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Worldview and Christo-Platonism

Worldview and Christo-Platonism

What Is The Gospel? Seminar – Session 1

 

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All human societies and cultures operate from a set of unconscious assumptions that together constitute what anthropologists call a “worldview.” 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, and through people like Origen, Clement, and St. Augustine, on the church as well. Typically, the worldview of every culture consists both of elements that agree with Biblical truth (and thus are to be affirmed) and those that do not agree with Biblical truth (and thus need to be changed from God’s perspective). The problem with the widespread infiltration of Greek thought into the church over the centuries is that so much of it is simply contrary to the Hebraic worldview of the Bible. Join in this introductory session as we examine the concepts of worldview and Christo-Platonism in an attempt to detoxify ourselves of unbiblical influences that have obscured “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) for too long.

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Worldview And Christo-Platonism

DESIRED OUTCOMES OF THE SEMINAR

DESIRED OUTCOMES OF THE SEMINAR

A.    Different streams of the Body of Christ have various strengths and weaknesses. Some groups emphasize the study of Scripture, doctrine, and theology. Others emphasize the gifts of the Spirit and the cultivation of a bold expectation for God to move in power. Some live and breathe intercession and prayer, while others put the highlight marker on evangelism and missions. Some devote most of their attention to the cause of the poor, the widow, the fatherless, and so on.

B.    Sometimes, when God begins to instruct us in a new area of understanding or ministry, it can be tempting to: 1) be unappreciative of what we have previously learned from others who, while more experienced than us in one area, may themselves not yet have begun to move into the new area; 2) assume that because someone may have more experience in the new area – which initially may feel exciting – then everything they teach is Biblically sound.

C.   For example, my story.

D.  At the end of the day, our allegiance to Jesus must surpass our loyalty to denominational sacred cows. We are called by our Lord to be seekers and lovers of truth. This will be especially important as the world enters into the last days.

9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (NIV2 Th. 2:9-12)

E.    The goal of this seminar is to equip disciples of Jesus the Messiah with a Biblically-sound and integrated theological framework for understanding and making sense of their existence in this age of darkness, pain, and affliction, so that they will be motivated to:

1.    Persevere in faithfulness to Jesus no matter what difficulties and trials they may face before He returns; and not get thrown off the narrow path by any prosperity they may experience before Jesus returns

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (ESVAc. 14:21-22)

6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away (ESV – “not offended”) on account of me.” (NIVMt. 11:6)

2.    Carry their cross daily

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his lifewill lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  (NIVMt. 16:21-27)

3.    Hate and forsake sin by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (NIVTit. 2:11-14)

INTRODUCTION TO WORLDVIEW

INTRODUCTION TO WORLDVIEW

A.    All human societies and cultures operate from a set of unconscious assumptions that together constitute what anthropologists call a “worldview.”

B.    Definition of worldview

1.    Charles Kraft – “the culturally structured assumptions, values, and commitments/allegiances underlying a people’s perception of reality and their responses to those perceptions.”[1]

2.    Paul Hiebert – “‘the fundamental cognitive, affective, and evaluative presuppositions a group of people make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives.’ Worldview are what people in a community take as given realities, the maps they have of reality that they use for living.”[2]

a)    A worldview is the sum total of our deep level, usually unquestioned, assumptions about reality, or that which is real. Five worldview universals:

(1)    Person/Group – e.g. Who is in the room right now?

(2)    Causality – Why is my child sick right now?

(3)    Categorization (Logic(s)) –What is the point of the story of Joseph?

(4)    Time-event – Paying the phone bill –10 minutes or three hours

(5)    Space-material – How many people can live in a house?

b)    Quiz: which of three of these four should be grouped together?

 Quiz

C.   Included in the deep-level assumptions of a worldview are ideals about the way life is supposed to work, as well explanations for why it does not actually work out that way. In other words, one of the functions of worldview is to make sense of the discrepancy we observe and feel between the good we know ought to be in the world and the horrendous mess we actually see there. Worldviews help people cope with life and loss, even if they are not based on truth (e.g. Muslim families who give their children as suicide bombers. What enables them to do this?).

D.   Analogies:

1.    Monopoly, versus Settlers or Chess. Different games with different rules. What game are we playing? Right understanding will impact how we play the game. Sometimes offense toward God can enter our hearts when we are unconsciously understanding and articulating our faith in accordance with a set of rules different from the game we’re actually playing in this age.

2.    Fish bowl analogy (Harrigan) – hard to know what the fish bowl is actually like when you are a fish swimming in it, especially with the water fuzzy and dirty because of sin. We must therefore rely on revelation from the One who made the fishbowl.

E.    One quick pastoral note before we move on. As human beings, we are integrated beings. What we think (mind), what we feel (emotions), what we choose (will), and our bodily desires and well-being (body) are all dynamically interrelated aspects of who we are as human beings originally made in God’s image. Culture and worldview have a significant influence on these different dimensions of our being. The process of sanctification involves God transforming us on all of these different levels. Therefore, as we work through issues related to worldview, we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves at different times experiencing different emotions as God reveals areas in which we need to adjust our thinking and view of reality. We may even feel a bit exposed at times. God knows our hearts and minds intimately, and He knows how to lead us through this process.

9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (NIVJer. 17:9-10)

2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIVRom. 12:2)

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (NIVEph. 3:16-17)



[1]Charles Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness , 52.

[2]Paul Hiebert, Transforming Worldivews, 14.

HISTORY OF THE GREEK WORLDVIEW

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.”[1]

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.”[2]

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.’”[3]

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.”[4]

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.”[5]

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.



[1]Hiebert, Transforming Worldivews, 14.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenization

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine

[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine

[5] John Harrigan, “Five-fold Development of the Western Worldview,” www.dtnetwork.org.

CHRISTO-PLATONISM

CHRISTO-PLATONISM

A.    Typically, the worldview of every culture consists both of elements that agree with Biblical truth (and thus are to be affirmed) and those that do not agree with Biblical truth (and thus need to be changed from God’s perspective). The problem with the widespread infiltration of Greek thought into the church is that so much of it is simply contrary to the Hebraic worldview of the Bible. This is one of the reasons why so many in the Body of Christ today do not know how to explain the gospel with clarity when put on the spot: it has been often obscured by unbiblical ideas down through the centuries.

B.    Form and meaning – Cultures consist of two basic levels: “form” and “meaning.” Forms broadly refer to the various elements that constitute the observable, surface level of culture. “Meaning” refers to the deeper assumption/worldview level of culture that underlies the forms. This is the underlying interpretive level of culture. Some examples:

1.    Driving in the United States, versus in Cairo or Nairobi

2.    Dr. Kraft – Coat example from Nigeria

3.    Jewelry or prophylactics? – e.g. charms worn around the neck, hand of fatima

C.   “Christo-paganism” is a concept that some missiologists have used to describe the state of Christianity in many parts of Latin America. In Latin America, we often see Christian forms being used outwardly, but under the surface the meanings are simply a carry-over of pre-Christian pagan-associations.

1.    E.g. My friend Theo from Haiti: talked often about the voodoo in the church.

D.   True discipleship involves voluntarily embracing change on the deeper worldview level, even when it is painful.

1.    E.g. cities in France where conversion was forced, versus where it was voluntarily embraced

E.    Christo-Platonism – Much of the church in the West is faced with a situation similar to that of the church in Latin America (even though most of us don’t realize it). Many of us employ Christian forms, but under the surface, on the worldview level, many of our thought-patterns are actually Platonic in nature. Unfortunately, this has sometimes led to serious distortions of some key Biblical concepts and doctrines.

F.    In order to understand the nature of the gospel according to the Bible, then, we must first attempt to identify and detoxify ourselves of the negative influence that the Greek worldview has exerted on the church for many centuries. To this end, we will now briefly compare the Hellenistic worldview and the Biblical worldview. What “fishbowl” are human beings and we as believers actually swimming in according to Biblical revelation?

 

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Tim Miller Tim Miller (124 Posts)

Tim is founder of the Daniel Training Network. His passion is to see followers of Christ embrace a life of the cross. He, his wife Emily, and their four children itinerate regularly as part of their ministry, and are presently living in New Mexico.


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