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“Evangelicals’ Problem with the Greeks

March 13, 2022

I founded a for-profit Internet University in the year 2000. In my history of that venture published by St. Augustine’s Press, I acknowledged my indebtedness to Gerhart Niemeyer, Stanley Parry CSC, and Eric Voegelin. Niemeyer and Voegelin emigrated from Europe during WW II and represented the recovery of classical philosophy rooted in the pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. Parry also was swept up in this rejection of Enlightenment raison in courses with Willmoore Kendall at Yale.

That led me to ask Professor Ralph McInerney to supervise a “directed reading” of the Presocratics. The paper I wrote for McInerney was published in The Development of  Political Theory and may be accessed at this address.

That survey begins by describing the difference between mythic consciousness and discoveries in Ancient Hellas {Greece) of philosophers who asked what is the origin of nature, ta onta, the world of physical things. That origin was to on, or theion (divine reality).

When I sought support for my University from three “Evangelical” Christian colleges, I was not successful. The Protestant founders of these colleges affirmed        the message of the Gospels that were spread throughout the ancient world in classical Greek. But they had nothing to do with classical Greek philosophy.

If you visit Liberty or Regent University or The King’s College in  Manhattan you will encounter Jesus Christ but not Anaximander and the corpus of classical Greek philosophy. Even  a writer whom I admire, the Greek savant Taki Theodoracopulos, published his rejection of Greek philosophy at “Takimag.”

Taki wrote, “Yet it was the Hellenes of ancient times who drew the little pastor away from Christianity and onto the Hellenistic world of Homer and Olympian Gods.” “The little pastor,” Nietzsche, did indeed reject Christianity in favor of the ancient Greeks. But blame Nietzsche, but not “the Hellenistic world.”

The King’s College lost its leader when Stan Oakes was brought down by a brain tumor and Jerry Falwell affirmed the orthodoxy of the Southern Baptist Convention and the then-Dean of Regent University felt that we had too much philosophy and not enough courses in business. The result is “dumbed down” education.

Though I’m critical of “church schools,” I’m not ignorant of what they attempt. I attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran parish grade school that shaped my character. The problem is, as I see it, that Protestant “Evangelicals” and “Fundamentalists” do not understand, or never learned, that the Greeks also sought truth and their search gave Christians the philosophical tools to articulate our experience of God’s divine presence in the world. That explains why so many religious colleges are no longer faithful to their founder’s faith. Their religion came first and “faith” came last.

Frankly, my eight years of Bible School were fine, but by age thirteen “religion” in the form of “Bible Studies” alone is insufficient.

For that reason, as I complete the writing of my next book, I’m devoting time to understanding the part that Christian monastics played in formation of the Christian culture of “the West” after the fall of ancient Rome. That period in time is sometimes called “Medieval” but I prefer the more descriptive name of “First Europe.”

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