Who’s the Platonist Now?

One of the more common charges against the early Christian world, and particularly the Eastern church today, is that it is baptized Platonism. It suppressed the earthy, covenantal Hebraism of the Old Testament and original disciples into the more arid Hellenism which we know today.

But is that true? While a number of early fathers were Hellenized (Augustine anyone?), at the most important points of dogma they not only did not commit to Hellenism, but firmly rejected and reworked it.

For example, Hellenistic thought saw the world in dialectical conditions. If there is a good, there must be a corresponding bad. Obviously for Christians this won’t work: God is good and eternal yet evil is not eternal. St Gregory of Nyssa firmly rejected this reasoning.

Likewise, much of modern Christianity–particularly the segment of Reformed thought influenced by John Piper–sees that for God to be Lord there must be something for him to be Lord over (this is actually taken from Origen. Piper advances the premises but not the conclusions, to be fair). Christians confess God to be eternal. They confess him to be Lord, yet they do not confess that he must have had something from all eternity to be Lord over. Again, the Church rejected Hellenism at a key point.

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