Plato to the Rescue for a Lost Culture (Questions from Crown 3!)

7378AFE2-2E31-4EAE-956F-583921C0BE74If you have not, read Plato.

He points you to God (Laws), but he is not a religious fundamentalist. He loves science (Timeaus), but as the founder of philosophy understands any theory is a story we tell ourselves. It is likely, but it might just be useful and not true. Respect science, but do not worship particular takes on reality. They will change. Plato is brutal to an establishment that is sexually confused and morally bankrupt, but preserves what he can of the past.

This is the kind of thinker who develops the best criticism of his brilliant idea (Parmenides), while making every serious scholar take note of that same idea. Plato was, is, and will be read.

In a very Christian Era, where people may not be Christian, but think they are, Plato provokes. This is a thinker who loathes the powerful and so when we were dominant, the greatest philosopher needled us.

Good.

We need the truth, the good, and beauty, not political power and complacent decadence. Plato knows we will be damned if we pursue easy pleasures, maybe eternally (Republic). Given these undeniable truths, it is no surprise a bright Crown College honors student asked*:

How, in a world that seems so hostile to the Christian faith, can we use the works of Plato and his way of reasoning to begin conversations with those who may be skeptical of the Christian faith but who are still searching for answers?

We must recall that the world is not hostile to the Christian message, some dying Western nations are. If you do not want babies, you evidently have less interest in the Christian religion! Nobody should ever think that the “world” is America and Europe. In fact, that very attitude is so prevelant in pop atheism (not serious, scholarly atheism) that if you talk for very long to an Internet atheist, the kind found at Patheos, you will get a big dose of ethnocentrism.

The places that are growing have a growing religious community. Meanwhile here in the denture wearing West, we have tried living as if there is no God and things could not be much more sterile with arthritic aches replacing growing pains. Still if you are at a great Honors Program like Crown College or are a college student at The King’s College (NYC or Houston), then you know that our own home is struggling with Christianity.

When we are “Christian,” the content of our character (Lord have mercy!) does not match the beauty of our message. We need the dialectic, the quest to know self.

Plato is the perfect antidote to thoughtless religion.

Plato is a theist who despises the intellectual fuzziness of the “nones.” He would have even less time for anti-intellectual religion that worships money and power more than principle.  Plato thinks “pleasure” is suspect as the guiding principle in life. We are wealthier than my grandparents could have dreamed, but less happy, more depressed, and uglier.  Plato sits on the shelf of any educated man or woman and as a result of our slide from reason to non-reason, this is the time to pick him up to read.

Nobody educated can just ignore Plato and anyone educated will find him a pain in our assumptions. Can Plato help us? He can and will. How do I know?

The good news is that this works everyday at The Saint Constantine School!

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*The remarkable chair of the Honors Program had some questions for me based on my book When Athens Met Jerusalem. If I get to them all, there are twenty-two questions. Here is: 1, 2, 3.

 


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