to a self existent eternal being that that certainly is part of what the Bible reveals to us about the character of God, because whatever else the Bible reveals about the nature of God, the Bible certainly teaches that he is eternal, that he is self existent and he is the one who is the creator of all things now.
At that point, Aristotle says yay and amen. Is Aristotle wrong know and the fact that a pagan philosopher agrees that there has to be a self existent eternal being does not vitiate the truth of the Christian claim. In fact, it agrees with it and were saying yes, we agree with Aristotle in the sense that there has to be a first cause and that that first cause has to be self existent, and that that first cause has to be pure actuality, and that first cause us to be pure being, and that that first cause has to be eternal say thank you very much Aristotle you agree with us. We agree with you on this cardinal point which is only a partial point of our knowledge of God, but it is a crucial portion of our knowledge of God, because ladies and gentlemen, it is precisely this aspect of the Christian understanding of God that is constantly under attack by atheistic systems of thought where the atheists attacks Christianity is at the point of creation at the point of there being a transcendent self existent eternal be and so I think there's great value in establishing that not only faith but reason as well demonstrates the logical necessity of having a self existent eternal being, so that the battlefield over which the doctrine of God wages is now one where the Christian emerges victorious, rather than surrendering so much of his truth claims. So what I'm saying again shorthand is we grant that arguing for self existent eternal being does not get us to a full understanding or even as much understanding of God is the Bible supply, but what it does is undergirds the most crucial development or aspect of the doctrine of God that the Bible does reveal and that the Bible reveals not just Aristotle that God is self existent and eternal, and so were not just playing philosophical games. Here we are defending crucial aspects of the biblical doctrine of God. At this point, but again the question is how do you get from this self existent eternal something to a personal God, and that requires a little bit more complex and difficult investigation I mentioned earlier that one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God is the so-called teleological argument, the teleological argument is named because it comes from the Greek word power loss which is the Greek word for end purpose or goal, and the teleological argument is sometimes called the argument from design.
Remember to of the greatest skeptics in history with respect to the traditional arguments of God were Immanuel Kant and David Hume, and yet both of them felt that the strongest argument from history for the existence of God was found in the teleological argument. Kant himself said he cannot get past. Two things the starry skies above, and the moral law within because Kant was not just a philosopher client was also a scientist and he was overwhelmed by the manifest evidence of the presence of design in the world of nature and it's very difficult to attribute design in nature without begging the question of a design and can you have design on intentionally. That was the question. Remember we talked about.
Anthony flew's parable of the explorers in the jungle who were going through uncharted territory, cutting their way with machetes through this thick rain forest and they came in the middle of this jungle to this beautifully manicured garden rose and rose carefully tilled everything laid out in perfect symmetry, not a weed amongst the plants that were growing there in a civil look.
There has to be a gardener around here, and they looked around all test for Gardner couldn't find the Gardner began to speculate whether the gardener was invisible and material and all the rest, and finally at the end of flew's parable. He says that God has died the death of a thousand qualifications. When you start defining him as invisible new material. Nobody ever sees them, and so on. The senses what's the difference between that God and know God of all in the obvious answer is the garden they still haven't accounted for the obvious appearance of design in the garden. This is the idea that the Enlightenment philosophers couldn't get away from.
That's why they want from the Christian theism to Deism. They couldn't avoid the implications of design. They said the world operates like a perfectly constructed clock with its gears and internal mechanisms and nobody would find a clock without assuming that the clock had a designer or a clockmaker and you take the way the human eye functions in the brain. It is more intricate than any clock.
There is designed out there and to assume this kind of design and intelligent purpose without an intelligent designer note begs the question, and enormously because of going back to Aristotle again.
Aristotle said that the single most important characteristic for personality is intention or what we call in later philosophy 19th century philosophy person wasn't intentionality. And for something to act with intention requires mind and a faculty of choosing what the mind plants and what Aristotle said was that personality requires intention intention implies personality and the essence of intention is found in mind and will impersonal forces have no mind have no will and they cannot design anything. I think that what we do when we try to reduce God to the level of a mere force that is impersonal and unintelligent and non-volitional is to escape judgment from the perspective of one who is intelligent and one who does operate by design, that's our escape clause to escape from moral indictment, but will get to that later but in the meantime, you cannot have purpose accidentally.
You can't have intelligence on intelligently in personality cannot produce personality because that would be unintentional intention and you cannot have intention unintentional.
That's the same concept that you have with self creation, unintentional intentionality is an absurdity. And so if we go and look at the design and look at these things more closely will see that if there is design in the universe, then this self existent eternal something that is responsible for generating the universe as we find it must be a self existent eternal intelligent being that if intelligent, then person and if personal now we've moved away from abstractions and landed squarely on the pages of segments that's Dr. RC scroll of a message titled God of the Bible versus God of philosophy. Every Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind. We are pleased to feature a lesson from Dr. Sproles overview of classical apologetics you know if your faith is never been challenged.
I can imagine that you found yourself grasping for the right answer.
We don't have the tools to defend her faith.
We either flee from the battle or enter untrained and unprepared, so let me encourage you to request this entire series in 32 lessons RC equips is to give an answer for the hope it's within us the entire series is contained 11 DVDs and we will send it to you for your donation of any amount to look at her ministries there a couple of ways you can reach us to make a request. One is by phone at 800-435-4343. You can also find us online at Renewing Your Mind.work RC's prayer for this series was that your faith would be strengthened, that your courage would be stiffened and that your answers would be God's answers. I think you'll find this to be a helpful resource at home or in your church so I hope you'll contact us soon to request the series again. Our phone number is 800-435-4343.
You can also give your gift online at Renewing Your Mind.a word will Immanuel can't believe that he is destroying the traditional arguments for the existence of God.
But interestingly he realized that he had taken his argument too far. Next week Dr. Strobel explain constant moral argument for God's existence is next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind