Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Terminology Tuesday: Platonism

Platonism: The philosophical system of the Greek philosopher Plato, which has immeasurably influenced Western thought. Plato's philosophy rests primarily on his concept of forms, cosmology and immortality. According to Plato, actual created things are imperfect copies of transcendent, objective and eternal "forms," the highest of which is the form of the Good. Human knowledge is innate and can be apprehended by rational reflections and Socratic "extraction." At death the body releases the imprisoned soul, which is then able to contemplate truth in its pure form.1

1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 91.


bossmanham said...

Hmm, you just undid the comment moderation and you almost immediately get Chinese spam. Gotta love the internet.

Ex N1hilo said...

As I understand it - and I am certainly no expert on Plato - his philosophical system lacks the concept of creation, as Christians know it. There is no personal God who is distinct from creation. All things exist on a continuum of being. Ideas and forms occupy the highest positions in this continuum. Material objects and our perceptions of them are near the bottom. Yet it is all part of a single unified reality.

Plato makes a sharp distinction between the forms and the physical world, but ultimately all things emanate from the form of the Good, and so, are one in being with it. This makes Platonism ultimately monistic. There is really only one thing.

Plato was a brilliant thinker and I hope I have not butchered his philosophy too badly. My point is we ought not to equate either the form of the Good or Plato's Demiurge with the God of scripture, nor the idea of emanation (developed most fully in later Neo-Platonist thought) with biblical creation.

While we can recognize that Plato and those who followed him had some valuable insights; without the special revelation that we possess in the Bible, it is impossible for anyone to truly understand the nature of our existence.

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