Sunday, June 24, 2012

Old Friends: Plato

Plato influenced just about every philosophy of Western civilization.  I like him.  C.S. Lewis liked him.  Augustine liked him.  Most people who know what they are talking about like Plato.  Plato greatly influenced the world where Jesus was born.  

Here is the main doctrine attributed to Plato:  The world that we see is full of errors, but a more real world exists outside of this world.  It is populated by “forms.”  If you see a table in real life, there is a more perfect form of the table in the truer reality, and the table we see is just a shadow of that form. 

This is good because it reminds people that there is so much more to life than what we can see in the world.  Things like money, toys, jobs, houses, lots of children, are good things but we will lose them all someday.  There is an invisible world with a perfection that cannot be lost.

Plato understood the ideal part of life to be abstract: goodness, equality, bigness, likeness, unity, being, sameness, difference, change, and changelessness are abstract qualities that cannot be seen (Kraut).  If you see an object, again a table, and it appears beautiful or good or just, etc., then that table represents a truly beautiful table in the perfect unseen world.  A person is wise to keep in mind the things of the greater world while still in touch with the current, less perfect world.

Plato’s views, however, also impacted the world negatively.  Centuries later, Plotinus ( heard Plato’s views and started to believe that all matter was evil.  To be free from matter, you have to live an ascetic life to ponder the invisible things.  However, God created bodies and matter to be good.  Yes, sin corrupts them, but God sent his Son with a body to redeem our bodies for the world to come.

God never intended for people to live apart from the world.  Genesis 2:18 is the first negative thing that God said about his creation, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  God created people to need each other and to help each other live in this world, to “be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28). 

There are times when people should be alone to contemplate the Lord.  Lonely people have more of that time.  However, God only intended that time for once a week, on a special day called the Sabbath.  Exodus 20:11 proclaims that for six days you are to work and on the seventh day focus on resting and interacting with God.  Does that mean we don’t interact with God the other six days?  No.  If I did not spend some time every day reading the Bible, I’d be aching spiritually.  However, during the week, we live in the world, work, and care for other people.  The Sabbath is for Christians to revive each other in worship of the Lord and to interact with him as he unites us.  The rest of the week is to take God’s love and impact the world with it. 

So do contemplate the next world, but don’t forget that you still live here.

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