John Philoponus, Sixth Century Alexandrian Grammarian, Christian Theologian and Scientific Philosopher

John Philoponus took seriously with the Church of Jesus Christ the Light of the Word of God not only as the source of the Gospel's proclamation to the world but also as the source for the rationality of the physics of the Cosmos. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ shone in the Creation as the 'Light of the World', and as such provided the personal reality by which both the universe and its mankind might be realized for what they ought to be in God. [1] The Mind of Christ confessed by the Church was not only the Mind of the Redeemer of the People of God but also the Mind of the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The Incarnation of the Word of God and the Creation of the Speaking God in the Beginning were inseparably bound up with one another for any full explication of Christian Dogma and Theology and the physical explanation of the nature of the Cosmos. Because of the Anathema pronounced against him in 680 AD by the 6th Ecumenical Council of the Church, Philoponus' treatise on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, the theological works of this great commentator on Aristotle have remained for the most part in obscurity for most of us. [2] The Grammarian has recently, however, begun to gain the kind of credit he deserves for his contribution to the history of science. [3] Professor Thomas F. Torrance of Edinburgh has championed the significance of the great Alexandrian for the debates about the relationship between theology and science. He argues that the way Philoponus understood the relationship would be instructive for our own time. It is through Torrance that I became acquainted with the works of Philoponus. [4]

Philoponus ('Lover of Work', 490-580 AD) belonged to the Academy at Alexandria as a Grammarian (professor) during the Emperor Justinian's reign over the Christian Empire. Debates about the Person of Jesus Christ at that time could cause great turmoil in the cities over which he attempted to rule. Monophysites and Diophysites in their struggles to understand and articulate the nature of the personal reality of the revelation of God in Christ could argue with godly passion against one another. The Empress Theodora and Justinian even differed from one another in these debates. Theodora was friendly to the eastern monophysites. Justinian tended to favor the diophysites of Rome. The problem persisted because at the Council in Chalcedon (450 AD) Pope Leo's letter on the two natures of Christ and Cyril of Alexandria's famous confession of 'the one incarnate nature of God the Word' were said to mean to say the same thing. Just how it was possible that they could mean the same thing held the Christological secret the resolution of which still occupies the Church even to our own time. How the unity of the two become one in union and communion with each other and the Father by the Spirit is not easy to explain. For his part, Justinian asked Philoponus to write a treatise that might settle the issues that had arisen, so that some closure to these debates that could rage and cause riots even in the streets of the Empire. The Church needed to reach a clear resolution of the problem so that the violence among the various parties in the disputes could be ended and the peace of the Empire might be firmly established. Thus, 'The Arbiter' came to be written around 553 AD for the 5th Ecumenical Council of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Anathema against this work came some one hundred years later. St. Thomas Aquinas thus came to know Philoponus only as a heretical Monophysite and knew nothing of his arguments against Aristotle. [5]

But Philoponos was, in his time, a consummate commentator on Aristotle. [6] The philosophical world, struggling then to harmonize Plato with his great student, the teacher of Alexander the Great, the master Aristotle, was centered in the city of Alexandria. John the Grammarian labored at its Academy purged of pagans by the Emperor Justinian. There he attempted to think together the theological and physical significance of the Word of God in relationship to the world. Because of John's belief in the teaching of Moses, that the Creation was created out of nothing by the Word of God, he could argue at crucial points with the Master of Greek Philosophy and Physics. Against the Greek vision of the world and the kind of necessities it had posited between the Creator and the Cosmos, Philoponus sought to argue for the rational contingency of the intelligibility of the cosmos based upon its creation out of nothing by the speaking of God in the Beginning. The contingency of the world's Beginning out of nothing was transcendently grounded, independent of God's nature, in God's divine freedom to speak into existence all of created reality, the heavens and the earth, its mankind as His Image, and His Sabbath relationship with them in the Creation. [7] The Cosmos was given existence and motion by the Creator in the Beginning with the divine freedom of His holy love and will and as such was absolutely dependent upon Him for its independent nature and being. As such, it possessed in and of itself no necessity for its existence and subsistence. It could not have been or it could have been something other than it is. The Creation possesses actuality and potentiality that is something out of nothing, the impossibility for Greek thought. But because of the speaking of the divine and sovereign will of a free God, the world is what it is with its mankind in it. It possesses neither an arbitrary 'nature' nor a necessary 'nature' in its relationship with its Creator. It is what it is in its independent 'nature' dependent absolutely upon the divine will for being what it is. It thus possesses a contingent necessity in relation to God, the rationality and intelligibility of which reflects the created and creative freedom of the will of the freely speaking God. The nature of the universe is a contingent nature utterly different from God's nature and yet absolutely dependent upon Him for its being. [8]

This concept of God in His relationship to the world may be contrasted with the god who is the immutable First Cause and the impassable Unmoved Mover in a divine and necessary relationship with the Cosmos of Greek philosophy. As such, the God of the Judeo-Christian traditions may be mutable but He is utterly constant. He may be changeable but He is absolutely faithful in His relationship to the world and its mankind. Without being arbitrary, God is free with Himself in relationship to His Creation to be faithful and constant to what He has created and made and sustains in its existence as being independent from His own life. The Greek concept of God caused a deep confusion between cosmology and theology and was a dead-end to science, as we know it in our time. The Judeo-Christian God provides the ground upon which a scientific culture can be pursued. This is a fact not well enough appreciated in our time.

The Christian doctrine of God affirms that God and the universe must be distinguished from one another and that there is no necessary relationship between them, without positing any possibility that they can be divorced from one another or by some mythology related to each other. As such, this concept of God gives permission and perhaps even makes it a duty of mankind to develop a scientific culture free from the phantom necessities of the Greek aberration regarding the heavens and the earth and the relationship of their wholeness to their Creator. [9] God related Himself to His Creation with the same transcendent freedom with which He created the Beginning. With the same freedom, He sustains it in its being independent of Himself, and with that same freedom He gives telic significance to its destiny with Himself. Creation out of nothing means Creation for something. [10] But for the Greeks, nothing could be created out of 'nothing' and the world, longing for the Golden Age of Man in the past, must possess a necessity that ties up its rationality eternally with the Divine Logos of the Creator God. [11] To let go of this 'necessary' relation between the Creator and the Cosmos was for the Greek Mind blasphemous. John Philoponus' rational contingency of the universe was unintelligible to many and his argument for it won him many enemies both pagan and Christian.

But with this doctrine well in hand, Philoponus could deny cogency to Aristotle's concept of the 'Eternity of the World' and the fifth substance, sometimes called the 'aether', he posited for the divine nature of the celestial orders of the Cosmos. He also conceived of an 'impetus theory' against Aristotle's theories of motion that would be eventually employed and developed by Copernicus, Galileo, and the great Isaac Newton. He thought that the light of the heavens with the light that was produced by creatures upon the earth both belonged to a wholeness that was the Creation of the Logos of the Creator. The split between heavenly form and motion and earthly experiences of temporal matters, common in Aristotelian logic and physics, could not and did not belong to the eyes of the Christian faith. Professor Sambursky on John Philoponus is worth quoting here: [12]

"However, of greatest important is Philoponus' cosmology, based upon his monotheism. Believing that heaven and earth were both created by God ex nihilo he vehemently attacked Aristotle's assumptions with regard to the eternity of the universe and its dichotomy into a heavenly and sublunary region. In particular he tried to disprove by physical considerations Aristotle's belief that the sun and the stars consisted of aether, and claimed that they were sources of fire of the same kind as terrestrial fires, being like those subject to creation and decay. Moreover, he declared that all matter everywhere is nothing but tri-dimensional extension and in this respect, too, there is no difference between heaven and earth. Philoponus' philosophy found no echo in his time, and twelve hundred years had to pass until the impact of Galileo's ideas brought about a complete change in scientific thought."

Because of these ideas, Philoponus was much maligned by one Simplicius, who considered the Grammarian something of a maniac. Simplicius' opposition to John was so fierce that Galileo named his adversary in the 'Dialogues' Simplicio, after the old adversary of Philoponus. [13] But history has recognized the cogency of Philoponus in these disputes. His concept of the nature of the Cosmos as coming from the Hand of the Creator made known to us in the world through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ still finds resonance even with some of the cosmologies emerging since the development of the science of the great Albert Einstein and his theory of light and gravity in our modern scientific culture. [14] In any case, it seems clear that the fecundity of the concept of the contingent rationality and intelligibility of the creation in the beginning out of nothing is evident for science as well as for theology. The speaking of God can be heard with benefit for the development of science across the centuries. The speaking of in His Incarnation in time and space may be heard fruitfully even in our scientific speculations. In the ancient world, John Philoponus definitely championed this doctrine in theology and science with great success, as we are beginning to see.

It was the kinetic application of this doctrine that provided the dynamical thinking of Philoponus with a way to understand both the nature of God and the nature of the world. The doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word of the Triune God gave the Alexandrian the ground upon which he sought to build up his concept of the one personal reality of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Light of the World. With the same divine freedom that God created in the Beginning, He became a man in the world for the purpose of giving mankind a new beginning in His new creation. The nature of the Creation was conceived as open to God in such a way that God was free not only to sustain it in its existence but also to enter into it with His own Being and Nature. The contingent nature of the Creation was open to the divine interaction of the non-contingent nature of the Word that had created it in the Beginning. The nature of the Cosmos possessed a contingent intelligibility and rationality that was, even in its independence of the nature of God, absolutely dependent upon Him for its nature's existence, subsistence, and destiny. Thus, Philoponus brought to the table of theoretical thought a new concept of nature>. [15] It was a term that could refer to a created reality that was freely rooted with its being in the uncreated reality and freedom of the Creator and Redeemer of the world. Nature was a term that possessed a double significance, depending upon that reality to which it sought to refer its reader, whether in theory or in experience. [16] Thus the term nature in the thought of John Philoponus depended for its meaning upon that to which it was intended to point its readers. This could be said equally for all the terms that became important to the arguments about the divine and human natures of the Person of Christ. If we attempt to interpret John according to definitions obtained from Aristotelian categories, we will inevitably misunderstand him. His use of the genus and species categories of the class-exclusion way of defining a thing never employed in any static, merely logical, manner by the Alexandrian. He might employ terms borrowed from these categories, but he transformed their significance to serve, dynamically and kinetically, what he wished to confess about Jesus Christ and the light that He provided for understanding these terms. [17] Without appreciating this point, it is difficult to expect any reader of Philoponus to understand the way he attempted to meet the appointment of his Emperor to write an argument for Christ that would allow monophysite and diophysites alike to come to some agreement in the Empire.

Chalcedon's confession had proclaimed the two natures of the one person of Jesus Christ in line with Nicea's homoousial relation between the Father and the Son of God. Its hypostatic union of the natures was to be conceived as a unity that was one in being with the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. The two natures were to be conceived as a union without confusing or mixing them and without separating or dividing them. Pope Leo's Tome at the council and Cyril of Alexandria's confession were thus said to mean the same thing. The 'one incarnate nature of God and the Word' and the two natures of the Word become flesh both intended to witness to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The council thought that it had thus resolved the issues and was adjourned. However, the question about the two natures in Leo's Tome and the one incarnate nature of Cyril's confession persisted. What did the Church mean when it confessed the two natures as the one incarnate reality of the Word become flesh, Jesus Christ, in the world? Chalcedon with its four adverbs surely taught the Church how not to think about Christ. Over against every docetic or adoptionistic notions about Him, He was proclaimed a unity that possessed both a divine nature and a human nature without changing the one into the other and without positing anything that could divorce them from one another in their real union. Obviously, here was a knot not easily untied with any a priori notions about the way the divine was free to relate Himself with the humanity of His Creation. Philoponus attempted to articulate the reality he faced with a dynamical way of thinking I believe was far ahead of, too far perhaps, of his contemporaries. I believe we should associate his thought with the disciplines he enjoyed as one of the 'Philoponoi', zealots devoted to a godliness of life that by faith in Christ might witness to the Blessed Trinity of the One God, the great God who was the Creator and Redeemer of the All, heavens, earth, and its generations, including mankind made in His Image.

For Philoponus, the problem of thinking of the Incarnation in relationship with the Creation of the Lord God was bound up with the problem of thinking together the whole and its parts. He illustrated his thought by referring to various ways the problems are resolved with specific matters. The parts of a house, for instance, were related to their whole by summation. Each of the parts of a house occupy their own place in the space of the house and one only need add up these places together in a specific manner in order to arrive at the whole that the house defines. The bronze statue of a man, on the other hand, did not resolve the problem of its whole and its parts in the same manner. The parts of the statue did not occupy their own space. The metal and the form of the man both occupied the same space. The whole was not achieved merely by numerating the parts in any way. We may say the whole is an aesthetic whole and not merely a numerable whole. We grasp the whole not by summation but by artistic appreciation. [18] In the case of the Incarnation, we are faced with a reality that neither number rationality nor spatial intelligibility can actually grasp. The divine nature of the Incarnation is bound up with the divine freedom the Word of God to achieve a union and communion between the non-contingent reality of God and the contingency of all created reality. This union and communion is achieved in order to fulfill the ancient covenanted promises of the Lord God with Israel and the Church. Human nature is that which the Word has freely and holily assumed with His own divine power and purposes in that covenanted history with Israel and the House of David. Outside of this assumption, the freedom of the race is employed, even though sustained by the Creator, in opposition against Him and His history with Israel. In Him, the divine and human freedoms of the natures are given union and communion with the nature of God Himself. Human freedom is what it ought to be, then, as embedded in the divine freedom of God to act to make freedom correspond to Himself in relationship with His Creation. Torrance has written: [19]

"His creation of the universe out of nothing, however, far from meaning that the universe is characterized by sheer necessity either in its relation to God or within itself, implies that it is given a contingent freedom of its own, grounded in the transcendent freedom of God and maintained through his free interaction with the universe. It was this doctrine of the freedom of the creation contingent upon the freedom of God which liberated Christian thought from the tyranny of the fate, necessity, and determinism which for the pagan mind was clamped down upon creaturely existence by the inexorably cyclic processes of a self-sufficient universe. Just as there is an order in the universe transcendently grounded in God, so there is a freedom in the universe transcendentally ground in the freedom of God."

It was this freedom that was implicit in the thought of John Philoponus and his efforts to articulate in the coming of the Word of God, the Creator in the Beginning, as the man Jesus Christ into the world. In Him, the non-contingent freedom and the contingent freedom were made to resonate in the Light God is in the world in order that the Creator might be known for who He truly is by the human race.

For such an assumption as this, there is no analogy to be found in the space and time of the Cosmos. Every effort to interpret the Incarnation from within the Creation without the Light of this Word is lost upon the reality it intends to convey to us. The relationship of the Incarnation to the Creation is fundamental for understanding the relationship of God's freedom to the world. This is the Word that lives eternally without space and time and that has assumed a human nature within space and time with His own being and nature from the wholeness of God's being and nature. The wholeness of the Incarnation is embedded in the wholeness of the Lord God and in the nature of the freedom of His Being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity and the Great I-AM He truly is in covenanted promise in the history of His People in His Creation. I believe it is this freedom, inherent in the meaning of the new reality the Incarnation signifies with us, that causes us so much difficulty. We want to sum the parts based upon an interpretive framework of thought that does not belong to freedom of the Word of God to make Himself heard within the dynamical structures of the orders of a free Creation. We need to develop concepts that are faithful to this freedom in all of its dimensionality. [20]

Thus, the particular nature of the humanity of the Word is, like the creation out of nothing in the Beginning, a created reality that is what it is as this Word of God in His freedom with us. He is free to go outside of Himself and become what He is not, a man, while remaining who He truly is, the Eternal Son, and as such to relate Himself redemptively to a world that is His Creation. No space or time travel is conceived for the Incarnation of this Word. Rather space and time are defined anew by the flesh of this Word. This is the Word who has chosen with Himself in His divine and creative freedom to interact with Man in His Creation in order to keep in His flesh the promise made to Israel and the House of David. The resolution of the problem of the whole and the parts is resolved in the actuality of this new reality in the world, a reality that is new for God as well as for mankind. No doubt, it is this freedom's singularity and newness that we must face that gives us so much difficulty. Uniqueness, singularity, and the rationality of the reality of the world in this freedom cause us deep problems with what existence is in this world.

It is important to remember in the freedom of this way with us that the Father did not become incarnate. Nor did the Spirit become incarnate in this world. But the Eternal Son and Word of God became incarnate among us. With the same divine freedom that belonged to the Creator in the Beginning, the Redeemer has made space and time for Himself in the face of Jesus Christ. In this particular nature, the Word become flesh, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth is to be known as the Revelation of His Father among us. It is by the Spirit of this Word's revelation of the Father that we may know Him for who He truly is, the Lord God within a Cosmos that is His Creation. Thus, He is the Light of the World. He is the Great I-AM the Lord God is with His People in His Creation. The Incarnation is to the New Testament in this way what the Voice in the Burning Bush in to Moses and the Old Testament. He is the Creator and Redeemer in real relation with the world. He is thus in Himself the resolution of the problem of the whole and the parts for us, in which resolution there is realized with us the reality of the being and nature of the Word of the Blessed Trinity Himself come in the fullness of time to the town of Bethlehem in the God's world. Thus, the Incarnation brings without analogy among the created realities of the world the great peace of God with us.

We need to understand that number rationality cannot grasp this wholeness for us. Spatial or temporal rationality cannot define the intelligibility of this reality with us. The secret of its nature is hidden in the very nature of God Himself, One Being as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is not a whole with its parts in such a way that it can be pictured or imaged in any analogy we might seek to find within the Creation. Some sort of image-less knowing is uniquely necessary and must occur with us if we are to understand the actuality of its being and nature in existence in the world. [21] A dynamical and structured way must be found to hold together the experience and the theory of the history and transcendence of this reality. This is what Philoponus sought to do. As we have already said, his thought was unintelligible to many in his own time. The fact that this way of knowing was difficult for people to understand then I believe gained for the theological work of Philoponus the condemnation his work eventually experienced in the history of the Church. But given the progress we have made in our scientific culture today, are the dynamical structures of his thought really all that beyond us in our time? Given the way we are learning to deal with the invisible structures of space and time in relation to our experience of them in General Relativity and Quantum Theory and our modern struggle to understand the wholeness and particulars of our universe, would not the Alexandrian's efforts be much more within our grasp now? Could we not get over the tendency towards reductionism in our way of interpreting realities and give ourselves to an open structured understanding of the relationship of God to the world, one disciplined by the reality of the actual way he has taken to make Himself known among us?

If we are able, with Philoponus' thinking on the Incarnation, to take seriously the image-less kind of knowing that is necessary to think together the divine nature of God Himself and the human nature He has become for our sakes in the world, then I believe we will be in a much better position to learn to proclaim the Gospel to our modern scientific culture in our future. It was with this way of knowing that allowed Philoponus to seek for Justinian a resolution to the debates about the Person of Jesus Christ. He sought to articulate the real unity and compelling union of the nature of the uncreated Light of the Word from God's own Eternity come to be with the particular nature of an individual man who with his created light in our time and our space revealed His Father to all mankind. With this new reality and its unity and union in place, with its hour come round at last, when eternity and time were made to meet as one, and God and man were made as one in the space of a symphony of light whose resonance was heard as the light of the light of our Creator, the Word of God was proclaimed to all the world. There is in this symphony a profundity to be heard that I believe the world hungers for today. To hear in this unity of opposites in their actual resolution reaching with its meaning to take us with its real knowledge of God far beyond ourselves into our destiny with the coming of our Creator and Redeemer for us is to know what is good and why we were made as men and women in this world. Here we are made able to think in terms of the significance of those real transcendent relations by which God rules over our space and time and by which our space and time are given actual relationship with His freedom to make Himself present in our space and time. In this freedom, we may understand that our space and time are given actual relationship with God's space and time for us. Here, we may actually be able to learn to hear the meaning of our space and time as embedded in the space and time where the light of the Light of the Word of God, our Creator and Redeemer, actually gives significance to us in His New Creation. It seems to me that, if we were able to follow the thought of John Philoponus along these lines, we could find that, at the boundaries of the being of the natures of mankind and the universe, there is a Word of God for us, and there is a freedom for us, a human freedom for us, actually embedded in the divine freedom of the Great I-AM to be who He truly is with us. There we would be in touch with a creativity that has steadily, whether we believe it or not, been the source of our development and progress in understanding the world where we have our being and the significance of humanity within its dynamical structures and orders.

Perhaps now that the Anathema is being removed and the condemnation that has veiled this great man's work has begun to be lifted, the time has come for a fresh reading of 'The Arbiter' and a new grasp of the wholeness of Man with the wholeness of the Lord God in the wholeness of the Universe, when every particular reality will be understood in the light of its wholeness in God's Word for us. Perhaps, as Philoponus proves himself to be a forerunner in the ancient world to our modern scientific culture, we may gain from him also some real progress for our theological understanding. He may yet prove himself to be a great help to us in understanding the Incarnation of our Savior and His relationship with the space and time of the Lord's Creation, in which we live our lives today. [22]


[1] E. M. Colyer has quoted Thomas F. Torrance here (The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, ed., E. M. Colyer, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001): "John Philoponos and James Clerk Maxwell, and indeed Einstein, realized in their different ways that there is and must be a fundamental harmony between the laws of the mind and the laws of nature, an inherent relation between how we think and how nature behaves independently of our minds." (p. 335)

[2] I have argued in The Setting in Life of 'The Arbiter' of John Philoponos (Wipf & Stock: Oregon, 1999) that the Anathema was a mistake and ought to be overturned. Recent developments in the Greek Orthodox Church have indeed lifted the condemnation from off of 'The Arbiter'.

[3] In recent years Professor Richard Sorabji of Kings College has lead a team of scholars in providing translations into English of many of the scientific works of Philoponus. Professor Torrance simultaneously has championed the theological efforts of the Alexandrian. I attended a conference at Kings College, London, in 1984 when efforts to bring the great Philoponus to the attention of the scholarly community were beginning to take shape. By now quite a few works of the great Alexandrian have been translated into English under Sorabji's guidance.

[4] In Transformation & Convergence In The Frame of Knowledge (1984), Torrance wrote for instance: 'Nor is it surprising that it was classical patristic theology which, with John Philoponos, developed the first physics of light, as also a 'modern' notion of 'impetus', and translated into physical terms the relational views of space and time which grew out of its understanding of the creation and the incarnation.' (p. 261). The basic categories of thought employed are bound up together with one another as a unity that belongs to the divine and creative freedom of the uncreated light of the Word of God resonating with the created light of mankind as the Word become flesh in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Creator of the universe.

[5] S. L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways of God, University of Chicago Press, 1978, p. 39. The strangeness in the difficulty of understanding Philoponus' thought is rightly expressed by Gérard Troupeau in 'Un Épitomé Arabe du <> De Jean Philopon, in Mémorial André-Jean Festugière, Genève, 1984, pp. 77-88. See T.F. Torrance's Divine and Contingent Order, London, 1981, for the difficulty we have thinking about contingent realities that is neither accidental nor necessary.

[6] A.E. McGrath, A Scientific Theology: Nature, Eerdmans, 2001, pp. 95-98, where Aristotle's definition of 'nature' is denied as mere measurement and replaced with substantial 'nature', per se. As such 'nature' is the power to shape and form the structures of matter, an ontological and dynamical foundation grounded in the concept of creation out of nothing, a doctrine unique to Christianity and otiose to Greek rationality.

[7] Philoponus believed that Genesis 1 taught creation out of nothing as fundamental to God's 'good', even 'very good' Creation. This belief informed all of his thinking from beginning to end. It allowed him to argue against the concepts of infinity found throughout the ancient world for the Beginning (See R. Sorabji, Time, Creation, and the Continuum, pp. 210ff. See also S. Sambursky, Physical Thought, pp. 118-119 for Philoponus' argument that the power of the cosmos is finite and not infinite, that is perishable.

[8] T.F. Torrance, "Die Besondere Bedeutung von John Philoponos Als Vorgänger Von James Clerk Maxwell," ibw-journal, Mai/Juni 2001, pp. 4-10. John Philoponos is in the ancient world a forerunner to the development in physics brought about by Maxwell and then Einstein. The rigor of his scientific method allowed him to make a direct contribution with compelling influence upon our scientific culture's development even down to the present time. 'Das Werk von John Philoponos ist ein herausragendes Beispiel der direkten kognitiven Einwirkung christlichen Glaubens auf die Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaften (p. 7). The Word of God and the fundamental dynamics and structure of the created universe belong freely to the very Being of God Himself in relation to all created reality.

[9] Against Proclus and Aristotle, Philoponus argued for the lability and destructibility of the world and for the fact that its individual and finite existence independent of God was perishable, possessing no power itself to remain in being. Only by its relationship to the Creator's Word may it continue to exist as what it is and subsist for as long as forever is. Again see, G. Troupeau, op. cit., pp. 84-88.

[10] The Hebrew verb "bara'" has in the indicative only Elohim for its subject. Only Elohim can act in this way in the Biblical World. It is this use of "bara'" that is behind the doctrine of creation out of nothing and not Hellenistic metaphysics (contra Adolph von Harnack, etc.). The literature on 'The Beginning' is legion.

[11] See T.F. Torrance, Reality and Scientific Theology, Scottish Academic Press, 1985, pp. 5-6, where Philoponos' relational view of space and time in the cosmos, not embraced by the Newtonians, is seen as fundamental to the relationship between the Creator and the Creation, a view justified with the development of Einsteinian science.

[12] Shmuel Sambursky, Physical Thought from the presocratics to the quantum physicists, (Pica Press: New York, 1975, p. 45. This is an excellent book for the history of conceptual development in science.

[13] Dava Sobel, in Galileo's Daughter, writes: 'The name Simplicio recalled no particular colleague of Galileo's, but rather the sixth-century Greek philosopher Simplicius, a renowned commentator on Aristotle.' No mention of Philoponus is made. But Richard Sorabji in Philoponus and the rejection of Aristotelian science, has pointed out that Simplicius actually thought of the Grammarian as a blasphemer (p. 25), and Philippe Hoffmann has argued that the neoplatonist liturgy of Simplicius is a 'rightful celebration' of the Greek notion of God (p. 58) over against the Christian God of John Philoponus. But see C. Wildberg, 'Simplicius: Against Philoponus on the Eternity of the World' in Place, Void, and Eternity, Ed. R. Sorabji, Cornell University Press: New York, 1991, pp. 107-128, for the clear evidence that Philoponus' cool analyses clearly gained the upper hand over Simplicius.

[14] Sorabji, I think rightly, refers to the three-dimensional of Philoponus' theory of nature here (p. 22). See D. Furley, 'Philoponus: Corollaries on Place and Void', in Place, Void, and Eternity, op. cit., pp. 28-48. The three-dimensional in the thought of Philoponus is not easy to understand. I believe it is bound up through his belief in the Incarnation of the Word of God with the eternal power of that Word freely to relate Himself to space and time and matter and our way of thinking about them according to their real natures. Today, the idea that the dynamics of an invisible structure informs the dimensionality of the space-time universe is ordinary assumption in the struggle to grasp the nature of the light of the universe and its gravity. There is also no doubt here as to the necessity to integrate the theoretical and invisible dimensions with the experiential and measurable dimensions of the universe's nature with us. See also K.S. Thorne's Black Holes & Time Warps, W.W. Norton: New York: 1994, for an excellent account of the history of epistemology viewed from modern science. The relational view of space and time and light with which Philoponus worked, entailed by the kinetics of the uncreated light and created light of the Lord God could very well prove helpful to us.

[15] It is vital to grasp this point. U.M. Lang has found a witness to the 7th chapter of The Arbiter in Nicetas Choniates of the 12th Century AD in which Philoponus is judged as a Monophysite and our understanding whole and the parts of the Person of Jesus Christ is reduced by Aristotelian assumptions about the divine and human natures of the nature of Christ (Journal of Theological Studies, Volume 48, Issue 2: October, 1997, pp. 540-548.) We must understand that the wholeness of which Christ is a particular for Philoponus is the Word of the Father. Divine freedom is substantial in his concept of nature.

[16] I have tried to show this in my book on 'The Arbiter'. See especially Chapter Three. Without understanding the dynamics of these categories, we will miss the force with which Philoponus transformed the Aristotelian categories and then employed them for use in the logic of his argument.

[17] See T.F. Torrance, 'John Philoponos of Alexandria-Theologian & Physicist', Kanon XV, Edition Roman Kovar, Eichenau, 1999, pp. 315-329, for a rigorous elucidation of this assertion. It is with this argument that Torrance has happily announced the lifting of the Anathema by the Greek Orthodox Church from 'The Arbiter'.

[18] For a similar modern analysis of the whole and the parts problem, without reference to the Word of God, but where the transcendent and personal knowledge are given their proper significance in the scientific development of our understanding, see M. Polanyi, A Study of Man.

[19] T.F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order, p. 4.

[20] The Church developed the concepts of the anhypostasis and the enhypostasis of the 'Word become flesh' in order to speak with this freedom of the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The economy by which we may understand the incarnate nature of the Word God as the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ compels us to resonate with one another the light of the Eternal Son with the light of the man from Nazareth in that wholeness which is the Light that God is with us (T.F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 160).

[21] See my article on "The 7th Chapter of 'The Arbiter'", in Summer, 1999 for a rendering of the specific terms employed in this argument. Again, it is important that these terms not be defined in an Aristotelian sense, but with the assumption of contingency as we have been discussing the substantial rationality of that concept.

[22] See T.F. Torrance, 'Creation, Contingent World-Order, and Time', in Time, Creation and World-Order, ed. M. Wegner, pp. 206-236, for a full and sound rendering of the possibilities here.


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Emerging Church Economics

There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren’s book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined

Mordecai Kaplan: Rethinking Judaism for the New World

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