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Philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god

Universidad Adventista del Plata E-mail: Furthermore, it demonstrates that they resorted to Greek philosophy to justify their procedure. In doing so, they abandoned the biblical identity of Christianity.

Specifically, this article evinces it through a study of the early Church Father's doctrine of God and Christ, and St.

Knowledge of God

Augustine's doctrine of the creation of the world. Philosophical presuppositions; Church Fathers; St. Augustine; Creation of the world; Timelessness; Time. Introduction The purpose of this article is to show that in defining many Christian doctrines, the Church Fathers connection with philosophy did not lie in receiving philosophical influences but in the fact that they did interpret method presuppositions philosophically instead of following the biblical interpretation.

In other words, it is about showing that the first Christian theologians forsook the biblical identity of Christian theology to adopt a Greek philosophical identity at the level of method presuppositions.

This hypothesis relies on an approach about the way human mind functions. Such approach will be explained in order to better understand what the adoption of philosophical interpretation of mind presuppositions by Church Fathers consisted in.

To present our argumentation, it has been divided it into two parts i.

God, Natural Knowledge of

Though it was not proposed systematically, statements on divine attributes can be found in their writings that reveal a definite attitude towards God's being. Aristides first half of the second century AD declared that God is a spiritual being, without beginning and end; one, unnamed, incomprehensible, eternal, immutable, perfect, self-sufficient, creator, unmoved mover. God has no need of anything. Athenagoras tries to defend Christians by arguing that, if pagans can freely speak of a God the way they do and Christians believe in a God of the same nature, why is there a law against Christians in force?

Concepts of God

That what pertains to God only pertains to Him and must not be attributed to any other being, not even with any another meaning. God's manifestation in the world is the Son, who is a part of divinity and has a kind of derived existence. Creation is not truly real, because it is corruptible, temporal and perishable. As far as God is concerned, it can be learn what He is not instead of what he is via negativa.

Following the way in which Neo-Platonism takes the negative way to its logical conclusion, Clement argued that every name we use to refer to God refers to things that are familiar to us, but none of these are worthy of God. All knowledge is based on elements previously known by us, but there is nothing before the Unengendered. According to Clement, this would be the unknown God whom Paul tried to preach to the Athenians Acts, 17: Despite claiming God to be unknowable, he also stated that God is impassible, immutable and incorporeal inducing him to assert that the biblical references to materiality and passions of God are allegorical and should be interpreted to understand its holy meaning.

God has no passions anger, desires, fears not because he can beat them, but because his nature cannot run any danger. The terms they used -such us timeless, immutable- are not stemmed on an attempt to convey by some means the way Scriptures conceive the being of God, and his transcendence of the world. Although Scriptures state clearly that God transcends creation, it does not impede God's permanent revelation in the realm of creation's history.

As to the theological method it must be said that Church Fathers were working in the realm of theology in which the theologian is concerned not only with the meaning of the text but first and foremost with the relationship of the text with reality.

In this domain, the key question is the truth of the Scriptures sentences and how the theologian words prove true. The specific problem is not only the meaning of the word "God" but what God actually is. The Fathers are interpreting the hermeneutical presuppositions the theologian brings with himself to the task of interpreting the data in order to know the object. The Fathers' interpretation of God and the world in the aforementioned references is particularly expressed as hermeneutical principles.

God has been interpreted as timeless and immutable, whereas the world has been interpreted as temporal and mutable or changeable. Early Church Fathers defined God by means of attributes that are contrary to the temporal, multiple, material and changing world. This way of defining God entailed them a problem as they had to define the nature of Christ.

To solve this problem and conciliate God's absolute transcendence regarding the world with the idea of creation and revelation, the Fathers interpret Christ as the first creature of God. Christ suffered only in so far as he was a man. Tertullian feels the divine part of Christ must be saved from suffering thus his claim that it was the flesh which suffered in the Logos. Tertullian also refused Gnostic separation between attributes worthy of God and attributes that -in Gnostics opinion- are not worthy of God, between the Jesus who underwent suffering and the Christ who was impassible.

The properties of both natures were preserved, so that the Spirit performed the supernatural and miraculous acts while the flesh suffered hunger, thirst, sorrow and finally died on the cross. However, the presupposition of the impassivity of God conditioned his thought as he asserts that the Son became passible in the moment of incarnation, which shows that for Irenaeus the Son was impassible before the incarnation.

According to him, Christ was eternal and completely impassible, free from all passion, affection, appetite, pleasure and pain. Even though he assumed a passible body for our salvation, his body was free from the needs anybody normally has because he was kept safe by a holy power. Christ assumed a flesh subject to passions, but he trained it unto a state of impassibility. However, Clement asserts that Christ satisfied his needs to prevent people meeting him from thinking he was only appearance, as docetists later claimed.

Scriptures ever reveal God in regard to creation, to temporal world. In Scriptures such relationship is not interpreting the Son as a being who has not the same nature as the Father nor as a being whose divine nature remains impassible and alien to any contact with the temporal and changing world. Where did the Fathers get such conception of God from?

The philosophical conditioning on Church Father's concept of God The answer to the question posed lies in the method the Fathers implicitly followed leading them to draw the same conclusions despite the different emphasis they put in the same subjects.

Beyond philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god method, what led them to the same conclusions through diverse paths were the principles of interpretation of the data and the interpretations they assumed on the sources of the data.

The basics of interpretation of macrohermeneutical principles are necessary in any method because they set up the basic assumptions which make it possible to think and speak about any subject. The macrohermeneutical principles are the most basic presuppositions the mind needs to be able to function and to get acquainted with reality as such.

We have already seen the way the Fathers interpreted God and the world as presuppositions. However, these interpretations in turn assume an interpretation of being.

In order to get to know reality and say something about it, our mind needs philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god previous idea about what reality "is".

This is called the ontological presupposition, which is the broadest background the mind needs to interpret in order to work. Regardless of the diversity of things we know, our mind does know it all as things "being", thus mind needs to previously have an idea about what "being" is.

In order to get knowledge and make assertions about God's and world's being, Church Fathers had to presuppose an idea about being at all. The issue to focus here is: What was philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god interpretation of being the fathers took for granted and what determined their definition of God's being and their understanding of God's relationship to the world? Since at that time the Fathers could not reflect it on knowledge nor on method, they did not raise the problem of the macrohermeneutical principles they were willing to adopt in order to develop the doctrine on God and on Christ.

This lack of reflection impeded them to realize that the Bible has its own interpretation of the macrohermeneutical principles and at the same time, it led them to follow unconsciously but coherently the interpretation prevailing at that time i. In order to understand the proposition of this article, it is important to keep in mind that there is philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god single human rationality, but several interpretations of rationality.

There is a mythological, a philosophical, a biblical and a modern scientific interpretation of rationality. What makes the difference between them is the interpretation of the macrohermeneutical principles being in general, God, world, man, knowledge that reason as such needs in order to work.

Therefore, opposing philosophical rationality and biblical rationality, as well as criticizing the former as inadequate to understand the latter, does not mean to discredit the effectiveness of God's creative work in creating human reason. God created man's ability to think, but thinking always implies a specific way of interpreting the basic macrohermeneutical principles and there are different ways to do it. What is usually called "natural reason" is a human mythological, philosophical, scientific interpretation of these basic assumptions.

In the Bible, God revealed a way of interpreting the basic macrohermeneutical principles, i. Here it is not possible to go into details about that rationality, but in an intent to synthetically express what it encompasses, it can be said that it includes God's analogical temporality and His permanent work both in the infinite dimension of divine time and in the finite dimension of created time, the creation of the world in time, the unity of man, the absence of human's soul unconditional immortality, the great controversy between God and the devil and the historical conception of biblical knowledge that creates meaning through biblical typological central historical facts such as the covenant and the sanctuary.

If human reason wants to understand divine revelation it has to adopt these basic assumptions. The question is not whether the "natural reason" may or may not know even one part of the truth, but whether human reason is ready to abandon the mythological, philosophical or scientific interpretations of the basic macrohermeneutical presuppositions and to assume the interpretations God has revealed in Scripture in order to be able to understand the message that He has revealed to man, and not the message man would want to understand.

God the Creator and General Revelation:

Although not all Greek philosophers thought the same way, all shared the idea that the being or true reality is timeless. It might be said that the Greeks interpreted their gods as being involved in the time of man and world. But this would mean to ignore the fact that Greek philosophy reacted against Greek myths and anthropomorphisms. This reaction led Greek philosophers to conceive the being or true reality as timeless and unchanging.

Biography:

Philosophy defined the true reality as something completely opposite to time. And this philosophical stance no longer allows the understanding that God can act in time.

So there is something specific to the biblical God. In Scripture, all elements of biblical rationality operate under the assumption that God is analogically temporal and that there is no dimension of divinity outside time. Since Greek philosophy stems from a fundamental assumption considered being opposite to the biblical one, everything taken from it would distort the understanding of biblical revelation.

Due to the scope of this article, it is not possible to demonstrate that some scholars claim that Church Fathers interpreted the reality of God from a non-Greek viewpoint.

However, as it is to be shown in this article, Church Fathers failed to grasp the specifics of biblical interpretation of the reality of God as an analogically temporal being, and departed instead from the Greek philosophical assumption that the true reality is timeless. For this reason they always tried to save God's immutability and impassibility, as it will be shown.

The problem of Patristic time scholars is that they failed to question the macrohermeneutical assumptions the mind needs to interpret in order to function. They particularly failed to examine the unquestioned assumption that God is timeless and that His temporal action must be understood symbolically or metaphorically.

Many scholars, either Jews or Catholics and Protestants think it is unlikely not to find anything in Greek philosophy useful for Christianity. But it is useless to raise this desire if in examining Church Fathers' texts it is possible to see -as it is done in this article- that the philosophical notion of God's timelessness is incompatible with the biblical notion of God as an analogically temporal being.

It might be considered that the timelessness-time contraposition is not enough to oppose Greek philosophy to biblical revelation. However, as this contraposition belongs to the most basic level of thought -the level of the assumption about "being in general"- it systematically affects everything the mind thinks, whether it is or not aware of this conditioning.

It is necessary to choose between the idea of the timelessness of true reality and the idea of the analogical temporality of God. It is not possible to have a bit of both, because this leads to a contradiction at the most basic level of thought. A possible objection should be discussed before dealing with the philosophical interpretation of being that philosophy in relation to the knowledge of god the concept of God in the early Fathers.

Based on the well-known fact that many Fathers refused the use of philosophy in Christianity, the statement regarding their adoption of a philosophical interpretation of being could be objected.

Nevertheless, the adoption of philosophical macrohermeneutical principles took place independently of the attitude of the Fathers toward the use of philosophy in Christianity.

The aim of this article is to prove this claim by showing that both the fathers who rejected philosophy and those who accepted it, adopted the same principles, and that precisely these principles shaped the Father's understanding of the doctrine of God and Christ.

Some of the Fathers known for their opposition to the use of philosophy were Tertullian, Tatian, and Irenaeus. Tertullian considered that faith is not rationally comprehensible and that its credibility lies there. According to Tertullian, Scriptures are completely self-sufficient and without the need of any philosophical reasoning to become comprehensible.