Christian Themes

The question of the nature of God is one of the oldest questions in Christianity. A core part of this question has been the relationship of God to the created world. The pre-Christian Greek philosopher Plato professed the historically influential view of dualism, with the universe split into unchangeable, ultimately real ideas and constantly shifting, relativistic things. Plato’s student Aristotle rejected or modified many aspects of Plato’s teaching but carried on the tradition of an unchanging absolute beyond the realm of the everyday world. Aristotle, developing an idea that would have a great impact on Christian thinking about God, described the supreme deity as an unmoved mover, a cause of the world but beyond the world. Aristotle’s god was eternally concerned with the perfection of unchanging self-contemplation and therefore had no active involvement with the created world.

In the third century, the Neoplatonist Plotinus further developed ideas about the relation between the divine absolute and the relativity of the physical world by describing human beings as existing in a gross material world but ascending toward the divine world of pure mind. In the view of Plotinus, the movement consisted entirely of the human toward the divine; the absolute could have no motivation for a relationship with the mundane.

Neoplatonic and Aristotelian thought became deeply embedded in Christian ideas of the nature of God and the relationship of God...

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