Friday, June 08, 2018

Heidegger, Greek Wisdom, and the Soul

Robert Bowman once suggested that we should agree with the ancient Greeks, when they are "correct" about some theological or philosophical subject (like the dichotomy of soul and body). But when they are wrong, Rob asserts, we should accordingly reject the findings of Greek wisdom (SOFIA).

I too believe that accurate knowledge (EPIGNWSIS) is accurate knowledge: it doesn't matter who the source of such knowledge is. If a teaching is correct--then it is correct. But is this the case when it comes to the human YUXH? Is this true of most ancient Greek ideas? Were they on the mark when it came to formulating ontological ideas about Being qua Being?

Plato taught that the soul is tripartite and immortal. According to this ancient Greek, the soul has always existed (in some transcendent realm prior to one's earthly birth) and will continue to exist after death. In fact, Plato taught that death is a release for the soul. Thus, when an individual dies, the soul gains its long awaited release from the body. Such a philosophy tends to denigrate the physical and disproportionately elevates the so-called "spiritual" side of humans (Wolterstorff). Furthermore, Plato's notion of the soul is not in keeping with either Jewish or Christian teaching (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45). The same principle applies to other ancient Greek philosophers. Therefore, for the most part, we cannot rely on Greek wisdom to formulate an accurate concept of humanity. (As Paul observed in 1 Cor. 1:22ff, the Greeks sought wisdom, yet through such SOFIA, they could not come to know God.) Indeed, any THEOLOGIA conceived by humans is not worthy of our credence. So in the end, I would conclude that we ought to be very careful about accepting what the Greeks taught as fact or trying to draw strict correlations between what the Greeks thought and what the Bible teaches. The YUXH of Plato or Heraclitus is not the YUXH of the apostle Paul.

Both Nicholas Wolterstorff and Martin Heidegger have issued timely warnings about mixing Greek SOFIA with the SOFIA TOU QEOU. Interestingly, Heidegger writes:

"The SOFIA TOU KOSMOU [wisdom of the world], however, is that which, according to [1 Cor. 1:22], the hELLHNES ZHTOUSIN, the Greeks seek. Aristotle even calls the PRWTH FILOSOFIA (philosophy proper) quite specifically ZHTOUMENH--what is sought. Will Christian theology make up its mind one day to take seriously the word of the apostle and thus also the conception of philosophy as foolishness?" (Primary Readings in Philosophy for Understanding Theology, P. 259. Edited by Diogenes Allen and Eric O. Springsted).

Wise words from the German thinker who made thinking about the Being (Dasein) of beings his life's work.

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