We held our first 'Philosopher's Book Club' last night. Five egg-heads and one confused curate (me!) did our best to tackle Plato.
I quite enjoyed it actually. If you've read my sermon of last Sunday (posted on Saturday) you'll know already that I rather like Plato's analogy of a Cave. (You'll have to read the sermon to know what I'm talking about). But more generally, I've enjoyed dipping my toe into the shallows of the great ocean of philosophy.
The word philosophy essentially means "love of wisdom"...and one of its prime functions is to make me think...to question everything that we usually take for granted, hold it up to the light of reason, and see whether it makes sense.
Of course, understanding God isn't always achieved simply through reason. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, (chapter 1), Paul described the Gospel as 'foolishness'...and rhetorically demands, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age?" He goes on to say that "the world in its foolishness did not know Him" (referring to God). In a very telling phrase, Paul then goes on to state flatly that "the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom".
The Gospel can, in fact, look foolish when you consider it from afar.
We have a heavenly king who was born in a stable.
We have a king who rides on a donkey.
We have a Lord who was nailed to a cross.
By his death, we have life.
In Paul's words, "God has made foolish the wisdom of the world".
Here is another delicious Christian irony, which should have an impact on the way we live our lives: "in his service, is perfect freedom". Jesus is the only master who promises his servants that by serving him they will find freedom.
There is, of course, much in philosophy that can aid us in living better lives as well. Plato believed that justice, knowledge and happiness were bound up in a virtuous circle.
Not a bad target to strive for!