Is Christianity an idealism? (4)

The exceptional, special and non-idealistic character of Christianity is evident not only in its teachings, but also in its attitude to the various idealistic movements in history. For example, the apostles Paul and John were the first to start a struggle against the front of Plato’s and Gnostic idealism. The missionary sermon of ap. Paul for the resurrection, as the spiritualization and perpetuation of body or matter, met with great resistance among the educated inhabitants of Athens and Corinth. For those who lived with the prejudices of Plato’s idealism, it was an unbearable thought to claim that a resurrection was possible; they have supported only the idea of ​​the immortality of the spirit, which reaches this state after rejecting the chains of the body, of the material and the transient in general. However, the resurrection teaches not only the immortality of the spirit, but also the transformation and immortality of matter. Therefore, Athenians and Corinthians considered this teaching to be unphilosophical and materialistic. It is true that the idea of ​​resurrection was known to the Greeks from their myths, which spoke of dying and resurrecting deities, such as Attis, Dionysius, etc. But this idea they could perceive in the form of a myth. For them, the resurrection was possible only in the realm of universal and abducted ideas, through which they sensed and clarified the rhythm of life in nature, expressed in the change of seasons, day and night and in the main phases of human life. However, they have never been able to come to terms with a resurrection as a historical fact. That a vivid historical figure like Jesus of Nazareth, who lived and died at a certain time, could be resurrected and be a revelation of God in general, was incomprehensible to the Greeks. From this, by the way, it becomes clear how hasty and unfounded the conclusion of the religious-historical school in the 19th century was that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection was borrowed from the ancient Greek myths. – Against the doubts of the idealistic Corinthians, Paul wrote his famous Chapter 15 of his first epistle to them about the resurrection, which according to science is the oldest written evidence in this regard, dating from 55 AD.

As an outspoken opponent of Gnostic idealism, ap. John. Against him he established two strong positions: 1. The Word became flesh (John 1:14) and 2. Jesus was resurrected (John 20) Translated into philosophical language, this means that spirit can materialize and matter can be spiritualized. No ancient philosopher or mystic would dare to express such a thought. For idealism and mysticism, matter is something transient in the development of the world. Once the self-awareness of the spirit or the immediate union with the absolute is achieved, then matter will disappear as unnecessary waste. With what determination and jealousy the app. John leads the struggle against Gnosticism, as evidenced by his following words: “By this ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. But every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; this is the spirit of the antichrist ”(1 John 4: 2, 3). According to John, therefore, idealism in its exclusive, one-sided validity is an anti-Christian movement. – The struggle against Gnosticism in the same Pauline-Ioanist spirit was later continued by Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons. It is not without reason that the famous historian Friedrich Loffs sees in this general line of early Christian theology the formation of the so-called Asia Minor school. It aims precisely on the basis of historical facts, as a revelation of God’s plan of salvation, to refute the abducted speculations of Gnostic idealism. – Towards the middle of the 3rd century a new idealistic movement, known as Neoplatonism, appeared, which was the last word of the declining ancient world. In it, paganism gathers its still existing elite forces to give a desperately resolute resistance to the advancing Christianity. However, Neoplatonism appeared on the historical stage very late in order to fulfill its task. The only success he could note was the conquest of the young educated prince, and later the Roman emperor, Julian. Through him, he sought to impose what he could not achieve through peaceful propaganda and persuasion. Indeed, Julian, who enthusiastically embraced the ideas of Neoplatonism, tried by force to turn the latter into the official religion of the Roman Empire instead of Christianity. This experience was short-lived and unfortunate, yet history has noted in its pages this sharp opposition between Neoplatonic idealism and Christianity as two movements that are different in nature. – Although on the open front Neoplatonism did not win the struggle, it managed to sneak into Christianity gradually from the rear and create favorable conditions for the formation of a trend in the Alexandrian theological school called Monophysitism. At its core lies the devaluation of the body and matter in general, which is characteristic of any idealism. Monophysitism tried to give an idealistic solution to the then exciting Christological question, ie the question of the person of Jesus Christ. A hard struggle of life and death led Christianity against Monophysitism, which had deep roots in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, because it was Eastern man, with the exception of the Semites, who was and remains to this day a mystic by nature. The weapon for the struggle of Christianity against Monophysite idealism was forged by the Antiochian theological school, which, under the influence of Aristotle and the empiricists, advocated realism. This struggle, which was fought with great fervor, cost the Roman Empire heavy and costly sacrifices because it accelerated the process of its decomposition. The modern historian is inclined to believe that the Christological question was the fruit of abducted and meaningless quarrels, without any positive value to justify the damage they inflicted on the strength of mighty Rome. A more in-depth and refined view, however, sees here the indomitable will of Christianity to impose a realistic conception of the world on a theological question against the innate idealism of Eastern man. In this way, albeit at the cost of great sacrifices, Christianity has saved the full-blooded material reality of the world in an extremely idealistic age and has preserved the basic precondition for the existence and development of the exact sciences.

From what has been said so far, it is clear that Christianity, both in its essence and in its manifestations in history, cannot be ruthlessly classified as idealism. As we have seen, it is not at all a product of the immanent thinking, as a result of which idealism and realism have appeared, but stands above them as a revelation of an extraterrestrial reality. But because this revelation is realized in this world, or more precisely in the history of mankind, it uses the two basic and original directions of human thought to clarify its essence. The pursuit of the exclusive dominance of one of these directions in this explanatory process is what Christianity calls heresy. However, the harmonious combination of both forms the precondition for the emergence and formation of Christian dogma as a universal norm of faith and life.

N.B. For the first time this text by KONSTANTIN TSITSELKOV was published in the magazine Spiritual Culture, vol. 6, 1949, pp. 12-23.