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Christian Apologetics

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Sun Mar 14, 2021 5:17 pm
YellowSweater says...

Hello everyone, I am currently doing research for an essay I want to write on how Christian Apologetics warped Christain doctrine by attempting to reconcile an Abrahamic world view with a Hellenistic one. As a disclaimer I am not a Christian, so I am writing from an agnostic perspective.

I am particularly interested in Origen and Justin Martyr. But I am planning on looking at Thomas Aquinus as well because I think it would be interesting to see how important Hellenistic logic systems were to medieval rational in the context of religion.

Anything helps! Thanks!

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Wed Oct 26, 2022 1:34 am
lliyah says...

Super old topic - but thought I'd take an attempt at responding.

First - the topic is much too broad to give a very satisfactory answer to; I think you might have more success in forming an essay on this topic if you were focusing on a little bit more specific area of Christian doctrine - or else you'll really need to write a whole series of books rather than an essay.

If you are considering the effect of Hellenistic views on Christian ethics for instance that's an entirely different matter than how Hellenistic views effected Christian views of the trinity, nature of God, Christology, justification, liturgy, etc. For a strictly academic essay you're going to want to stay away from language that implies a value judgement like "warped" too. Christianity was certainly affected by Hellenistic views -> but "warped" by them is a judgement call.

Might be useful to just focus on those three figures and their effects potentially, or even just focus on one of them, or just keep a narrow time-frame - because even before Justin the Martyr and Thomas Aquinas you can already see St. Paul being very influenced by Hellenistic views -> he even quotes Greek poets in his NT writings. One really interesting thread to consider is how New Testament writings were influenced by Hellenistic philosophies, views, and concepts - like in John 1 the use of "logos" to explain Jesus the "logos". And before the NT... Jewish people were already finding themselves divided between the more Hellenistic Jews and others. In this way... there wasn't really a situation where a "Hellenistic world view" had to be "reconciled" with an Abrahamic one to produce Christianity - > Christianity as we know it formed into being through a people already influenced by Greek influence -> though later theologians would take Christian concepts and writings and try to explain them through Greek Philosophy lenses too; and these subsequent explanations became very influential almost held up as scripture themselves. Still - that doesn't mean that Christianity just folded into existing Greek philosophy -> it brought with it things that were totally unique from any other philosophy or religion that never fit nicely into Greek categories and are still maintained today - the trinity for instance.

If you (or anyone reading this) is seriously interested in this topic I would strongly suggest going back to the original sources to study this topic with Origen, Justin the Martyr, and Thomas Aquinas' writings or commentaries on them. Summa Theologica by Aquinas would be helpful, On First Principles by Origen would be good to read as well as the IEP (internet encyclopedia of philosophy) entry on Origen is very good. And then for Justin - the First Apology, the Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho and Exhortation to the Greeks. Reading a good Bible commentary on the first chapter of the Gospel of John would also be worth your time.

Some themes you'll pick up for Hellenistic influence -

Debate on division between soul / body (very-much Plato influence)
Lifting up of "Reason" as a method for "knowing God"
Tension with Gnosticism
Incorporation of Plato's Theory of Forms
Debate on free will
Considerations considering "perfection"

Hope that helps!
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