HISTORY OF THE GREEK WORLDVIEW
A. Of all cultural worldviews in human history, the Hellenistic worldview, or the worldview of the ancient Greeks, has exerted the greatest influence on Western societies (e.g. architecture in Washington DC). As Paul Hiebert says, “the cultures of the West were deeply shaped by the Greco-Roman world from which they emerged. They are shaped more by Greek than by Hebrew or Indian philosophies, and more by Roman than by Confucian concepts of law and social order.”
B. From classical Greece, Socrates, Plato, and their intellectual successors pushed the “snowball” of a particular line of thinking down the mountain of history that eventually became transformed into an avalanche of unperceived and unquestioned worldview assumptions accepted more broadly on a societal level.
C. The philosopher Aristotle was a student of Plato. (He didn’t agree with Plato on many points, but his own philosophy was built in response to Plato). One of Aristotle’s students was Alexander the Great. When Alexander the Great expanded his empire throughout the world in the fourth century, he brought Hellenistic values, ideas, and culture to the lands he conquered.
1. “Hellenization (or Hellenisation) is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon. The result of Hellenization was that elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements, which is known as Hellenism.”
D. From Daniel 10, we know that Alexander’s empire, like all pagan empires, was being directed by a fallen cosmic power in rebellion against God.
20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. (NIVDan. 10:20-21)
E. In the Egyptian city named after him, Alexandria, he built the largest library in the ancient world. Alexandria became the primary intellectual center from which Hellenistic ideas spread and gained acceptance among scholars and leaders throughout the ancient world. Once Hellenistic thinking gained a foothold in Europe, from there it spread to other parts of what is now known as the “Western world” during the eras of colonialism and imperialism.
F. In the second century, the city of Alexandria began to exert great influence on the Body of Christ. Two Christian theologians trained in Greek thought and philosophy—Clement (c. 150–211) and Origen (c. 182–251)—founded a school in Alexandria in an attempt to reconcile Christianity with Greek philosophy.
G. By far, the most influential theologian in church history is St. Augustine.
1. “In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order; his memorial is celebrated 28 August, the day of his death. He is the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses. Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of Reformation due to his teaching on salvation and divine grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is blessed, and his feast day is celebrated on 15 June. Among the Orthodox, he is called ‘Blessed Augustine’, or ‘St. Augustine the Blessed.’”
H. Augustine’s thought was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.
1. “Augustine was a bishop, priest, and father who remains a central figure, both within Christianity and in the history of Western thought, and is considered by modern historian Thomas Cahill to be the first medieval man and the last classical man. In both his philosophical and theological reasoning, he was greatly influenced by Stoicism, Platonism and Neo-platonism, particularly by the work of Plotinus, author of the Enneads, probably through the mediation of Porphyry and Victorinus (as Pierre Hadot has argued). Although he later abandoned Neoplatonism some ideas are still visible in his early writings. His generally favourable view of Neoplatonic thought contributed to the ‘baptism’ of Greek thought and its entrance into the Christian and subsequently the European intellectual tradition.”
2. “Classical/historical premillennialism was the only view of eschatology for at least the first 200 years of the church. However, after Origen’s hermeneutic became widespread by the 4th century, this belief came under scrutiny, and Augustine (354-430) was the first to make a logical and systematic application of Hellenism to eschatology. Though generally a follower of Origen’s allegorical interpretation (cf. On Christian Doctrine, Preface), Augustine toned down the system to make it less objectionable to orthodox Christians (see Phillip Schaff, “Preface to Augustine’s The City of God,” in The Post Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, p.5). On many points Augustine seems orthodox, and though giving lip-service to the resurrection of the body (cf. City of God, 20.6-14; 22.5-21; On Christian Doctrine, 1:19-21), he sees heaven as the ultimate end of salvation (cf. City of God, 11.1; 14.28; 19.10-11; 20.14-27) and thus assumes a heavenly resurrection (cf. City of God, 13.22-23; 22.3-4). Heaven as the ultimate destiny of the saints is the staple of the amillennial view that grew out of Augustine’s allegorical approach to Scripture.”
I. Through the influence of theologians and church leaders whose thinking was shaped in the mold of Alexandrian and Augustinian theology, the snowball pushed down the hill by Plato ended up landing in church pews. This is true up to the present day, even for the vast majority of Christians who have not gone to seminary, but who have nevertheless been taught week-in and week-out by those who have.
J. Through Christian theologians whose thinking was shaped in the mold of Alexandrian theology, the snowball pushed down the hill by Plato ended up landing in church pews. This is true up to the present day, even for the vast majority of Christians who have not gone to seminary, but who have nevertheless been taught week-in and week-out by those who have.
Hiebert, Transforming Worldivews, 14.
 John Harrigan, “Five-fold Development of the Western Worldview,” www.dtnetwork.org.