But in this vast philosophy of God and the world, which possesses an absolute value as the “substance of what has been revealed” and as “orthodox doctrine,” there are two elements which radically distinguish it from Greek religious philosophy and invest it with an entirely original character. I do not mean the appeal which it makes to revelation—for to that the Neoplatonists also appealed— but the idea of creation and the doctrine of the God-Man nature of the Saviour. They traverse the scheme of Greek religious philosophy at two critical points, and have therefore always been felt to be alien and intolerable by its genuine representatives.
The idea of creation we can deal with in a few words. It is undoubtedly an element which is as important as it is in thorough keeping with the Gospel. It abolishes all intertwining of God and world, and gives expression to the power and actuality of the living God. Attempts were not wanting, it is true, among Christian thinkers on Greek soil—just because they were Greeks—to conceive the Deity only as the uniform power operating in the fabric of the world, as the unity in diversity, and as its goal. Traces of this speculative idea are even still to be found in the Church doctrine; the idea of creation, however, triumphed, and therewith Christianity won a real victory.
The subject of the God-Man nature of the Saviour is one on which it is much more difficult to arrive at a correct opinion. It is indubitably the central point in the whole dogmatic system of the Greek Church. It supplied the doctrine of the Trinity. In the Greek view these two doctrines together make up Christian teaching in nuce. When a Father of the Greek Church once said, as he did say: “The idea of the God-Man nature, the idea of God becoming a man, is what is new in the new, nay, is the only new thing under the sun,” not only did he correctly represent the opinion of all his fellow-believers, but he also at the same time strikingly expressed their view that, while sound intelligence and earnest reflection yield all the other points of doctrine of themselves, this one lies beyond them. The theologians of the Greek Church are convinced that the only real distinction between the Christian creed and natural philosophy is that the former embraces the doctrine of the God-Man nature, including the Trinity. Side by side with this, the only other doctrine that can at most come in question is that of the idea of creation.