The study of Christian theology, perversely, is the study of our reactions to heresies. Heresies and false theories require us to analyze, question and evaluate them and how they relate to our beliefs. As a result, we are forced to better define the faith as questions arise. The study of theology then, includes the discussion of heresies.
In learning about heresies in the past, I have formed an unusual opinion: most heresies begin with the attempt to adopt non-Christian worldviews into the Christian faith. One of the central figures of early Church history in this regard is a man named Origen of Alexandria. When I was a student, it seemed to me that every poorly thought theological idea put forward during the fourth or fifth century, along with every heresy in some way, shape, or form traced back to Origen’s works. In my papers on historical theology, his name came up regularly.
Origen’s methodology, along with those of Clement of Alexandria and a number of other Fathers had one fatal flaw: they sought to adapt the common philosophical beliefs derived from Plato, something similar to what the earlier gnostics (a previous heretical group) had attempted to do. Similarly, modern Catholic dogma began when Thomas Aquinas sought to combine the Bible with Aristotle’s philosophical ideas. The modern theological Left began with an attempt to interpret the Bible within the context of enlightenment and post-enlightenment philosophers, most notably Hegel. All of these systems of thought perverted the Christian faith and the gospel.
In many ways, their attempts to adapt Christian beliefs to Greek philosophy was a violation of the first commandment: Exodus 20:3 – “you will have no gods before me”, or perhaps better translated, “…no gods in my presence”. The first commandment is not about replacing the worship of Yahweh with the worship of another god. It’s about the worship of Yahweh combined with the worship of another god, which was a common pattern in paganism. This is a more subtle form of idol worship, which often crept into the lives of God’s people. This is also why the Jews were warned against more contemplative religious ideas such as star worship and astrology (Deuteronomy 4:19).
Modern Christians are not often tempted to combine Christianity with ba’al worship or the worship of Molech, as were the early Hebrews. Unfortunately, modern Christians are prone to try to adapt Christian thought to that of modern and post-modern thought. This seems to be a trend that is particularly noted in the area of the study of origins and in areas of psychology. As a result, I want to discuss, for the next few sessions, why Christians should not adapt the faith to the acceptance of evolution. It has long been my conclusion as a theologian, that evolution is not a scientific idea, but a religious one. Similarly, many ideas in modern psychology are, or tend to become, religious, as well. To begin then, next time, we will discuss a proper definition of religion.