Theology Is Hellenized

Clement of Alexandria, with his theory of gnosis, is a perfect example of the new approach. But even before him we have the early apologists, who bear clear witness to the gradual transition. They do not neglect history completely. Justin, for example, takes the history of the chosen people into account. He, like other writers, used the argument from antiquity-trying to show that the Jews were more ancient than Homer and the early Greek sages because they originated with Abraham.

Here we can see continuity in Christian consciousness. The Christian feels a sense of fellowship with Abraham, not with Homer. At the same time, however, Christians begin to accept the instruments of Greek logic and to argue in syllogisms. They still say what the prophets had said before them, but now they do so in Greek terms. Tatian, for example, tries to show that one cannot possibly regard the sun as a god-as contemporary Greeks did. The sun is a creature of God, something created "for us." The same holds true for the moon and the stars. Using this approach, Tatian gradually tears down all the Greco-Roman gods.

This may seem to be rather innocent play to us, but it entailed great culture shock at that time. Indeed it was a critical and essential moment in the history of the Church, for Judaeo-Christian thought met hellenic thought head on and criticized its very foundations, its "ethico-mythic nucleus." The fundamental values of the Greco-Roman world were gradually undermined until no one believed in them any more. People ceased to live in the Greco-Roman worldview. In 529 B.C. Justinian closed the Platonic Academy in Athens, sounding the death knell of hellenic thought as an existential, lived reality, as something which real people believed and lived.

The reason that hellenic thought as living belief died out was the thoroughgoing criticism of the apologists. This fact is of great interest and relevance to us as Latin Americans because a similiar process has not taken place here. Living within the culture of Greece and Rome, Christians transformed that culture by changing the shape and import of its ultimate values. A similar process did not happen here because the native Indians-the Aztecs, the Incas, the Calchaquis-did not have apologists. There were no people living within these native cultures who had grasped and lived their values in such a way that they could change their world for a new one without having to abandon their own civilization. The Amerindian cultures had not evolved to the point where people could make such a transition, "passing over" from one culture to another in this way.

The apologist is a person who is in the world and transforms it. This is the first and primary tenet of any mission, even today. But this could not occur in the case of our native Indians. Instead things were "imposed" on them "from above." The name San Salvador was imposed on the name Guanahani, and the latter name simply disappeared. In the era of ancient Roman dominance, by contrast, it was really the autochthonous people and their world that grew into being Christian.

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