Platonism and Paul?

Faith and ReasonThe dialogue between faith and reason has long held a place of prominence in the Christian tradition. Sometimes this relationship has been understood positively—construed in the words of Anselm of Canterbury as “faith seeking understanding”—and other times it has been construed negatively—perhaps best represented by Tertullian of Carthage when he asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”[1] However one views the relationship between faith (or theology) and reason (or philosophy), coming to terms with how these “spheres of knowing” interact with one another remains an important part of not only what it means to be a Christian, but also what it means to be a human. Thinking carefully and critically about both theology and philosophy is an important posture for finding answers to life’s great questions. Here, I want to briefly comment on this relationship between theology and philosophy for one of the earliest followers of Jesus, the Apostle Paul. Continue reading

Engaging Pseudo-Dionysius

Dionysius the AreopagiteThe Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite forms part of a treatise which belongs to a corpus of works said to have derived from Dionysus the Areopagite from Acts 17:34.[1] This writer of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy also wrote treatises on a Christian Celestial Hierarchy (dealing with realms of angels and angelic beings), the Divine Names of God, and certain aspects of Mystical Theology.[2] Throughout his various treatises, Dionysius also claims to have witnessed the eclipse of the sun in Heliopolis following the death of Christ, and to have met with Peter and James.[3] However, the writer of these theological treatises is now referred to as Pseudo-Dionysius primarily because much of the philosophy behind the writings depends on the works of Proclus, a Neo-Platonist who died in c. 485 CE.[4] Many scholars now date the writing of this treatise to the early sixth century, primarily due to the fact that the work was first appealed to at a colloquy at Constantinople in 533 CE. [5] Even at its first presentation, the authenticity of this work was doubted by Hypatius of Ephesus (6th c.); however, for many years its validity was affirmed by the church, until in the late-Middle ages and the Protestant Reformation, when the doubts of Renaissance Humanists Erasmus of Rotterdam and Lorenzo Valla surfaced and the dependence on Neo-Platonist thought of Proclus was discovered.[6] Continue reading