“I have noticed the following parallel between the fourth century and the sixteenth century, periods I consider to be times of fundamental reform for the church. In both periods the dominant theology was a kind of synthesis between biblical thought and Greek philosophy: in the fourth century, Origenism; in the sixteenth, the theology of Thomas Aquinas. In both periods there came a heresy that upset the balance; in the fourth century, Arianism, in the sixteenth, the sale of indulgences by people like John Tetzel. Then came a Reformer: in the fourth century Athanasius; in the sixteenth, Luther. Then came a consolidator, someone who rethink the whole of the Church’s theology in the light of the gains of the Reformation: in the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine; in the sixteenth, Calvin.”
Rev. John Frame
A History of Western Philosophy and Theology — pg. 107
I am convinced that Rev. Frame is on to something here and I would suggest applying this template to a 21st-century setting. However, instead of Greek thought being the syncretistic factor as being added to Biblical thought and categories I would suggest that the syncretistic factor as being added to Biblical thought and categories is the hybrid form of Marxism called “Cultural Marxism.”
Per Rev. Frame’s model, I would offer something like,
1.) 20th-century syncretistic synthesis of Christianity with the Cultural Marxism originating with Antonia Gramsci, as introduced in America by the Frankfurt School (Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, Theodore Adorno, etc.) popularized by the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and embraced in principle by many young Reformed Churchmen who would later become leading light in the Reformed Church. They absorbed this thinking during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and at the very least have said very little to overthrow this warfare on God ordained distinctions.
2.) This syncretism that developed as a combination of Christianity and Cultural Marxism begat the egalitarian heresy that currently infects all of our social order including the Church. The egalitarian heresy has given us a warfare against distinctions wherein ontology as well as roles are flattened out so as to result in a social order where all colors, differences, and distinctions bleed into one. Viva la the distinction-less society.
3.) We are still awaiting a God raised Reformer to emerge to lead the Gideon sized orthodox army to do battle with the multitudinous heretics who currently control the Church.
4.) Then comes the consolidator who will rethink the whole of theology in light of the knowledge gained in what will be a new post tenebras lux.
This is the way that God has worked historically. First, the downgrade as exemplified in one particular person, then the widespread infection, then the battle to heal as exemplified in one particular person, and finally the reconstruction, again, as exemplified in one particular person.
We might add here that with each example in each century (fourth, sixteenth, and prospectively the 21st) the issue really comes down to the Supremacy of God. Athanasius and Luther, each in their times, were contending for the Sovereignty of God vis-a-vis the desire of man to pull God off His throne. The 21st century is no less a battle for the supremacy of God. If the Egalitarian heresy is given in its head then the final outcome will be the removal of the distinction between God and man… between the Creator and the Creature.
It is also interesting here that while the Reformations in question (4th, 16th, 21st) are separated by centuries the formal cause of Reformation in each case is the issue of Scripture as Authoritative. The material causes of Reformation may switch but it seems the formal cause of Reformation is always the issue of whether or not Scripture will be taken as Authoritative. In the 4th century, the Arians refused to come under the authority of Scripture pertaining to the deity of Jesus Christ just as the Medieval Roman Catholic Church refused to submit to the authority of Scripture pertaining to the issue of justification by grace alone just as today the modern church refuses to submit to authority on the issue of God-ordained distinctions. In each Reformation, the formal cause remains the same (the authority of Scripture) while the material cause (the occasion for Reformation) changes.
In reading what I have offered here some may think that I am involved in a kind of Hegelian dialectic where I have posited a Thesis/ Antithesis/ Synthesis. Allow me to note the distinction between the Hegelian dialectic and what I am advocating here.
Our role is to pray that God will work to bring the man and the moment together as He did with Athanasius’s opposition to Arius and as He did with Luther’s opposition to schoolmen of his time.