Let’s Shed Some Platonism!

Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377So, let’s have a quick lesson on the teachings of Plato. In Platonic thought there are two categories. In the first category there is the true essence; the wonderful perfect form of something; the ideal. Then in the other category there is the visible copy of the ideal in the here and now. Confused? Yes, I get confused in thinking about this stuff too. Let me see if I can boil it down a little more simply.

Take a baseball bat for example. In Platonic thought/philosophy there is a perfect bat that exists ‘out there’ (i.e., the good form) and all the bats that we have in our possession, that we can see and feel, are mere imperfect copies of the perfect bat. In fact our idea and our construction of a baseball bat is supposedly sourced in the true and good bat.

This all may seem somewhat ridiculous, but we seriously are impacted by this Platonic thought. For example, one of the main ways that our western thought is impacted by Platonism is that we see the true and good form as wonderful and everything else in the here and now as imperfect copies. Thus, we can fall into the wrong thinking that spiritual things are good whereas things that are material are bad. In fact, Plato taught that it was the goal of us as humans to escape our evil material bodies. Material is bad for it is only an imperfect copy, right? Therefore, we not only regard material as bad and spiritual as good, we end up categorizing things according to these two categories.

Today in my Confessions class the professor gave us some words and asked us to organize them. Why don’t you take a chance to arrange them into two categories too.

Soul – Body – God – Earth – Frog – Heaven – Rock

So, how would you arrange them? Chances are you did something like this!

Group #1
God
Soul
Heaven

Group #2
Earth
Rock
Body
Frog

If you organized the words into the groups above, BINGO, you just organized them according to Platonic thought. Notice that you put spiritual things in group #1 and material things in group #2? This is most certainly a result of being influenced by Platonism and not the Bible.

Rather, when we look at these same words above and arrange them according to the Bible we see something drastically different.

Group #1
God

Group #2
Earth
Rock
Body
Frog
Soul
Heaven

Notice the Bible and our Historic Confessions give us different categories? Group #1 is the creator. Group #2 is the created. This is important because material things matter to God. He created the heavens and the earth and declared all things ‘Very Good!’ Yes, the fall of Genesis 3 happened, but that was not due to God, lest we blaspheme creation. Rather, we believe, teach, and confess that all of God’s creation has been created good, we marred it by our sin, and God is the one putting everything back together again through the atonement of Christ and at the long awaited second coming.

So what other areas have you been influenced by Platonic thought?

 

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