§ 2 - THE ATTEMPTS TO SYNTHESIZE CHRISTIAN FAITH WITH IMMANENCE-PHILOSOPHY BEFORE AND AFTER THE REFORMATION
The consequences of the synthetic standpoint for Christian doctrine and for the study of philosophy in patristic and scholastic thought.
by Herman Dooyeweerd
by Herman Dooyeweerd
Hyperlinks below are to Dr J. Glenn Friesen's
Hyperlinks below are to Dr J. Glenn Friesen's
______________________________________As we have seen in part I, Christian philosophy, at its very inception, sought the aid of ancient philosophy even in formulating its transcendental basic Idea. Consequently, patristic and especially medieval scholastic thought developed into a compromise-philosophy. Both held to a synthetic standpoint with respect to the relation between Christian faith and Greek philosophy. There are, however, two types of this synthetic standpoint, and they should be sharply distinguished from each other.
The first deemed it necessary to bind philosophical thought to the Word-revelation, whereas the second proclaimed the autonomy of the "naturalis ratio" ["natural reason/order"] in the sphere of natural thought. This latter standpoint prevailed under the influence of the scholastic ground-motive of nature and grace.
As soon as Christian scholasticism thought it had found its real starting-point in the naturalis ratio, the increasing decay of Christian philosophy could not be checked. The Christian religion cannot tolerate any theoretical conception of cosmic reality which is emancipated from the pure Biblical religious ground-motive, because such conceptions are actually dominated by wholly or partly apostate motives and seek in the last analysis a deceitful restpoint for thought.
The Christian religion does not tolerate any hypostatization [absolutization] which ascribes independent being to dependent meaning. It does not permit these absolutizations, even if they disguise themselves in the garb of a speculative "theologia naturalis" ["natural theology"]. The speculative Aristotelian Idea of the "unmoved mover" as "pure form" is not, as Thomistic scholasticism taught, a natural preamble to the revealed knowledge of God. The self-revelation of God in Christ is, in the full sense of the word, a consuming fire for all apostate speculation in which human hubris thinks it can create God after its own image!
The consequences of the synthetic scholastic standpoint have also left a deep impression in Christian theology. With the penetration of neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, and other philosophical motives into the patristic thought and scholasticism of the Middle Ages, immanence-philosophy even infected the Christian doctrine of faith and paved the way for the rise of a speculative "theologia naturalis" ["natural theology"].
Scholastic philosophy had a particularly devastating influence on Christian theology in respect to the pure Biblical religious conceptions of "soul", "heart", "spirit" and "flesh". The latter were replaced by abstract concepts of dualistic Greek metaphysics, in keeping with the dualistic religious basic motive of form and matter.
The cleft between "faith" and "thought" is only a cleft between the Christian faith and immanence- philosophy.
As soon as Christian philosophy, under the influence of this metaphysics, began to seek the concentration-point of human existence in "reason", it blocked the way to an intrinsic penetration of philosophy by the Biblical ground-motive. An unbridgeable cleft arose between speculative philosophy and genuine Christian faith. Scholastic theology presents a true "spectaculum miserabile" ["wretched spectacle"] of controversial theological questions, which are completely alien to the Biblical sphere of thought and originate in Greek metaphysics. What had a really Biblical theology to do with such problems as the conflict concerning the primacy of the will or intellect in the "essentia Dei" [essence of God"]? What did it have to do with the attempt to support individual immortality of the soul philosophically upon the basis of the realistic Aristotelian view which sought the "principium individuationis" ["principle of individuation"] in matter?
Of what concern to it was the controversy concerning the question which "parts" of the soul possess immortality (a question which even CALVIN still took seriously in his Institutio)? Of what interest to Biblical theology were the curious problems inherent in "psycho-creationism", i.e. a scholastic transformation of the Platonic doctrine seth forth in the dialogue TIMAEUS, and of the Aristotelian doctrine about the origin of the active intellect (νους ποιητικος) in the human soul? According to ARISTOTLE this intellect does not proceed from nature but from outside. According to PLATO the divine Demiurge himself has formed the immortal human nous [mind, reason, understanding] only. Such problems are pseudo-problems and make no sense in a Biblical theology.
The false conception concerning the relationship between Christian revelation and science. Accommodated immanence-philosophy as ancilla theologiae.
The counterpart of the scholastic effort to accommodate immanence-philosophy to Biblical revelation was the rise of the false idea that Holy Scripture offered certain solutions to scientific problems, at least to the problems discussed in scholastic theology on the basis of Aristotelian metaphysics, physics and psychology. These supposed Biblical theories were, with the full authority of divine revelation, brought into play against scientific investigations which deviated from tradition. One only needs to recall the position of the Church in the conflict concerning the astronomical theory of COPERNICUS, which position, although historically understandable, was not, therefore, less reprehensible !
The attempt at a synthesis between the Christian religion and immanence-philosophy was a source of confusion which led to intrinsic contradictions; it was equally oppressive to the Christian faith and to honest scientific investigation. Nothing characterized the scholastic standpoint more sharply than the attempt to employ Scripture in the sense of a scientific "deus ex machina".
Because theoretical thought was not itself reformed in a radical Christian sense, scholastic theology as the "regina scientiarum" ["queen of the sciences"], deemed itself called to control the "scientiae profanae" ["secular sciences"]. Since this theology had accepted an accommodated Aristotelian philosophy, Holy Scripture was itself interpreted in an Aristotelian manner, and could in its turn confirm the Aristotelian theses against the Copernican and, later on, against the Cartesian conceptions. This was the result of the scholastic notion of philosophy as "ancilla theologiae" ["handmaiden of theology"]. The handmaiden was soon to break her chains and became mistress!
The consequence of the Reformation for scientific thought.
The Reformation supplied the first receptacle capable of producing a conception radically different from the scholastic one with respect to the relationship between the Christian religion and scientific thought. As we have seen, the nominalism of late scholasticism demolished every bridge between the Christian faith and Greek metaphysics.
The rise of the modern Humanistic life- and world-view, which preceded the Reformation, placed sharply before the eyes of the Reformers an inescapable dilemma. They were confronted with the antithesis between the attitude of the Christian religion with respect to temporal life and the secularization of this attitude in the Humanistic ideal of personality.
A return to the medieval synthetic standpoint in order to oppose Humanism with the aid of a scholastical philosophy must necessarily contradict the very nature and spirit of the Reformation. For the latter could show no other credential than its claim to a pure Biblical conception of Christian doctrine. This must imply a return to the integral and radical ground-motive of Holy Scripture, as the only religious motive of its theological and philosophical thought and of its whole life- and world-view. By virtue of this religious ground-motive the Reformation should have led to an inner reformation of philosophical thought.
The fact that this did not directly happen, but that after an original promising start, Protestantism fell back upon the scholastic compromise-standpoint, can only be explained as an after-effect of a very old tradition in Christian thought. This tradition found fertile soil, especially in Lutheranism, and, under the influence of MELANCHTON, proceeded to infect also the Calvinistic idea of science. In the final analysis it was the dialectical scholastic motive of nature and grace that in this way kept its influence on the philosophical standpoint of orthodox Protestantism.