In the World it is called tolerance

English evangelical Dorothy Sayers warns us, “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” This discussion, illustrated with increased freqency in contemporary society, is an age old world view discussion.

All contemporary worldview discussions can be traced one way or another to Plato and Aristotle. Plato was the Pharisee of his day—the conservative, the one who believeed that the gods were intimately involved with human beings. His “Republic” was a perfect society based on the notion that mankind was creating a city based on the word of the gods. Cosmology, or the presence of supernatural being(s), in other words, was very important to Plato. Likewise, to the Pharisee, who believed strongly in the Resurrection, the supernatural was very involved in human life. To Plato, the gods defined reality.

Aristotle, on the other hand, in his important essay Poetics, argued that the world was governed by impersonal laws. Aristotle argued that mankind defined who the gods were. As long as the gods were alive and well, they did not much concern themselves with the world. Therefore, mankind should be concerned about finding out about his world without worrying about the gods. This view was evident again in the Sadducees—who rejected the suppernatural—and later in philosophers like David Hume. Discussing Heellenistic philosophy is for the reason of pointing out that the struggle over worldview is over three thousand years old. It is the struggle that Elijah joined when he fought King Ahab. King Ahab was a good Jew; the problem was he did not live his life as if God were actually alive. Is God intentionally involved in the affairs of mankind or is He not? The answer to this question is more or less the battle that is raging on college campuses today.

Plato had a great influence upon Christianity. A Roman author named Plotinus (204-270 A.D.) combined Plato’s philosophy with a heightened emphasis on personal relationship with God. His work deeply affected Augustine of Hippo. In Augustine, Plato’s division of the world into the reality of True Being, as well as the separation of the soul from the body, were given Christian interpretations. In a sense, Augustine’s “beatific vision of God” (Book IV, Ch. 16) is very similar to Plato’s “gazing upon the forms.” Paul, a student of Greek philosophy, was deeply affected by Plato. The Holy Spirit led Paul to write: “So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Can you find other examples of Platonic influences on the Apostle Paul’s writings? Next, can you find examples of the cultural war raging in your world? Of course the most famous is 1 Corinthians 13 where love is presented as a perfect “form.” In fact though, any reference to the Resurrection (e.g., 1 Cor. 15) hints at Platonic influence. Today, there are battles raging everywhere. The question is, “Is our society to be based on human experience or on the Word of an unseen God?”

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