The Philosophical Trend of the Church

During the early years of the Christian church many of its theologians and bishops were influenced by their training in philosophy when they began to create the doctrine of the church. It was at this time that Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 AD), a polemicist against heresy, made the comment “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”

His concern was that theology was becoming based too much upon philosophical ideals and not enough upon the Scriptures—what he called the Rule of Faith. He considered philosophy to be a form of paganism and something that did not mix well with faith. He did, however, use the tools of philosophy in his argumentation, but did not base his beliefs upon them.

The pattern that Tertullian saw in the late 2nd century existed throughout the history and development of the church. We can see the influences of both Plato and Aristotle in the thinking of the church fathers as well as many theologians to follow. This pattern continued during the time of the Enlightenment when philosophy seemed to be at its heights. And we still see this pattern continue through Modernism and into the Post-modern world.

These various forms of philosophy have had a dramatic and lasting impact upon the church’s theologians that extended into the beliefs of the church itself. Today, if we look carefully, we can see the effects of Post-modern thinking upon the average church-goer who has little experience in Biblical training and who is looking for simple answers to complex questions. Even pastors are assimilating today’s philosophical idealism into their sermons and teaching materials.

We need to rethink this trend and once again ask, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”

What do you think?


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