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christian platonism

February 26, 2011

Reading dialogues like Gorgias, it’s easy to see why Plato’s philosophy became so influential among many early Christian thinkers and writers. Especially with its strong focus on the importance of virtue, defense of suffering martyrdom in the cause of truth, and concluding myth that all souls are judged after death.

Personally, I think Christianity would be much better off just sticking with Plato and the Jefferson Bible, and getting rid of all that Old Testament, grumpy God business, not to mention most of the writings of Paul. (Thomas Jefferson went so far as to deem him “the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”)

I mean, in Plato, you’ve got all the best things about Christian ethics and theology, just without all the homophobia and gender inequality (especially, e.g., the Symposium and the Republic). It’s hard for me to imagine a perfectly loving God condemning anyone’s sexuality or their expression thereof as an abomination (Lev 20:13), or excluding women from positions of authority in the Church (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

While I don’t believe in a creator God, nor, as a consequence, that Jesus is the son of God/God in the flesh, I do have a soft spot for Jesus as a spiritual teacher, and I think some of the things he’s reported as saying in the New Testament are pretty cool. I especially like, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7), the Sermon on the Mount and his many teachings on forgiveness.

I’ve also found a growing appreciation for Christianity in general; although I do tend to lean more towards the heterodox, which is precisely why I think Platonic rationality and Socratic dialectic would make a much better ethical and theological foundation than rigid, scriptural dogmatism. In fact, from what I’ve read, I bet Socrates and Jesus would’ve been best mates.

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