A reader of this blog, also a good friend of mine, has asked me to explain a little about a comment I made about the ‘platonic view of going to heaven when you die’. In this post I will attempt to explain this, although a good place to start is in a previous blog which offers a introduction to the book ‘Creation Regained’
The church is influenced by culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the message of the church has always made use of aspects of culture in its proclamation. In using a language to communicate (greek, english), or using modern technology in services, we see that culture can be used by the Church. However, the church should not take on culture and ideological stances which are out of tune with the biblical witness. A church which wholeheartedly accepts ‘extreme consumerism’ and allows it to shape its message is in danger of losing its ability to critique the world view of its day. Back to ‘Plato’- The church has throughout history allowed its theology to be shaped by presuppositions which come more from Plato that the biblical-Hebraic worldview.
A Bluffers Guide to Plato
Plato thought that the world around us is not the real world, it is an illusion. The real world, the world of ideas, is available to those philosophers who allow their ‘souls to guide them. We should understand soul as being something separate from the physical. Wikipedia offers the following description of the platonic understanding of soul.
Plato, drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, considered the soul as the essence of a person, being, that which decides how we behave. He considered this essence as an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being. As bodies die the soul is continually reborn in subsequent bodies. The Platonic soul comprises three parts:
- the eros (appetitive, or desire)
Perhaps the most famous story in the history of western philosphy is Plato’s ‘allegory of the cave’ (probably closely followed by Neitczhe mad man and the lamp). I have inclued Plato’s account as a file attachment. See http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm
We need to leave the cave of the supposed real world and enter into the wolld of forms/ideas. He real world is a shadow. Watch the video as a weird funny kind of explanation of Plato.
Platonic and Biblcial Christianity
Christianity has modified and Christianised this platonic view. A stereotype, but all to familiar, of Christianity+Platonism sounds like this.
The aim of life is to leave this world and get to heaven. The physical is bad/neutral so we need to concentrate on the spiritual things. Jesus ‘saves our souls’. We should spend our lives getting other souls saved.
In contrast the biblical worldview is that God has created a real-physical world. It is a gift which, has been perverted by sin. God has embarked on a rescue mission through Israel and climaxing in Jesus whereby the hope of Christianity is the resurrection of the body and restored earth. A Hebraic view of the soul is seeing the soul as including the whoel of the person, physical, spiritual, emtional… all bound up to form the soul.
The implications of a biblical worldview are huge as Christianity becomes life embracing and not world rejecting. I offer the following examples of a biblical worlview in action. This list is far from exhaustive.
|Biblical Worldview||Stereotype of Platonic Christianity|
|Wine is a gift from God. As Christians we celebrate the creation in the drinking of wine. God delights in people enjoying his creation. Wine is a good gift, but we should be ware of distorting the gift through drunkenness.||Wine is not spiritual. It is either a neutral act or evil|
|The purpose of life is to glorify God. God is glorified when we celebrate creation and work for its redemption. We should be involved in evangelism but Christianity is not simply about getting others saved.||We should get saved and then work at getting others saved. Anything else is irrelevant|
|We look forward to the God coming to reign on earth, the resurrection of our bodies, we look forward to an eternity of playing, food, culture…. praising Jesus…. exploration….||We look forward to disembodied bliss.We look forward to our should going to heaven.
We look forward to singing hymns forever
|The church is one important aspect of life. Family, Work, Leisure are equally as important||Church is the most important thing in life|
|God calls people to all aspects of work and people should see their work as being a part of their Christian life.||Vicars are serving God full-time and non-Vicars can serve God part-time in incidences when they go to church or are involved in evangelism.|
Yes I have been sterotyping Platonic Christianity but this helps us see the issues. This post is not meant to exhaustive but a quick tour of some of the issues. In a future post I may offer a more academic and in-depth look at platonic influence on the church. Comments and questions are most welcome.