Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is Classical Education in Conflict with Reformed Protestantism? A second response to David Quine, Part I

A couple of years ago, I wrote a response to a presentation by David Quine, the author of the Cornerstone Curriculum, in which he argues against classical education. My response was based solely on a Powerpoint presentation on his website, but later learned that this was just a part of an actual talk Quine gives at home school conferences, called "The Pitfalls of Classical Education."

I pointed out the problems with his presentation, which were roughly as follows:

  • He tries to implicate classical education as a whole by citing the shortcomings of a few of its modern exponents and conflates classical education with their somewhat idiosyncratic beliefs, mistaking the whole for its parts;
  • He asserts a historical connection (without argument or evidence) between ethical and ontological relativism that simply does not exist;
  • He asserts not only that Greek and Roman philosophical and culture influences are fundamentally alien to Christian thought, but that such influences were absent historically until the Renaissance, in clear disregard of the fact that such influences have been a part of Jewish and Christian thought since before the writing of the New Testament.

In any case, a month or so ago, Quine posted a couple of comments on the post. He did not directly address any of my arguments or defend the problems with his presentation I cited in my post. I have also responded David's more recent comments, but he has yet to directly respond to them. This is first problem I am noticing in this discussion: that it is difficult to have a dialog if the other person does not directly address your arguments.

In fact, his chief concern seems to be to point out that I am a Catholic, hoping that in doing so Protestants will be scared away from classical education. This strategy not only does not make much logical sense, it ill serves the people he is seeking to enlighten on this subject.

His argument (nowhere stated but clearly implicit) seems to be this:
Some classical educators are Catholic
Therefore classical education is inherently Catholic
The problem with this inference should be obvious. It also ignores the fact that most modern classical educators are Protestants and that the modern neo-classical education movement was started by a prominent Reformed Protestant minister.

Again, this is my summary of what Quine seems to be saying, not his own words. Quine seems not to want to make his reasoning explicit, relying instead on innuendo, forcing me, in order to respond, to ferret out his actual reasoning.

If this is not his argument (or at least one of them), then I would be glad to be told exactly what it is in clear terms, but, again, this would require him to be clear and direct in his comments and responsive to the points I have already made. I really don't think I am being unfair or impolite in asking for this.

Quine has said a few other things in his comments (again, in the form more of assertions than arguments) that warrant a response. So what I propose to do is to respond to these in parts, the first of which is this post. I would be glad to have David respond or to clarify his position as we go along.

Here are the positions I will set forth:

  • That as a matter of history, philosophy, and theology, there are numerous beliefs which Christianity shares with the the best ideals of the Greeks and Romans and that the view that holds that the only relationship between the Christian and the classical is one of opposition is the view of an extreme Christian minority and is dwarfed by the almost unanimous voice of Christian thinkers since the earliest days of the Church.
  • That not only is classical education not historically or inherently Catholic, but that it is a shared inheritance of both Catholics and Protestants.
  • That the Protestant Reformers, far from opposing the great classical thinkers of Greece and Rome, were almost without exception classically trained themselves, close and mostly enthusiastic readers of the great works of the classical writers, in large part proponents of classical education, and, in several cases, classical educators themselves.

I would also submit that these positions are so well-established as to not even be debatable. If Quine is in disagreement with them, I would love to hear his arguments and his evidence. But in doing so, he needs to demonstrate that he has read outside the limited confines of the writings of Francis Schaeffer, a very influential 20th century Protestant writer he seems to rely on for most of his beliefs about these and other issues.

Schaeffer was a largely self-taught Reformed Protestant who had some insightful things to say about modern culture and I myself learned a great deal from him, but to rely on him as the chief source for history and theology  is not only to do him a disservice (I doubt if he himself would have advised it), but is to severely limit your knowledge of these subjects.

Classical education is the inculcation of wisdom and virtue. It consists of the study of the liberal arts and the great books of the classical and Christian West. If Quine is going to take the position that it is inconsistent with Christianity, then he is going to find himself at odds not only with historic Christianity, but with the Protestant Reformers themselves.

In the next post, we'll address the question of the historic relationship between the Church and classical thought throughout history.

33 comments:

Lee said...

My own church, a reformed Prebyterian church, supports a classical school. I don't see a problem.

David Quine said...

Hi Martin,

Instead ot you interpreting what I wrote on your previous blog, please let me simple restate it and let your readers interpret my thoughts for themselves. Thanks.... David

Martin,

Thanks for clairifying your conversion from Protestant Christianity to Catholicism.

According to Schaeffer (How Should We Then Live?, The God Who is There, Escape from Reason, and others) there is a direct correlation between the syncretism of Greco-Roman teaching with Christianity by the Catholic Church (the Church at the time of the Renaissance).

It is exactly this amalgamation of Greco-Roman thought to true Christianity which Schaeffer described in his writings as a departure from true Christianity and which the Reformation Church leaders considered contrary to orthodox teaching of the Church ( that is, heresy) and many of whom were willing to give up their earthly lives for this issue.

I believe it is this same amalgamation which is occurring today through much of what is called Classical Education.

It is this uniting, mixing, and joining of "two traditions" -- the Greco-Roman and Christianity -- which may lead young Protestant believing children away from their Protestant Reformation Christianity into Catholicism.

It appears that your conversion to Catholicsm is a prime example of what parents should expect for their children when they choose to follow the Classical model of education.

It is my belief that most parents are not aware of this possibility. And this is why it concerns me.

Thanks for posting my thoughts,

David

David Quine said...
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David Quine said...

Martin,

Let me give you an example of the two oppossing viewpoints from the interpretation of The Divine Comedy:

Memoria Press -- which I would presume reflects your belief about The Divine Comedy:

"Upon the literary foundation of the West, laid by the hands of Homer and Virgil, sits a cathedral. That cathedral is Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. One of the crown jewels of both Western and Christian literature, the Comedy is an epic, allegorical poem accounting Dante’s spiritual journey of redemption that takes him through the pit of Hell (the Inferno) to the Beatific Vision of God (the Paradiso). The Comedy is necessary to any classical curriculum, for it is the union of two traditions, both Christian and classical" (Memoria Press)

Schaeffer's Viewpoint:
[Dante's] writing has a deep and profound beauty and is a work of genuis on its highest level. But in the development of the humanistic elements of the Renaissance, Dante followed the unfortunate side of Thomas Aquinas in mixing the Christian and classical pagan world in allusions throughout his work. To mention two examples from The Divine Comedy: Dante's guide throughout hell is the Roman [pagan] poet Virgil, who was to Dante as Aristotle was to Aquinas; second, the worst sinners in hell are Judas who betrayed Christ and Brutus and Cassius who betrayed Caesar" (How Should We Then Live, page15).

Quine:
May I add another example from The Divine Comedy which clearly relfects Catholic theology rather than Protestant theology: the second book in the trilogy -- Purgatory.

To me the question is this:

Is the "union of the two traditions - Christian and classical" a "crown jewel" and "cathedral" or is it a form of syncretism which the Apostle Paul is warning us of in Colossians 2:8.


"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

Thanks again for letting clarify my position.

David Q

David Quine said...

I know that many classical educators and most classical curricula encourage home school parents to teach the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses to their young children.

Questions I have?
Is this a good idea?

Is this a biblical idea?

Do you think Moses would have encouraged the sons of Israel to teach their young children about the Egyptian gods and goddesses?

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
​“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

David Quine said...
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David Quine said...

One final thought .... taken from Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Thanks again for allowing me to share these thoughts with your audience.

Blessings,

David Q

Martin Cothran said...

David,

Thank you for the further comments. In lieu of upcoming posts that will address some of these issues in more detail, let me make some preliminary comments on what you have said here. Here is the first of these:

First, you continue to assert (with only comments by Schaeffer as evidence--and Scripture verses that do not directly address the point) that there is some fundamental conflict between "true Christianity" and "Graeco-Roman" thought. There are undoubtedly conflicts in particular beliefs, but you seem to be saying that there is something that makes Christianity and classical thought fundamentally and universally opposed. In other words, you seem to think that the mere fact that Romans or Greeks believed something is sufficient for it to be considered non-Christian and vice-versa. This seems to me to be a rather difficult position to defend, since there are many common beliefs between the two that no one could deny.

Maybe you could clarify this for me. Are we to reject a belief merely because a Greek or Roman thinker thought or said it? Or because there is something essential to Greek and Roman thought that corrupts or threatens to corrupt, but does not universally falsify, all of their beliefs? If the latter, what are these essential beliefs that you (or Schaeffer) think so dangerous? And are there no beliefs fundamental to Greek and Roman thought that Christians can accept?

I really don't want to mischaracterize your position here, I'm just trying to determine exactly what it is you are saying.

I have asked these on the previous post, but I don't believe I have received an answer. Thank you.

Martin Cothran said...

David,

In regard to the Divine Comedy, you are correct in thinking it is a Roman Catholic work, having been written by a Roman Catholic at a time when all Christians were either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox (he lived before the Reformation).

But I do not understand what the problem with this is. It is a great work of literature by almost anyone's account. Are we to simply reject a work of literature as having value simply because it does not agree with every particular theological belief in our tradition? Memoria Press's curriculum includes works from all kinds of sources--pagan, Catholic, Protestant, secular--all of which we expect students to assess based on their theological beliefs and the Christian world view.

What does Dante's (and every other Christian of the time) in purgatory have to do with Graeco-Roman syncretism? Do you not allow your students to read works outside the Reformed tradition?

It also seems to me to miss most of what is valuable in Dante if you must reject it simply because it includes the belief in purgatory (a belief universal among Christians during the Middle Ages in which Dante lived).

I also wonder if you have considered the cost of rejecting thinkers on the grounds that they believe in purgatory. That would, I assume, require that you reject a thinker who said, "The existence of a purgatory I have never denied. I still hold that it exists, as I have written and admitted ..."

That is a quote from Martin Luther.

David Quine said...

Hi Martin,

I understand your conversion to Catholicism, because it is a natural and logical conclusion of classical education.

The Classical movement is "opening the door" to thinking which elevates Greco-Roman thought to the same level as biblical Truth within the heart, soul, and mind of young evangelical Christian students (Schaeffer and McDowell). This "open door" leads in one of two directions: 1 - to a mixing, joining, uniting of Greco-Roman thought to Christianity; 2 - to a total rejection of any notion of absolute truth.

In One Direction:
By re-introducing classical knowledge and classical learning, the Classical movement is "rebirthing" a Renaissance rather than developing a Reformation. It will undermine the core convictions of Protestant Reformation teaching. Martin, have you forgotten the importance of "sola Scriptura."

Whenever an author, like Dante, or a painter, like Michelangelo, mixes, joins, unites or marries Greco-Roman ideas to Truth that is clearly syncretism and does not represent the Christian world view.

A Second Direction
It seems that this door opens to a road that leads in another direction as well.

Pearl S Buck, awarded the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature, gives us insight into the consequences of studying from a Christian curriculum and a classical curriculum simultaneously in her autobiography, My Several Worlds. Pearl was the daughter of devoted Christian missionaries to China during the 1900's.

As a child Pearl was taught by her mother in the morning and by a classical teacher in the afternoon. Listen as she describes this time in her life:

"Those were strange conflicting days when in the morning I sat over American schoolbooks and learned the lessons assigned to me by my mother, who faithfully followed [a Christian curriculum] in my education, while in the afternoon I studied under the wholly different tutelage of Mr. Kung. I became mentally bifocal, and so I learned early to understand that there is no such condition in human affairs as absolute truth. There is only truth as people see it, and truth, even in fact, may be kaleidoscopic in its variety. The damage such perception did to me I have felt ever since, although damage may be too dark a word, for it merely meant that I could never belong entirely to one side of any question."

The Reformation faith of her parents was undermined in her heart, mind, and soul. "Those were strange conflicting days." Whenever a child is presented with opposing ideas, it produce inner mental and spiritual conflict. She became
"mentally bifocal" rejecting the notion of "absolute truth." Throughout her autobiography she describes her parents faith in Jesus. He is always referred to as "their God" or "their Savior" but never "her God" or "her Savior."

I can't imagine the heartbreak these Christian parents must have suffered as their daughter matured into a young woman who rejected Christ. I am sure her parents thought they were providing the very best education possible for their home schooled daughter. They would never have imagined that she would reject absolute Truth (the Bible) or their Savior.

World Views of the Western World
We are not afraid of classical literature. In our program (World Views of the Western World) we study Greco-Roman and Renaissance literature; however, we do not do so in order to embrace it, but rather to unveil it so that students will recognize it as outside biblical thinking. We are exhorted by the Apostle Paul to "... test everything; hold fast what is good" - 1 Thessalonians 5:21. We are teaching students how to "test" the various thoughts and ideas in the flow of history so that "no one takes [them] captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" -- Colossians 2:8.

David Quine said...

PS. This evening I was speaking with our son about the conversation we are having regarding the statement "the union of two great traditions, both Christian and classical."

The point he made clarifies our difference - which is the difference between Protestant Reformation thinking and Renaissance Catholic thinking:

"The Greco-Roman thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are man's traditions, man's thought on philosophic issues which the Renaissance "Catholic" Church has assimilated into its basic belief structure, therefore making it a "tradition." In contrast, those adhering to the Protestant Reformation do not consider Christianity as man's tradition, but rather God's Revelation - "sola Scriptura."

Martin Cothran said...

David,

Thank you.

I had asked you the following questions:

"Are we to reject a belief merely because a Greek or Roman thinker thought or said it? Or because there is something essential to Greek and Roman thought that corrupts or threatens to corrupt, but does not universally falsify, all of their beliefs? If the latter, what are these essential beliefs that you (or Schaeffer) think so dangerous? And are there no beliefs fundamental to Greek and Roman thought that Christians can accept?"

But your answer a) merely repeats your assertion that Christianity and Graeco-Roman thought are at odds; and b) gives one example of someone who allegedly received a classical education that led to problems with her Christianity (ignoring examples of contrary cases).

Again, in what way are they at odds? Are they only at odds and never in harmony? What is it about the classical ideals of wisdom and virtue and the training in formal linguistic and mathematical skills of the liberal arts that you think lead away from Christianity?

It seems to me it would contribute much more to mutual understanding here if we could avoid merely repeating assertions and address the deeper questions about why you think what you say is true.

I know what you think about the relationship between Christianity and classical thought. I am trying to find out why you believe it. This would involve presenting arguments and evidence to support them, as well as saying specifically how you think Christianity and classical thought are fundamentally in conflict.

I know that the Reformers themselves did not take this position, so I'm trying to find out, among other things, how your position comports with theirs.

Thanks.

Martin Cothran said...

David,

In regard to the assertion that Graeco-Roman beliefs are merely "man's tradition" and Christian belief "God's revelation" and that this is sufficient reason for rejecting all of classical thought, again, this is nice assertion. But I am interesting in the reasons for believing it to be true.

Especially since the Reformers themselves appear not to have believed it.

David Quine said...

Martin,

Is The Divine Comedy an example of syncretism or not?

Is the inclusion of Greek Sibyls alongside the prophets of God in the Sistine Chapel an example of syncretism or not?

Is the inclusion of The School of Athens opposite The Disputa in the Raphael Room of the Sistine Chapel an example of syncretism or not?

The Protestant Reformation world view says they are examples of syncretism. Any curriculum which does not teach that these are examples of syncretism would be undermining the Protestant Reformation world view. Since the phrases "Biblical world view" and "Christian world view" are closely linked with the "Protestant world view" it would be coopting those phrases if syncretism is not believed to be occurring. Parents and students would be deceived into believing they are teaching the Biblical or Christian world view, when in fact they would not be doing so.

Lee said...

Interesting discussion.

> "There are undoubtedly conflicts in particular beliefs, but you seem to be saying that there is something that makes Christianity and classical thought fundamentally and universally opposed." (Martin)

Can a Christian idea be compromised by an idea that is not "fundamentally and universally opposed" to it? Seems to me it can... that any idea can be attacked by another idea that may not necessarily be fundamentally or universally opposed.

The idea itself of elevating ancient Greek philosophy to the level of scripture, even if done only symbolically in paintings and sculptures instead of explicitly, paints a picture, so to speak, different than the one the scriptures tell.

Greek philosophy is valued because its methods of thinking are supposed to lead us to the truth. But Jesus said, "I am the truth, the way and the life." This means that if and when the two messages come into conflict, for a Christian, then Jesus wins.

One such area of conflict is the struggle in the scriptures between the idea of predestination vs. free will. As philosophers argue, you can't be predestined and yet have free will; one or the other, but not both.

Yet the scriptures tell us both things: that man is incapable of choosing the good, but shall still be held accountable.

For the atheist, the logical quandary says, we cannot accept the Bible. For the Christian, at the very least, it means, we have to accept some limitations on the truth claims on behalf of logic; it must play a subordinate role.

David Quine said...

I am concerned that the classical movement is giving too much authority to the Greco-Roman world view. We must be careful what ideas we are sowing into the heart, mind, and soul of Christian young people.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe?

Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Lee said...

David, I'm largely in agreement so far with what you've written. Still, I think a classical education has value, provided we subordinate the Greeks to scripture.

Reason gives us many tools by which to aid the Lord's work. But ultimately, as supported by the scriptures you quote, I think the Lord is more impressed by a man's faith than in his ability to reason.

Lee said...

> I can't imagine the heartbreak these Christian parents must have suffered as their daughter matured into a young woman who rejected Christ.

Sad story about Pearl Buck, but if she had been trained in the classics, then surely she should have recognized the inherent contradiction in any statement synonymous with, "There is no absolute truth" -- since that, too, is a truth claim and is stated in absolute terms.

David Quine said...

Hi Lee,

Yes, well said. We must always subordinate the thoughts and ideas of all non-Christian world views to the teaching of Scripture. The difficulty occurs when non-Christian ideas or allusions are embedded into Christian works.

At what point do those works become non-Christian?

Those works which have non-Christian ideas embedded into them should be avoided until the student has reached the logic or rhetoric stages. It is only during these latter stages that students have the intellectual cognition to discern Truth from error.

Martin Cothran said...

Lee (and David),

The question is not whether a Greek or Roman idea that is inconsistent with Christianity should be mixed with Christianity. Nobody here thinks it should. The question is whether Greek or Roman ideas--by virtue of the fact that they are Greek or Roman ideas--should be allowed to mix with Christianity. If the problem is that the idea is inconsistent with Christianity, then it is irrelevant whether it is Greek or Roman or Hebrew or Chinese or anything else. It should be rejected because it contradicts Christianity, not because of where it came from.

David asserts that Greek and Roman ideas are inherently inconsistent with Christianity. But I have repeatedly asked what it is about Greek or Roman ideas that, by virtue of the fact they are Greek or Roman, make them inherently problematic for Christianity and I have yet to get an answer. I realize that this kind of criticism is well-intentioned, but we need more than mere assertions to understand why we should accept his position.

Just repeating assertions over and over again does not amount to an argument.

I simply want to know what beliefs David means to include under the label "Graeco-Roman"; whether he means to include all Greek and Roman ideas or just some of them; and, if it is only some of them, then why we should reject all of them (which he seems to be proposing when he refers to "Graeco-Roman" ideas as if they were some monolithic whole).

In David's last post, he again merely assumes that "syncretism" is bad. Why is it bad? What are the ideas that he thinks have polluted Christianity and what does the fact that they may be Greek or Roman have to do with whether they should be rejected?

I don't think I could have made my questions clearer, and I don't understand what the problem is in addressing them. It seems to me we could approach some kind of understanding if we could.

David Quine said...

Martin,

How is it possible that you can read The Divine Comedy and not see that it contains pagan thoughts, ideas, allusions which are contrary to biblical Christianity and therefore outside biblical Christianity?

And if not outside biblical Christianity ... at least outside Protestant Reformation Christianity?

How is it possible that a pagan poet, Virgil, who wrote the Aeneid to persuade the people of the Roman Empire that Caesar Augustus was the son of God, could possibly lead Dante into the presence of the true and living God of the Bible? I am pretty sure Virgil told Dante his source of understanding the spiritual world was the Great Philosopher (Aristotle) ... not the Bible!

Please teach me on this subject ... I await your response.... Thanks.

David Quine said...

Back to the Sistine Chapel:

The Sibyls of the Greek gods and goddesses painted adjacent to the prophets of the living and true God of the Bible in the Sistine Chapel.

Were the Sibyls proclaiming oracles of God? And if so, which God .... Zeus? or Yahweh? Or is there any difference?

Paul was correct in writing: The Greeks seek wisdom ....The wisdom of the Greeks is foolishness to God and the world did not know God through wisdom....

No where in the Old or New Testament are we encouraged to study Greek or Roman ideas to find Truth..... Moses didn't .... David didn't .... Isaiah didn't ... Jesus didn't ... Paul didn't.


David Quine said...

Please give me examples of oracles from any Sibyl which would be considered equivalent to a prophecy from the Bible....

David Quine said...

"If the problem is that the idea is inconsistent with Christianity, then it is irrelevant whether it is Greek or Roman or Hebrew or Chinese or anything else. It should be rejected because it contradicts Christianity, not because of where it came from." Martin C.

Martin, I totally agree with your statement above.
I have a simple question:

Is The Divine Comedy, the paintings of Greek Sybils (Michelangelo) or The School of Athens (Raphael) consistent or inconsistent with Christianity?

Martin Cothran said...

David,

I will answer your question despite the fact that my questions remain unanswered.

First, I consider the Divine Comedy to be one of the great Christian books. I don't know what your objection to it is other than what you have said here: that you disagree with Purgatory. But the belief in Purgatory has nothing to do with what we are discussing here, since it is not what you call a "Graeco-Roman" belief. And a Protestant reader can easily read the book, understanding his difference with that doctrine, and still gain much from Dante.

In regard to the paintings of the Greek sibyls in the Sistine Chapel, you must know the purpose of something in order to judge it and you seem to be unaware of their purpose.

The purpose of the sibyls was to underscore the fact that even before Christ, all the world, however unwittingly and however mistakenly, looked forward to the coming of its Redeemer. They were without Divine Revelation and so groped ignorance, but the Image of God within them still sought for that which they didn't know.

This was the view of G.K. Chesterton as well as the group loosely called the "Inklings," which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. You may disagree with this view and that is certainly your prerogative, but once again, as you have already put yourself at odds with the teachings of the Reformers, you will find yourself up against the Apostle Paul, who said to the Greeks in the Mars Hill discourse:

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you.

To say that those images are there in the Sistine Chapel for the worship of of the gods or some such thing is to completely misunderstand their purpose--a purpose which has always been well-understood and is easily obtainable for anyone wanting to know the truth.

You also claim, in an earlier comment, that the "School of Athens," is an example of "syncretism." That painting just part of a sequence of frescoes that tell a story of how the pre-Christian world was conquered and consummated by Christianity. How is it an example of syncretism?

Maybe you thought this because you are under the mistaken impression that the painting is in the Sistine Chapel. But the painting is not in the Sistine Chapel, it is in one of the Raphael rooms of the Papal Apartments.

Martin Cothran said...

David,

Now that I have directly answered your questions, would you have the courtesy to answer mine?

Martin Cothran said...

I have a new post on the issue of whether Reformation thinkers were opposed to Graeco-Roman thought here: http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2015/05/was-protestant-reformation-opposed-to.html

David Quine said...

Part I - My response to why I am not wrong regarding Classical thought and Classical Education

I would like to explain to you and those reading your blog why I am not wrong about Classical Education. The Protestant Biblical world view and the Classical Greco-Roman world view are fundamentally in conflict. Because Classical Education assimilates and accommodates the Classical Greco-Roman world view into its curriculum it is therefore not the vehicle to produce a Christian mind in children.

In previous postings your readers can see that we both agree that syncretism has occurred between Christianity and the Classical Greco-Roman world view. However, you take the position that the "union of two traditions, both Christian and classical" is a synthesis to be encouraged while I would agree with Dr. Francis Schaeffer that such a joining or mixing opens the door" for the next generation to accept a lower view of Scripture and must therefore be avoided.

The crux of the discussion centers around this statement:

The question is whether Classical Greek and Roman ideas - by virtue of the fact that they are Greek and Roman ideas - should be allowed to mix with Christianity.

First, we must ask: What are the basic assumptions of the Greco-Roman world view and are those assumptions consistent with or antithetical to the Protestant Biblical world view? The answer to this question will give us wisdom regarding mixing the two world views together.

In this discussion I will demonstrate that the Protestant Biblical world view and the Classical Greco-Roman world view are opposed to each other in three areas: God, Origins, and Truth.

GOD, GODS and GODDESSES and ORIGINS

The Biblical world view:
One God, three distinct persons.
God is Infinite and Person.

God created the heaven and the earth.
Creation is out of nothing.

The Classical Greco-Roman world view:
Classical Greek and Roman Poets: the "Twelve Olympians" are the major deities who are Personal but not infinite. At times these gods and goddesses seem to be under the controlled "fate."

Classical Greek and Roman Philosophers: called the "Indefinite-Infinite" by Anaximander, the "unmoved mover" by Aristotle or simply "the Force" by Luke Skywalker. "God" is Infinite but not Personal --- simply a Force.

Therefore, in the Classical Greco-Roman mind either the gods and goddesses are Personal but not Infinite or "it" is Infinite but not Personal.

The Classical Greco-Roman world view explains that all life forms owe their origin to the earth itself. Mother Earth birthed plant and animal life. The Classical Greco-Roman view is that the world "is" through some unknowable, infinite power. In Greek, this irresistible creation was called "anagke," which translates to "faithful, compulsive necessity."

Gaea, the Earth, came out of darkness so long ago that nobody knows when or how. Earth was young and lonesome, for nothing lived on her yet. Above her rose Uranus, the Sky, dark and blue, set all over with sparkling stars. He was magnificent to behold, and young Earth looked up at him and fell in love with him. Sky smiled down at Earth, twinkling with his countless stars, and they were joined in love. Soon young Earth became Mother Earth, the mother of all things living. All her children loved their warm and bountiful mother and feared their mighty father, Uranus, lord of the universe.
The Titans were the first children of Mother Earth. They were the first gods, taller than the mountains she created to serve them as thrones, and both Earth and Sky were proud of them. There were six Titans, six glorious gods, and they had six sisters, the Titanesses, whom they took for their wives ... (taken from D'Aulaires', Book of Greek Myths).
J

David Quine said...

Part 2 - My response to why I am not wrong regarding Classical thought and Classical Education


TRUTH
Both the Biblical world view and the Classical world view hold to the idea of Truth. Perhaps, it is here that the two traditions can be united. However, upon investigation the source of Truth for the Biblical world view and the source of truth for the Classical world view is not only different, but antithetical.

Divine Revelation, Oracles of Delphi or Man's Reasoning

The Biblical world view:
The Bible is the direct revelation from God. It is absolute, objective and universal. The Bible is "universal" which means it applies to all people living in all places throughout all time. It is "objection" because it is not rooted in man or man's reasoning, but in the very character of God Himself. God has revealed Himself to us .... "this is the Word of the Lord." It is "absolute truth" meaning it does not vary with varying circumstances or opinions.

The Classical Greco-Roman world view:
The Poets often referred to oracles inspired by the gods spoken through the Sybil's directly to people. The reliability of truth was dependent upon the reliability of the god or gods being asked.

For the most part Greek and Roman philosophers sought truth and wisdom not from the gods or Sybil's but rather from within themselves through reason. With each succeeding philosopher "new truth" would often replace the "truth" of the preceding philosopher. Therefore, in general Classical Greco-Roman "truth" was not universal, objective, nor absolute, but rather dependent upon the accepted philosopher at the time

David Quine said...

Part 3 - My response to why I am not wrong regarding Classical thought and Classical Education


SYNCRETISM
Syncretism is defined as (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/syncretism)
the combination of different forms of belief or practice. 2. : the fusion of two or more originally different inflectional forms. — syn·cre·tist \-tist\ noun or adjective

CONCLUSION
I hope your readers can see the major differences between the Biblical world view and the Classical Greco-Roman world view. If we assume the Biblical world view to be true, then the Classical Greco-Roman world view presents a false view of God, Origins, and Truth. In my opinion mixing or joining these two world views would be inconsistent with Biblical thinking.

NOTE 1 - Did people living in the First Century living under the rule of the Roman Empire believe the Greek/Roman gods and goddesses existed?

Yes, they did. Two examples can be taken from Scripture:

Acts 14:12
Barnabas and Paul were thought to be Zeus and Hermes.

Acts 17:23
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The implication is that they were worshiping a variety of known gods and goddesses but just in case they missed one they set aside worship to some "unknown god."

NOTE 2 - Did Paul accept the wisdom of the Greeks or the oracles of the Sybils as authoritative and therefore worthy of our pursuit?

1 Corinthians 1:20-24
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

NOTE 3 - Does this mean Christians should not read classical Greek or Roman literature?

Not at all. However, I believe it must be done with three safeguards:
1 - The introduction to the Classical Greco-Roman world view should not be occurring during the Grammar stage when children are not cognitively capable of using abstract reasoning
2 - There must not be an assimilation-accomadation of the Classical Greco-Roman world view with Christianity. We must not encourage such a fusion of differing and opposing thought as occurred with the Renaissance "Catholic" Church. Any literature, art, philosophy which does so (such as The Divine Comedy) must be recognized as an unholy union between two opposing world views. "... but test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
3 - We must be leading our children to think on these things as described by Paul:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).

It is my opinion that the Classical Greco-Roman world view does not fit within these guidelines.

Thank you, Martin, for allowing me to express what I believe to be the differences between the Protestant Biblical world view and the Classical world view.

I recognize that you take the position that the "union of two traditions, both Christian and classical" is a synthesis to be encouraged while I would agree with Dr. Francis Schaeffer that such assimulation-accomadation opens the door" for the next generation to accept a lower view of Scripture and must therefore be avoided.

Due to time restraints with conventions and my own personal writings, this will be my last posting on your blog. Thanks again for giving me this opportunity to explain why I am not wrong about Classical thinking and Classical Education.

Martin Cothran said...

David,

Thank you for your answer. I think I understand your position better now. I will try to respond later this week.

Lee said...

Martin,

> The question is not whether a Greek or Roman idea that is inconsistent with Christianity should be mixed with Christianity. Nobody here thinks it should. The question is whether Greek or Roman ideas--by virtue of the fact that they are Greek or Roman ideas--should be allowed to mix with Christianity.

I'm just a slightly educated but interested bystander in much of this very interesting debate. But I would suppose I'm less interested in the origins of an idea than its worth. That would seem to incline me slightly to your point of view, cited above.

However, as a nod to David's position, I don't see Christianity and Greco-Roman philosophy as two like things, but as different things altogether. Christianity is part of Western civilization today, but it didn't start out that way and it may not end up that way. Christianity is an Eastern religion that was grafted into Western civilization. There are many differences -- e.g., the Western view of individualism vs. the more corporate view of the East. The two traditions can co-exist, so it would seem, but there is no reason to suppose they will be forever in harmony.

I think Christianity can probably graft itself into any civilization or lack thereof.

But I am not as impressed by philosophy as you are. It's impressive, perhaps -- the Greeks were thinking in syllogisms when much of humanity was quivering at the giant wolf eating the moon during an eclipse. But they were also polytheists long after the Hebrews had discovered Yahweh, and it shows. Greco-Roman civilization was powerful, smart, stately, and depraved. They didn't exactly burn babies at the altar like Baal worshipers, but would simply leave unwanted or lame babies out in the woods to die of exposure or be eaten by animals.

You can't reason your way to a moral foundation. As David Prager points out, Greek reason did not abolish infanticide, but Hebrew faith.

My interest in the Greeks is simply, do they add more arrows to the Christian quiver? Where it does, I'm all for it. But we should not be so foolish as to make our faith dependent on those arrows. The Christian faith will outlive Western civilization and face the challenges of converting people in places like Africa and China. The things of this world fall apart and fade away, but the word of the Lord abides forever.

Martin Cothran said...

I have brought this discussion back out to the main blog so that others can keep up. My latest response to David was posted this morning here: http://vereloqui.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-response-to-david-quine-on-why-greeks.html