The School of Athens by Raphael (c. 1511)

This question was initially asked by Tertullian (c. 155 - c. 240 AD; full name: Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus), who was a Roguy citizen in Carthage, Africa, renowned by some as the father of Western theology. He was trained in Stoicism yet later came to be a great defender of the Christian confidence, being the initially recorded perboy to use the word “Trinity” to define the Godhead, making use of the words “three persons, one substance” (which terminology was later adopted by the First Council of Nicaea). So the guy knew his Scriptures, and he kbrand-new how to think; yet he had actually concerns around to what extent the 2 went together.

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“What has Jerusalem to do via Athens, the Church through the Academy, the Christian through the heretic?… After Jesus we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research study.” —Tertullian<1>

Tertullian isn’t asking about geography here yet about ideas attached through those geographical locations. He’s referencing the divide that exists between man’s thoughts (philosophy) and God’s Words (theology) because Athens was the primitive hub for philosophy, and also Jerusalem, for faith.

Recently I had actually the opportunity of teaching through Acts 17 and also I was struck aget by how big that passage is. It’s easily top–3 of my favorite chapters in Acts, bereason it’s the a lot of considerable passage in the NT that overtly deals with the partnership between philosophy and also theology. At the finish of the chapter Paul pertains to Athens wbelow he is confronted through the task of theologizing to a crowd of thinkers, mostly the Stoics and also the Epicureans (Acts 17:18). Tertullian’s question rings out center-phase as Paul mounts the Areopagus to offer his speech. Let’s set the phase a small even more before we listen in.

Athens, the Home of the Philosophers

Athens, Greece, was the center-phase of Western approach for centuries, beginning with Socrates and his student Plato who founded his very own institution of approach there in c. 387 BC, calling it, incredibly creatively, ”The Academy”. Plato’s student Aristotle also began a school of ideology tbelow, and together they produced the melody onto which every one of Western assumed would certainly add harmonies. The School of Athens, painted by Raphael on a wall in the Vatican in 1511, depicts their struggle. In the scene, they are walking through the Academy, Plato on the left, pointing up, while Aristotle, on the right, is pointing down through an outspcheck out palm. Here’s the painting again:


They are disagreeing on the fundamental fact of the universe, Plato claiming that everything that exists really exists “up there” in its Ideal Form (Platonism), while Aristotle was countering that by saying that ultimate truth is “dvery own here” in the particulars of life (Aristotelianism). You can say that Plato was arguing for an essentially spiritual reality while Aristotle argued for an basically material/physical reality. Plato was renowned among the Christian mystics because he looked up for answers while Aristotle is famous via scientists because he trusted his own senses for answers (Empiricism).

Alfred North Whitehead as soon as shelp that all of Western approach are just footnotes to Plato, and while that’s an overstatement, it works because this problem truly is the melody onto which all various other philosophical troubles come to be harmonies.

Two regional thinkers in Athens, Epicurus and also Zeno (the Stoic), are mentioned in Acts because they arisen the a lot of famous worldviews in response to the Plato/Aristotle controversy. Aristotle ended up winning out in affect in the time, so that both Zeno and also Epicurus are building on his base. Which indicates they both accepted the fundamental worldcheck out that ultimate truth is fundamentally product, and that male can empirically figure out life on his own.

It’s this incredibly stress Paul walks right into in Acts 17, bringing the revelation of God into call through the empirical thinking of guy, presenting a Gospel oddly reminiscent of both.

Jerusalem, the Home of the Theologians

Across the Mediterranean Sea tright here were Jews and also scribes and a much more Platonic set of ideas. The Jews believed in a solitary, monotheistic deity who gives life and also breath to all creatures (Acts 17:25). So, in a method, the “religious” are world that are more Platonic than Aristotelian—so much so that contemporary religious beliefs has been referred to as Neo-Platonic because we’ve bought right into this idea that God resides “up there” and also we live “down here.”

The Jews believed in a God that is self-existent (Ex 3:14), who created all points (Gen 1:1) and speaks to them by His Word which they must listen to and obey (Deut 6:4–9, the Shema).

This is why Tertullian, Bible scholar in the second century AD, asks what Athens, the house of empiricism, hregarding perform through Jerusalem, the residence of divine revelation. What is the connection in between male and also God, specifically as soon as it pertains to the seeming incongruity in between the life of the mind (reason) and also faith?

The Dualism of Faith and also Reason

Plato and Aristotle introduced this dichotomy in between faith and factor as soon as they separated issue from spirituality. It’s from below that we get the divide even we struggle with, the divide in between the sacred and also the secular, the physical and the spiritual. It’s this dichotomy Francis Schaeffer blows apart in his functions prefer How Should We Then Live? wbelow he describes this separation via an analogy of a two-story residence where “faith” develops the top story while “reason” develops the lower story. Empiricism (reason) is restricted to the bottom level while divine revelation inactions the top level, never the 2 to accomplish. But going also much right into that gets us off track.

The allude is that to the Athenians (and also to us) confidence is separated from reason. The top story is separated from the lower story; theology is separated from ideology. Just bereason you believe in a God doesn’t suppose you also believe He is knowable. An example of this is the method the Athenians would recognize their gods. They would certainly collection lamb on the Areopagus and revolve them loose to go and wherever they wanted, and wherever they stopped the mystical Athenians would set up an altar to one more unknown god. Hence the one Paul happens upon in Acts 17:23.

Paul comes into this environment pgetting to the resurrection of Christ, the physical manifestation of a spiroutine reality, which does two things: 1) it destroys the closed mechanism of materialism and 2) it re-integrates the physical with the spiroutine. If Jesus was dead, and then came to be alive, some various other force is at occupational, not just above Him, however within Him. And as Paul later states, without that resurrection, the whole Christian worldsee would certainly fall apart (1 Cor 15:17).

The Areopagus, where Paul delivered his sermonThe Sermon on Mars Hill: Acts 17:22–31
The Areopagus Sermon by Raphael (1515)

Now, let’s gain on to the message. I will certainly do better explace in one more write-up, yet for currently, let me summarize:

Paul says, I walked through your city and noticed most altars to unwell-known gods, and also I realized that you’re extremely religious, but let me tell you you’re doing religious beliefs all wrong. God isn’t unknown or unknowable; He’s rational, reasonable, and actual. And you can find Him and pertained to know Him. The Being who created you is holding you together. He’s not separated off by Himself, leaving you to ffinish for yourself in your tiny empirical capability. And because He produced whatever and sustains everything, tbelow is a objective for your life, and if you don’t repent, His purpose for the Universe will certainly incorporate your very own destruction. My proof? It’s Jesus. It’s time to finish your ignorance and pertained to recognize the Truth because life isn’t just about thoughtful musings; it’s much even more genuine and lasting. The eternal bumps up versus the time-area continuum in Story, and also you are creating your own story appropriate currently.

Sindicate put, Paul reintegprices the spiritual through secular by utilizing the resurrection as proof that the material human being exists within the realm of the spiroutine, not aside from it. The truth that God holds our incredibly bodies together in some sort of parallel dimension is what researchers have currently uncovered (via their empirical observation) in what they speak to quantum physics, which serves as a bridge between physics (the study of product things) and also metaphysics (the study of “spiritual” things). This is what Paul is referring to in Acts 17:27–28). Quantum physics was uncovered by Paul in 50ish AD!

What this quantum physics line of thinking does is recombine the secular with the sacred, reconnect Athens with Jerusalem, and reconcile approach and also theology.

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little bit crosses on the shoes, yet by making excellent shoes.” —Martin LutherThe Divide Struggles On

But, due to the tough hearts and little minds of people, the divide still exists. It also affects the way we work. Tim Keller comments on that divide:

When many kind of Christians enter a vocational area, either they seal off their confidence and also go to job-related choose everyone else roughly them, or they spout Scriptures verses to their coworkers. We do not know exceptionally well how to guide human being of Christianity’s answers by mirroring them the faith-based, worldview roots of everyone’s work-related. We perform not recognize how to equip our human being to think out the effects of the gospel for art, company, federal government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship.<2>

Even Tertullian never before figured it out:

Tertullian suggested that Christians can not participate in the armed forces, in politics, or in profession with the world. “After we end up being Christians,” Tertullian shelp, “we have actually no require of Greek approach.” Jerusalem and also Athens have actually nopoint to execute via one one more.<3>

How Are We to Deal with this Divide?

Jay Green lists three well-known potential options:

Avoid “reason” and the life of the mind altogether, and also simply stick through our “religious” exercises.Engage with “reason” but do it defensively (i.e., the Truth Project).Resist integrating confidence and reason, and also just live via both, unlinked.

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But these 3 choices all still buy right into the lie that viewpoint and theology are actually divided. In truth, they aren’t. We aren’t below to barter about what is “religious” and what is “secular,” but we are here to be included human beings in God’s included human being. Art is art, and knowledge is expertise, no matter where it may come from. This deserve to explode right into a vast argument huge publications are composed about, so for now, we’ll leave it right here, through this from Jay Green:

The scholastic techniques are both extensions of development and one of the the majority of consequential ways in which we exercise rule over that which God has actually made. Therefore, the scholastic disciplines are legitimate spheres of great huguy work-related even once they are regulated by sinners, also as soon as their most masterful practitioners are unbelievers (which they typically are), and also also as soon as they are provided for nefarious purposes.<4>

“We were not wrong to learn the alphabet just bereason they say that the god Mercury was its patron, nor should we avoid justice and also virtue just because they dedicated holy places to justice and also virtue…. A person who is a great and also a true Christian have to realize that truth belongs to his Lord, wherever it is discovered.” —St. Augustine, On Christian DoctrineSources