Late last year, I considered what was wrong with approaching Christianity from a Western, Aristotelean perspective (part 1, part 2). It is not as if we have to completely ditch the legacy of Aristotle. We simply have to put it in its proper place. In our minds, we must recognize there is a limit, a wall.
The wall was placed by God, and it serves well His purpose. Those within are spiritual beings; those without are also without His divine Presence in their spirits. They are dead. Their epistemology is also dead. That is, it cannot help us in any way with issues regarding Life in the Kingdom.
To drag Aristotle into our understanding of revelation is rather like dragging a stinking corpse into God's Presence and expecting Him to be pleased. Aristotle died and went to Hell. He cannot help you understand God.
Do not underestimate the magnitude of the sin here. Almost the entire mass of disputed theology and Bible analysis rests on trying to involve Aristotelian epistemology. Not just minor issues. All the major disputes arise because major figures in history bought into the same sin as the Pharisees.
The Pharisees arose from the ashes of powerless religion after the Restoration, the return from Babylonian Exile. In a future series, I will examine how that transition came about, but the point is the Pharisees were heretics. They had embraced with a passion the Hellenist philosopher's arrogance, as if their pitiful inductive analysis could explain God. So they read the Law from an epistemology hostile to God's revelation, and it's no surprise Jesus kept finding fault with their teaching.
The body of their teaching still exists today as the core document of modern Judaism, which we call the Talmud. While it was not in a written form in Jesus' day, He referred to it as the “traditions of the elders.” He also referred to it as a poor substitute for the Word or God. The Pharisees made up lies about the Talmud being the oral teaching of Moses somehow rediscovered. It was so utterly different from what we know of Moses' intellectual background, their claim is ludicrous on the face of it. But the Pharisees went even further and claimed it took precedence over the Books of Moses, the Law.
All you have to do is examine the material, and the accusations of Jesus, to see the Pharisees had found a thousand excuses to be materialistic. Indeed, their whole teaching was a parody of the Law with an entirely Aristotelian spin. Jesus condemned it.
When you examine how Jesus taught things, and you compare it with what we know of ANE intellectual assumptions, you realize He was demanding His nation return to their ancient Hebraic roots. But as we've already shown, virtually the entire Western Church refuses to look, and simply condemns such analysis. It's a very poor imitation of God's wall, and certainly conflicts with His. The culture of the ancient Hebrew people is the one God made, and was the chosen setting for His revelation. The entire Bible reflects the call to return to that ANE epistemology.
Without it, you cannot hope to understand what God has been trying to say all these generations. We cannot hope to heal the rifts in His Body, nor clarify the points of difference. I would go so far as warn He cannot come back for us until this has been fixed, because we cannot fulfill the Master's commission without understanding His mind. Jesus's mind ran on the basis of ANE epistemology.
Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.