Christosophy is a word I coined to describe the process of mixing of philosophy and Christianity. Unfortunately christosophy was common during the early years of the Christian Church. There are two main reasons for its presence. Scholars who joined the Christian faith during the era of great persecution from the Romans embraced christosophy in the hopes of making Christianity more appealing to the state, while other early members embraced christosophy as a means of finding truth after apostolic authority was taken from the earth. As will be shown, both endeavors drove the church further into obscurity and darkness.
An early sign that the Apostasy was afoot was the rise of Gnosticism during the late first century. Gnostics, as they were called, were largely concerned with esoteric and mystical explanations about an unknowable god, who we are, where we came from, and how we got here. Gnostic metaphysical speculations on these and other matters drew criticism from Christian traditionalists such as Irenaeus and Tertullian (2nd century AD), who accused the gnostics of polluting church doctrine with philosophy and mysticism. Despite the noble efforts of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others to protect Christianity from outside influences, philosophy and mysticism eventually infiltrated Christian doctrine. Efforts to combine Christianity and philosophy surprisingly came from within.
The introduction of philosophy into Christianity was largely the work
of scholars who, after converting to Christianity, combined religion and
philosophy in an attempt to make Christianity more appealing to nonbelievers,
especially the Romans who were persecuting Christians. One Greek scholar who devoted himself to this task was Clement of Alexandria (circa ad 150–215). As a theologian and head of the catechetical school of Alexandria in Egypt, Clement promulgated the belief that the Church would be held in higher regard and gain more converts if its beliefs were blended with ancient Greek philosophy. He therefore set out to “Hellenize” Christianity by combining Church doctrine with Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato.
After Clement died, his student, Origen (circa 185–254 ad), continued
the effort to infuse Church doctrine with Greek philosophy. Origen was a
highly respected theologian and scholar in his day. Amid the confusion over
doctrinal issues that prevailed during the third century, Origen observed
that “there are many who profess to believe in Christ who disagree among
themselves not only in small and minor matters, but rather about the great
and the greatest matters.” These disagreements largely centered on the
nature of the soul, resurrection, Holy Spirit, and incarnation of Christ.
Origen believed that doctrinal truths could be discovered through intellectual
study and reasoning, and thus set out to resolve doctrinal disagreements
through personal study and theological discussions.
Origen’s efforts to settle doctrinal disputes through study and discussion
produced less than satisfactory results. Admitting defeat, he declared,
“If anyone can find out anything better, or confirm by more evident proofs
the assertions he makes concerning the Holy Scriptures, let such conclusions
be accepted in preference to [mine].” Thus we see how, as the spiritual
apostasy was taking hold, “the foundations of doctrine had shifted
from prophetic revelation to human reason.” This shift from prophetic
authority to human reason was inevitable, given that priesthood authority
to speak and act in the name of the Lord was taken from the earth. Without
spiritual guidance from prophets and apostles, people began to rely on
human reasoning to find answers to doctrinal questions.
Christian beliefs were gradually transformed as scholars and theologians
infused church doctrine with philosophy. Nineteenth century Greek
historian Edwin Hatch remarked, “It is therefore the more remarkable
that within a century and a half after Christianity and philosophy first
came into close contact, the ideas and methods of philosophy had flowed
in such mass into Christianity, and filled so large a place in it, as to have
made it no less a philosophy than a religion.” This influx of philosophy
transformed many of the fundamental truths of the gospel into mystical
and confusing doctrine.
Take, for example, the basic principle of faith. According to Hatch, “under the influence of contemporary Greek thought, the word Faith came to be transferred from simple trust in God to mean the acceptance of a series of . . . propositions in abstract metaphysics . . . concerning Him, His nature, relations, and actions.” Indeed this was a time when many plain and precious truths of the gospel were being lost (1 Nephi 13:26) and people were seeking the word of the Lord, but not finding it (Amos 8:13).
(Source: Truth & Science)
Unfortunately, following the death of Paul and the other apostles, apostolic authority was taken from the earth and the gospel of Jesus Christ fell into obscurity and darkness. This decline in spiritual truth and apostolic authority corresponded with a sharp decline in secular scholarship, indicating that as the plain and precious truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ were being lost, so too were secular truths being lost.
The simultaneous loss of both was not a coincidence. The spiritual apostasy and wickedness of man diminished the enlightening power of the Spirit of the Lord. Because so much of humanity’s secular knowledge comes from the Spirit of the Lord, this diminishment affected mankind not only spiritually, but secularly as well. As the power of the Spirit of the Lord waned during the apostasy, so too did mankind’s ability to receive enlightenment.
The spiritual apostasy contributed to the decline of secular knowledge in another way. During the apostasy mankind tried to compensate for the loss of spiritual enlightenment and apostolic authority by appealing to human reason. The philosophical contributions of ancient Greek scholars were monopolized by misguided theologians and scholars who wanted to settle doctrinal disputes and make Medieval Christianity more appealing to the masses. The works of famous scholars like Plato and Aristotle now served the interests of a powerful apostate church.
Because the church controlled a large number of educational institutions and most medieval scholars were clergy members, few people dared interpret Classical Greek principles in a manner contrary to the teachings of the church. Those who attempted to enlighten mankind faced reprisal from the church if their ideas opposed church doctrine. The hijacking of Classical Greek philosophy by dogmatic religious authority, diminished blessings from the Spirit of the Lord, and the loss of priesthood authority all combined to create the Dark Ages.
(Source: Truth & Science)
The great pyramid at Giza is the last wonder of the ancient world left standing. It is a magnificient structure that baffles the mind. Who built it and why? Egyptologists say it was built by Egyptians in 2560 BC for a pharaoh named Khufu (aka “Cheops” in Greek). I think that the Egyptologists are wrong.
It was not built by Egyptians and it was not built for a pharaoh named Khufu. (In case you were wondering, I don’t think it was built by little green men from space, either.) I think it was built by a righteous people as a monument to God.
I agree with one thing the Egyptologists say about the pyramid, that it was constructed around 2560 BC. I have no reason to doubt that the dating technology used on the pyramid is accurate. But I doubt their claims about who built it and why.
If the pyramid was completed around 2560 BC it could not have been built by Egyptians, although they probably helped. An understanding of mathematics was required to build the pyramid, yet the Egyptians lacked an understanding of mathematics prior to 2000 BC. Consider the following:
1. The first century AD historian Josephus Flavius and the Book of Abraham tell us that when Abraham entered Egypt (circa 2000 BC), the Lord instructed him to teach mathematics and astronomy to the Egyptians.
2. Joseph Smith wrote that “the learning of the Egyptians and their knowledge of astronomy was no doubt taught them by Abraham.”
3. “Clear [Egyptian mathematical] records began to appear by 2000 BC citing approximations for π and square roots. Exact statements of number, written arithmetic tables, algebra problems, and practical applications with weights and measures also began to appear around 2000 BC, with several problems solved by abstract arithmetic methods” (Source: Wikipedia). So ancient Egyptian mathematical texts did not appear until 2000 BC.
If the Egyptians had in fact built the pyramid in 2560 BC, then when Abraham arrived in 2000 BC they would have pointed to the pyramid and said, “You’re too late, buddy. We already know that stuff.” Note also that the emergence of mathematical writings in 2000 BC agrees with the estimated date for Abraham’s arrival (2000 BC).
Egyptologists also claim that the pyramid was built for a great Egyptian king named Khufu (2589 – 2566 BC). The evidence suggests otherwise. If you were to build a pyramid of that magnitude and precision for a king, wouldn’t you put the name and drawings of the king all over the inner walls? And wouldn’t you place a sarcophagus for the final resting place of the king in the largest chamber? Well, none of those things were present in the great pyramid.
Archeologists did find a lidless empty stone box in the main chamber, but it is not large enough to be a sarcophagus. And the walls are completely devoid of markings, with one exception. In 1837 an English Traveler named Howard Vyse blasted his way into sealed air-space chambers above the main chamber with gun powder. In an obscure air-space he discovered the misspelled name “Khufu” hastily written on a wall. I say that it was written by an illiterate worker who wanted to leave his mark. Others say that because Vyse was under time constraints from the local government and interest from his financial backers was waning, he wrote the inscriptions himself to revitalize interest in his work.
So if it wasn’t the Egyptians, then who built it and why? My favorite pick is the pre-apostasy Chaldeans/Sumerians who were descendents of Shem. Other theories are that it was Melchizedek, Job, or the pre-flood people.
Finally, if the pyramid was not built for Khufu, then why was it built? A magnificent structure of that magnitude built without markings by a righteous people? Sounds like a bit like a temple, or better yet, a monument to God.
Last week (May 9, 2009) I gave a presentation at the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference on God in science. In that presentation I argued for acceptance of recognizing God in scientific discourse, much as was done during the 17th century Scientific Revolution.
After my presentation I was approach by a young lady named Molly Farmer, a writer for Deseret News. She asked me where I work and what I do for a living. Naturally I was curious about whether she would write an article on my presentation. Well, she did. It is a great article that captures the essence of my presentation in a very nice way. Her article can be viewed here. I highly recommend it.
There have been a number of replies to the article at Deseretnews.com. There are the obvious criticisms from atheists – I expect no less from them. But what’s unusual are the criticisms from some Latter-day Saints, from members of our faith who think that God should be precluded from science. Take, for example, this comment from a mormon biologist.
As a biologist and active member of the LDS church, I see no problem with the absence of God in scientific writing. Collingridge's argument makes as much sense as complaining that not enough economists address their belief in God.
This biologist seems to be unaware of the fact that we have been commanded to give thanks to God for all blessings and to recognize His hand in all good things. As I point out in my book Truth & Science: An LDS Perspective, the Lord is the main benefactor in science. Through the Light of Christ He inspires scientific progress. Why then should we not recognize His hand in science? We do it in government because we recognize that He gave the Constitution and laws for this country, then why not in science?
Members who agree with this biologist should carefully consider the following words from the Prophet Joseph F. Smith:
In all the great discoveries in science, in the arts, in mechanics, and in all material advancement of the age, the world says, “We have done it.” The individual says, “I have done it,” and he gives no honor or credit to God. Now, I read in the revelations through Joseph Smith, the prophet, that because of this, God is not pleased with the inhabitants of the earth, but is angry with them because they will not acknowledge his hand in all things.
Did you read that carefully? It is saying that God is displeased with modern science because it has become accustomed to not recognizing His hand in scientific discovery. If this biologist has a problem with recognizing God in science, then he/she must take issue with the fact that Newton, Galileo, and Descartes mentioned deity in their influential scientific treatises.
I suspect that the real reason why this biologist does not want God mentioned in science is that he/she does not want a gospel critique of the theory of evolution. You see, several LDS biologists accept the fallacy that evolution is completely compatible with LDS doctrine. They are absolutely mistaken. While there are some areas of agreement between the gospel and evolution, there are definitely areas of disagreement (peruse my evolutionary posts for good examples). Several LDS biologists hope to perpetuate the “compatibility” falsehood by forestalling a careful comparison between LDS doctrine and the assumptions underlying evolution.
I am currently reading a book that reconciles Christian and scientific teachings on the creation. The author does a fairly good job of illustrating the similarities between the gospel and science. He shows how scientific theories on the history of the earth, pre-Adamic hominids, dinosaurs, and the Big Bang are supported by teachings in the gospel. (That’s right, supposedly there's a scripture or teaching that supports the idea of a big bang.) So basically, the author starts with the assumption that the teachings of science are truth, and then shows how the scriptures can be interpreted to support those teachings.
I think that this sort of scholarship is a worthwhile endeavor, but it is very risky because it relies on a tenuous working assumption, that science has got it right.
It is fine to argue that there are teachings in the LDS faith that agree with scientific theories, that is until the scientific theories that our faith supposedly support turn out to be false.
Case #1 - Phlogiston. If you lived during the 1600s and first half of the 1700s you would have believed that combustible objects give off a substance known as phlogiston. Phlogiston was supposedly evident in the smoke and flames given off when an object burned, and in the reduced weight of the object (ashes) after burning. The theory of phlogiston remained a tried and tested theory throughout the early 1700s. It was even dubbed the discovery that “changed the face of chemistry.” Then in 1770s Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier discovered that oxygen was the substance involved in combustion, not phlogiston. The once prized theory of phlogiston is no longer accepted as a legitimate theory of science.
Case #2 – Luminiferous Ether. For thousands of years scholars have been philosophically opposed to the idea that there is space in the universe which is void of matter. For instance, Aristotle believed that the space between matter was not empty; he called it "quintessence”. And the Stoics believed that the space between the matter of the earth was not empty; they called it "pneuma”.
The same goes for science during the the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. Leading scientists believed that light and sound waves traveled through something, and they knew that the stiffer the medium, the faster the waves traveled through the medium. (Remember in The Hunt for Red October the scene where the American submarine crew had to keep quiet? The sound waves from something as small as a pen hitting the floor could quickly move through the water and steel hulls of two submarines, thus alerting the enemy of their location.)
Because light waves travel very fast, scholars surmised that it must be moving through a medium in space that has the stiffness of steel. And so, with very little scientific evidence to go on, they called the substance through which waves and planets pass, ‘ether’. It was widely believed that ether filled the empty spaces of the universe until 1887 when an experiment by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley failed to find empirical evidence for ether. The null result was a major disappointment to the scientific community. Although the theory of ether took a long time to fall out of favor, it is no longer accepted today. (A prominent LDS scholar once claimed that ether was a manifestation of the Light of Christ. Click here and read the Joseph Smith as a Scientist book review to find out who it was.)
Today’s most beloved theories may one day be proven false. It has happened in the past and it will surely happen again in the future. This simple fact should be on the mind of every LDS scientific apologist.
We need to be cautious of claiming that gospel teachings support theories like the Big Bang, pre-Adamic hominids, and ancient fossilization. The beloved and widely accepted theories that we claim the gospel corroborates may one day end up in the trash heap of scientific rejects like phlogiston and ether. Then what? That's right - Ooops!
“I was changing a light bulb in the bathroom when I slipped, fell and hit my head. When I came to, I had a dream . . . a vision, of this! (pointing to a drawing). The Flux Capacitor. This is what makes time travel possible!” - Doctor Emmett Brown, inventor of time travel.
This statement by the Doc in the 1981 blockbuster movie “Back to the Future” is not just another humorous comment, it is a parody of an event that has happened repeatedly throughout the history of modern science. I am referring to dreams and inspirations that led to marvelous breakthroughs in science and technology.
Secular science just shrugs its shoulders at these supernatural events and attributes them to human intuition and perseverance. Yet, as I point out in my book Truth & Science, the source of these miraculous events is the Light of Christ. We are all beneficiaries of scientific or technological breakthroughs that have saved lives and enabled us to lead more productive and comfortable lifestyles. When you think of the blessings of science and technology in your life, don’t thank your lucky stars; thank the Lord.
The prophet Brigham Young said, “Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind, has been given by direct revelation from God.” This is not the kind of statement that has to be taken on faith; there are plenty of examples of scientists receiving supernatural assistance. One of my favorite accounts is Dmitri Mendeleyev’s (1834-1907) discovery of the periodic table. Interestingly, the circumstances surrounding Mendeleyev’s discovery of the periodic table are similar to the circumstances portrayed in Doc Emmett Brown’s fictional discovery of the Flux Capacitor.
Both Mendeleyev and the Doc had wild unkempt hair.
Both had pictures of famous scientists who inspired them. Doc had pictures of Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton in his study, and Mendeleyev had pictures of Newton, Galileo, and Faraday in his study.
Both men isolated themselves from the outside world while they worked feverishly on their discoveries. Doc isolated himself while he worked on time travel, and Mendeleyev isolated himself while he worked on a way to organize the elements by their atomic weights.
And both men had a vision/dream while unconcscious that led to major discoveries. Doc had a dream while unconscious on the bathroom floor, and Mendeleyev had his dream after falling asleep from exhaustion. In his vision, Mendeleyev said, “I saw . . . a table where all the elements fell into place as required.” While in a dreamlike state the Spirit of the Lord revealed to him the exact details of how to solve the problems he had labored on for so long. Mendeleyev's account reads like a Hollywood script, yet it is true!
Is it a coincidence that events like this began happening around the time of the Restoration? No. The apostle Paul testified that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. The outpouring of His Spirit enlightened people’s minds, ended the Dark Ages, and prepared the inhabitants of the earth for the Restoration. The outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord continues to this day. Its enlightening power is what makes the latter-days so different from previous dispensations. Consider that for the first few thousands of years in the history of mankind, modes of transportation and communication remained largely unchanged (e.g., walking, on horse, riding in an animal drawn cart). Now look how far we have come in the last 150 years. The progress has been astounding!
The next time you start your car, turn on your computer, adjust your thermostat, answer the phone, turn on a light, bake in the oven, take a bath, put your clothes in the washer and dryer, and take a healing medication, thank the Lord. As Brigham Young said, He is the provider of all useful and wonderful discoveries.
(Mormons and Science 8.08)