Christianisering van die Hellenisme impliseer die hellenisering van die Christelike geloof
Die verlammende effek van tweeduisend jaar se sintesedenke en skolastiek
One may approach the encounter between Christian belief and the Greek-Hellenistic culture in two different ways: Either from the perspective of Christianisation of Hellenism or the hellenization of Christianity. This essay deals with the second perspective – which is considered as a result of the first.
Since the publication of his famous and massive (three volume), Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte in 1886, as well as other works of Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), the issue of the hellenisation of Christianity continues to be debated. According to Von Harnack the accommodation between Christian faith and Greek-Hellenistic philosophy during early Christian Patristic and Medieval thinking has to be evaluated negatively – it resulted in the intellectualisation of original Christian beliefs into fixed theological dogmas.
It seems as if the founding fathers of a Reformational philosophy, D.H.Th. Vollenhoven (1892-1978) and H. Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), more or less agreed with the viewpoint of Von Harnack. They merely employed a different term, viz. “synthesis” to indicate the contamination resulting from an uncritical acceptance of Greek philosophy to explain Christian faith. A younger generation of Reformational scholars (e.g. Klapwijk and Helleman), however, questioned the fairness of characterising other Christian thinkers as synthetic thinkers. They are of the opinion that Christian theologians and philosophers of every age are children of their own times, therefore it is impossible to escape from their cultural-philosophical context.
In contemporary Christian theological publications something similar is taking place. What Von Harnack called “hellinisation” and Vollenhoven indicated as “synthesis-thinking” is to mymind not taken seriously enough. (Van Asselt is taken as an example of a wider group of theologians). According to these Reformed Orthodoxy (±1550-1700) only used Aristotelian-Thomistic terminology and methods without any influence on the contents of its theology. Thus one should not reject it as a synthesis, but instead contribute towards its revival to indicate new direction in contemporary Christianity.
At the end of a series of five articles on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274) in his Summa Contra Gentiles, the question could therefore be posed whether justice has been done to this doctor angelicus by characterising his thinking (cf. the first article) as “synthetic”. To provide an answer, I in this last contribution retrace his steps by offering a more detailed exposition about and evaluation of synthetic and scholastic thinking. In conclusion I again turn to Aquinas’ fascination – in spite of difficulties and the opposition of some of his contemporaries – with Aristotle’s philosophy.
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