How The Church Lost The Truth

Hard on the heels of How the Church Lost the Way, comes Steve Maltz’s latest offering in which he takes up the argument of his previous book and runs with it further. How the Church Lost the Truth is typical Steve Maltz: pithy, forthright, humorous, easy-to-read, and with not so much as a boring sentence to be found in its entire 206 pages

Maltz’s contention in How the Church Lost the Way was that in the early second century of the Christian era, the gentile Church fathers effectively severed their Faith from its Jewish roots by so doing opened a Pandora’s box, out of which escaped numerous theological evils that have plagued the Church since. In contrast to the worldview of the biblical writers, many of the Church fathers read the Scriptures through the philosophical spectacles of Plato, in whose worldview spirit was “good” and matter was essentially “evil”. In the eyes of some Church fathers, therefore, salvation involved liberation from the body and the material world to a disembodied spiritual existence in heaven. The more “spiritual” one was, the less attached one was to the material world, and therefore the highest form of spirituality was the monastic, ascetic life.

In Maltz’s follow-up volume, in which he focuses on the medieval period, Aristotle becomes the villain of the piece. Aristotle’s philosophical writings influenced the Moslem polymath Averroes who, in turn, influenced the great Jewish rabbi-philosopher Moses Maimonides, and the writings of all three influenced the celebrated Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas. It should be noted that Judaism also was influenced by Greek philosophy, and since Maimonides all branches of Judaism – including Orthodoxy – have been influenced by Aristotle’s rationalism.

In an engaging and readable survey of the thinking of the Church fathers, Maltz demonstrates that most of them to varying degrees interpreted Scripture from an Aristotelian perspective rather than from a Hebrew mindset. The Church father Origen, in particular, receives short shrift both for his hyper-literalistic interpretations of certain Scriptures (he literally made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven) as well as for his ultra-allegorical approach to biblical interpretation. Maltz concludes by examining four areas in which the ancient Greek worldview, in contrast to a Hebrew mindset, has created problems in the Church: Creation, Israel, Hell and the Last Things.

Not everyone will agree with every detail of everything Steve Maltz says. He paints with such an exceedingly broad brush in such exceptionally large strokes that there are bound to be quibbles with his thesis. Nevertheless, allowing for overstatement and oversimplification, Maltz makes a convincing case, and all of us – preachers and teachers in particular – would do well to pay heed to what he says.

Mike Moore

How the Church Lost the Truth

Steve Maltz

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