The Apostle John warned us the world would naturally hate us. It should then be no surprise that, as I have argued in my previous columns, the West’s way of looking at things might be less than ideal for understanding God and his will for us.
We might wonder, if it mattered so much, why Paul did not more pointedly address the huge difference between the intellectual culture of the Bible against the rest of the world. His choice not to spend too much time teaching the cultural background of Christian faith in his letters was no doubt the best choice at the time. He wasn't writing to scholars. It's quite likely he did go into detail with some of his better students, like Timothy. Apollos clearly understood it, if we accept him as the author of Hebrews, for he rejects the Alexandrian content, but uses the Alexandrian style of presentation. Still, for us to ignore how thoroughly Christian teaching assumes a radically different orientation in thought would be thoughtless.
As a historian, I know what we call today “Western Civilization” was largely based on Christianity. I also know that it was a particular brand of Christianity. I leave for another day the debate whether that particular brand is now, or was then, the true Church. However, it is no criticism to note the Church of Rome which midwifed Western Civilization had not precisely the same outlook on the world as the New Testament Apostles. That is, the Apostles were Jewish men with a distinctly Semitic outlook, and Rome was decidedly Latin-Greek. Specifically, it was Aristotelian.
The key to teaching anyone anything is having some clue what it's like not knowing. If you can't guide someone across that barrier, you can't actually teach much, because the whole process then relies entirely upon the abilities and inclinations of the learner. The best teachers don't simply put it where you can reach it, but make you want it.
OFB's Ed Hurst continues his quest for the perfect UNIX or Linux operating system by looking at a recently released beta of Red Hat's upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6. Is it the Linux nirvana? Read on to find out.
Late last year, I considered what was wrong with approaching Christianity from a Western, Aristotelean perspective (part 1, part 2). It is not as if we have to completely ditch the legacy of Aristotle. We simply have to put it in its proper place. In our minds, we must recognize there is a limit, a wall.
It's the basic concept of sin: saying anything contrary to God's revelation. As a collection of documents arising from the Ancient Near East (ANE), the Bible must be read from that ANE perspective, with an ANE epistemology. The only purpose for which He preserved the Scripture was to explain our burden of obligation to Him. Revelation's chief end is not information, but a call to commitment. If God says man is created in His image, then it places upon us the burden to respect each human. Indeed, Jesus said love your fellow humans as yourself, which is another way of commanding us to respect them. You are not greater than another. When Christians forget this truth, it encourages untold wrongs both within the church and out in the world.
Aristotle and his friends clearly stated only philosophers can really get where we are going. Thus, it was their duty to lay it all out for everyone else. To this day, we still use a significant amount of Aristotle's formal structure for human knowledge. Unfortunately, we carry forward his ideas without really ever questioning if they are valid.
It does no good to argue which path is better if we haven't first discussed where we are going. The real difference between the biblical world view — otherwise known to us as Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) — and the Western frame of reference is rooted in why we bother to philosophize in the first place. The goals of the Bible and those of Western Civilization are not compatible.
The popular term for my faith is Christian Mysticism. I don't participate much in what typically bears that label, but my basic approach is mystical, in that I assert nothing truly important can be put into words. Jesus taught in parables, in part because God and His revelation are ineffable. So we can't really describe ultimate truth, only indicate it using symbols.
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