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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pre-Christ

My classes first assignment was Phaedo by Plato, and I must say... well, I had heard/read many times that Christianity was the child of the marriage of Jerusalem and Athens, but I was stunned by how much "pre-Christianity" was in this dialogue: monotheism, the immortality of the soul, turn the other cheek, a disdain for "the world" and devotion to spiritual purification... even the phrase "through a glass darkly"! Of course, you also get a doctrine -- indeed, what Socrates holds to be a proof -- of re-incarnation, which we don't get in Christianity, but, as I understand, that was actually a disputed point early on, and apparently we easily could have had a Christianity that embraced the idea.

UPDATE: By "easily could have" I mean, of course, from an historian's point of view. If you believe the Church Father's were divinely guided and re-incarnation a false doctrine, then, of course, the rejection of it was inevitable.

4 comments:

  1. I'm not saying that you are implying anything by your post, Gene, but some people have certainly dismissed Christianity as nothing but a collection of pagan myths. E.g. Hercules is the son of Zeus and a mortal mother (right?), just like Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit in mortal Mary, etc.

    Now in the hands of atheists (not you), these parallels prove that it is all just ghost stories, and that not only is Christianity BS, but it's not even original BS.

    However, if we accept for the sake of argument that there really is just one God, He created everything, etc. etc., then it's not amazing that earlier people would have stumbled on some of these truths, even before God (for the sake of argument) literally revealed Himself to Abraham etc.

    The best exposition of this line of apologetics was from GK Chesterton, who said (and I'm going to butcher this) something like:

    "In the most stupefying flourish, the fact that all early civilizations have knowledge of a great flood, is taken as evidence that it never happened."

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  2. "then it's not amazing that earlier people would have stumbled on some of these truths, even before God..."

    Of course. The common explanation of these pre-figurations amongst Christian philosophers is that men like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were great partakers in natural revelation, as opposed to divine revelation.

    "In a most stupefying flourish, the fact that Plato worked out various Christian positions 400 years in advance is taken as evidence that they are false!"

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