By Carl F. Starkloff
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Additional info for A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process (Marquette Studies in Theology, #33.)
But far from the rationalism that natural theology is sometimes believed to be, theirs was a vision of Christian Platonism that was separated from early Platonism by an immense difference—the difference represented by faith in a source outside of pure reason. The chief adversary of the Cappadocians was the “recrudescent paganism” of the Emperor Julian (perhaps unfairly called “the apostate”), who, like many of our contemporary partners among aboriginal peoples, wanted nothing to do with “syncretism,” seeking rather to restore a primitive (but nonetheless syncretistic) form of Graeco-Roman religion.
Averroes too constructed a similar synthesis, and joins Avicenna in the ranks of those exploring the Metaxy for a key to unity and order amid so much disorder and chaos. Among Jewish philosophers, the name of Moses Maimonides most enriches the cultural synthesis of the middle ages. He too highlights the place of Aristotle in his metaphysical contribution to a rationale for religious faith, and benefits, as would Aquinas, from the labors of the Arabs. Gilson notes, however, that Maimonides disagreed with the Muslims in their claim to have found a “philosophical” argument for religious truths, and agreed more with Thomas that rational arguments simply serve to show a certain human cohesiveness to the work of theology and the truths of revelation (231).
We have just examined how the great theologians of the patristic period endeavored to establish criteria for discernment—unity in diversity, divine transcendence, the Incarnation and the Trinity, the inclusion of all creation, and the unity of faith and reason as embodied in the early symbols. Related to these, there are the further elements of freedom and purpose versus determinism and fate, the unity of the Church under authority (obviously an issue still needing so much attention within the Christian family today), the reality of sin and the hope of redemption, and the “worship practiced by rational creatures” (Romans 12:1) through both prayer and the moral life.