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Comparing Greek, German theology

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Posted: Saturday, June 19, 2010 12:00 am

A funny Monty Python sketch depicts a soccer game pitting Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle and Archimedes against Germany's Hegal, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.

Nothing much happens, a lot of thinking, till Archimedes kicks the ball, passing to Socrates, then "Goooaaalll!" Hooliganism ensues. Hegel argues that the reality of the goal exists only as an a-priori adjunct of dialect. Kant holds that, ontologically, the goal was nothing more substantial than a categorical imperative. Karl Marx protests.

That, in a nutshell, separates 19th-century German Bible criticism, "Heilsgeschichte," from Bible understanding. In a logical Greek mindset, early European church fathers had taken the testimonies in the gospels as at least symbolic truth. Later, German theologians, on the other hand, sought every intellectual excuse to obfuscate, doubt and redact. A mocking rejoinder attributed to students goes, "Heilsgeschichte? Horsegeschichte!"

The ills of liberalism mimic the German team â€" moral relativism, post-modernism murkiness and doubt. Political correctness abhors Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth and the light."

Pastors who preach poppsychology and magazine articles do so because they fundamentally doubt the Bible can be trusted. They fear liberal Sharia law that punishes "offensive" assertions of objectivity.

But Greek thought is murky and magical, too. Hebrew thought is more objective, more earthy, closer to the understanding of the Bible writers. For while Greek holidays were "give-us" events, lifting hopeful appeals to the Gods, Jewish-appointed times commemorate solid history, what God has done for Israel.

Not only are the festivals heartwarming, but commemorative tradition provides excellent teaching for children. Objective history is important.

Moreover, Greek thought separates body and soul, planting a feeling that doctrine alone is saving faith. Jewish thought unifies spirit, soul and body. If you have faith, your personality will naturally reveal it through desire, and desire naturally through deed, as rain brings forth fruit.

John, Peter and Paul were bold men of action. They asserted, "We don't philosophize or devise a religion." they simply acted on what they knew. If these humble doers had formed a World Cup soccer team, they would have first kicked the ball.

Peter Stearns




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