If Greek philosophy was “foolishness”, how did it come to shape Christian thinking as we know it today?

In the days of the Apostle Paul, it was common for the society surrounding the early Christians to compare The Way to their own pagan religions. It was common for the Apostle Paul to present the Gospel next to the menu of philosophical ideas that the Greeks enjoyed discussing. The epistles also show the sentiments of the Apostle regarding the philosophies of those times, in comparison to the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Accordingly, the Cross often contrasted as foolishness – counter-intuitive to those interested in philosophies of the day.

Theologians are recognising the sway of Western thought on Christian theology as we know it today (such as Nancy Pearcey, Brian McLaren and even our own Hwa Yung). Some would argue that the building blocks of the Western mind are Greek philosophy and more recently the Enlightenment. It is widely accepted that Augustine structured his theology after the Platonic perspective, while Aquinas provided a more Aristotelian framework.

Nevertheless, there is an important relationship between philosophy and faith. After all philosophy emerged out of a knowledge of the divine, attempting to see God in the midst of human existence and experience.

If the Cross appeared foolish to philosophers, how did it shape Christian thinking? Specifically, how did Greek philosophy influence Christian thinking? Doesn’t it make our conception of our faith more exclusively Western? What is the proper way for philosophy and faith to intermingle with each other?

Join Debbie as she speaks to Alwyn for a conversation on his columns, the cross and how Greek philosophers have shaped Christian thinking.


Dr. Alwyn Lau

Alwyn Lau is best known for his column in the Malay Mail online, where he comments on life in urban Malaysia and all the trappings of modern living, such as consumerism, the drive to perform and current issues. He challenges the practices of urban living that we have taken as normal and questions the why of what we do. Dr Alwyn Lau has a Bachelor’s degree of Divinity from the University of London and more recently a PhD in political philosophy. He is a learning and development practitioner attached to a local private university college. His areas of interest include philosophical theology, Malaysian studies, religion and apologetics.