"Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."Prior to the modern fundamentalist deviation, this was never interpreted by Christian Orthodoxy to mean that we should reject worldly knowledge, only that worldly knowledge should not be conflated with ultimate knowledge or salvation. Just yesterday I was reading about this in the new biography of the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson. I don't pretend to be an expert in these intra-familial Christian theological squabbles, but it was his position that this error crept into Christianity with Luther, which, ironically, paved the way for both an anti-intellectual Christianity and militant secularism -- two mirrors of the same phenomenon, which ultimately comes down to failure to sanctify or "Christianize" the world. For Luther
I certainly sympathize with Dawson's view. One reason why so many people get the "Jesus willies" and therefore reject their own precious spiritual and intellectual heritage is because their only exposure to Christianity is in its anti-intellectual fundamentalist version, which I myself find impossible to take seriously. As Dawson wrote, the intellectual synthesis of Christianity and classical thought "was not a contradiction but the crown and completion of continuous effort to achieve an integration of the religious doctrine of the Christian Church with the intellectual tradition of ancient culture." On this view, the "wisdom of the Greeks" is not opposed to Christianity. Rather, the Christian synthesis was the completion, perfection, or sanctification of these other vital intellectual streams -- which is an ongoing project, since history doesn't just arbitrarily stop historing. This is a much more expansive view of reality whereby, for example, the great wisdom of Plato and the neo-Platonists is not rejected but integrated, say, in the deeply mystical works of Denys the Areopagite (see here as well for a fine introduction to the synthesis of Christian and Greek thought). By the same token, with this time-honored intellectual approach, a Christian needn't necessarily reject the wisdom of, say, Vedanta or Taoism, for ultimately, the appearance of Jesus in the Hellenized Roman world is not essential but accidental. What if he had appeared in the Indian subcontinent? Then the task of early Christians would have been to place Christ within the context of Vedanta -- to demonstrate how he represented, say, the "perfection" or "completion" of the Upanishads, so to speak. Indeed, what if Jesus were here today -- an absurd hypothetical, since he is. Then the task would be to integrate Christianity with current knowledge. Which I, as a Coon, believe is the whole point: to integrate wisdom and knowledge and thereby sanctify the intellect. I don't know how I ended up down this byway. I had intended to discuss premodern childrearing practices, and how they resulted in such widespread historical craziness. Oh well.... next week. I'm sure this is enough to start a rumble in the Coonosphere. Go at it!
"rejected the complexity of Christendom... and attempted to de-intellectualize the Catholic continuity with the classical. 'He took St. Paul without his Hellenism, and St. Augustine without his Platonism,' Dawson wrote. By attacking the natural laws and creating the Manichean dualism of Law and Gospel, Luther attempted to destroy the human need for mystery and 'prepared the way for the secularization of the world...' "
This false dualism argued that "man is fallen to such an extent that he can know nothing outside the truth of scripture." But "if the world tells us nothing of value, the past, equally, sheds no new light on the situation of humanity and becomes worthless."