Alcinous, a pagan philosopher of the second century AD claimed that God is “eternal, ineffable, self-sufficient, without need . . . and perfect in every respect.” The only way to know such a God was to ascend from earthly things to higher realities: “First one contemplates the beauty found in bodies, after this one passes on to the beauty of the soul, then to the beauty in customs and laws, then to the vast ocean of beauty; after this one conceives of the good itself . . . which appears as light and shines on the soul as it makes its ascent. Then one comes to the idea of God because of his preemninence in honor.”
Celsus agreed, and faulted Christians for being so earthy. Instead of ascending past sensible things to the intellectual realm, Christians said that God had made Himself known in flesh, and continues to give Himself in water and wine, bodies and bread. Christians were so earthly-minded that they could be no heavenly good.