Would you like to have an Aristotelian education? And is this education compatible with Christianity? Much is made about looking to this great philosopher. But his basic beliefs about origins, human nature, and our highest good, need rational examination.
Aristotle was a systematizer and apologist for the pagan religion. When I see Christians speaking about how logical Aristotle was, what they are noticing is that he developed a system and argued for it. What he didn’t do was apply the insights of logic that he explained to others to his own basic beliefs. He believed in the eternality of the world, an impersonal unmoved mover, that the world is controlled by heavenly bodies (associated with gods), and otherworldly contemplation wherein this world is viewed as a hindrance to knowing God. He is an example of the folly of the worldly wise.
Q: But he saw the silliness of popular idolatry and how it cannot be true.
A: Yes, the pagan initiates always saw that. Popular religion kept the masses in line but was never systematic. The initiates knew the teachings that unite the various gods into one claim about God and human purpose. Aristotle studies these teachings of the Egyptians and Babylonians. He knew that popular religion didn’t get beyond appearances to reality, beyond changing gods to what is unchangeable. If he was going to defend the pagan system he would have to give an explanation of what is unchangeable. The same is true for what is eternal (without beginning). What he defends is the same “God” as we find elsewhere in pagan philosophy. “The unmoved mover does not see or hear,”-the definition of atheism in the psalms. This is not God as revealed in general revelation (we don’t even need to go to special revelation for this).
Q: But Aristotle spoke highly of virtue and contemplation.
A: His identification of virtue as the middle, rather than the law of God written on our hearts, and his other worldly contemplation, are both features of his pagan system. And remember, the hypocrites always speak highly of virtue. If he really cared about the moral law, he would have seen his own violations and need for redemption. He would have looked for redemptive revelation rather than the secrets of Zoroaster.
Aristotle’s virtues are meant to overcome suffering in this life whether it is at the level of the polis or the individual. But he did not identify sin and how it leads to spiritual death. Like all such religious systems, he wants to overcome suffering and physical death while being at enmity with God.
Q: But isn’t Christianity just the completion of the pagan system. They knew there is a most high God behind everything, and that we are sent wise teachers to guide us, and that there is a special half-god half-man who will show us the way to overcome death and become gods ourselves?
A: That isn’t Christianity at all. That’s the system raised up against God’s revelation from the beginning of history. A person who thinks this is the shadow of the reality found in Christ needs to go back and study general revelation. In general revelation we are taught:
1. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth 2. Creation is revelation 3. This revelation is full and clear 4. Our highest good, chief end, eternal life, is to know God in all that by which He makes Himself known 5. There is a moral law written on our hears 6. Sin is i) not seeking, not understanding, not doing what is right, ii) an act contrary to one’s rational nature, iii) autonomy 7. Sin leads to death 8. NE is a call back 9. We are unable to atone, God must provide the atonement 10. There is an age long conflict between belief and unbelief
An Aristotelian education does not get the student to what is clearly revealed about God in general revelation. We can and should do better for our students.