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HISTORY of Christian Theology

Socrates (470–399 B.C.) is the most famous philosopher for a reason. Philosophers before him were mainly concerned with explaining physical phenomena and less concerned with the inner man. Socrates is credited with being the father of philosophy because he taught that the individual must begin by first examining himself. One needs to “Know thyself” in order to examine the world. Even then, he exclaimed, “One thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.” The basis of his approach to reason was to doubt everything, be inquisitive, and to ask questions. He taught by asking questions, a practice utilized in law schools to this day. The Socratic method insists on defining terms before any debate, logical thinking and accurate analysis. He believed in one God, but endeavored to create a moral system independent of religion that was reasonable for all to follow, regardless of their religious understanding. He gave birth to philosophy that was concerned with the morality of humans and society and not simply based on our interaction with the material world.

However, many of his contemporaries were upset with his corrupting influence on the youth of his day. He wandered about with no visible means of support, entertaining the questions of wealthy youth who flocked to him. He undermined their faith in the gods of Olympus and the established order of their civilization. He distrusted democracy for its tendency to dumb down society and reward mediocrity. When an aristocratic minority’s revolution failed, Socrates’ fate was set. Even though he was personally quite pacific, he was still the intellectual source of the rebellion. Given a chance to recant or escape by bribery, he refused. He stated that he had to remain true to the inner voice that directed his thoughts and actions. So hemlock became his last meal while several faithful followers endeavored to save him. One of those followers was Plato (428–348 B.C.), the Greek philosopher who would have a huge influence on formative early Christian concepts. Upon reading Plato’s apology for Socrates, one of my astonished teenage sons remarked, “I didn’t know ancient philosophers believed in following the voice of the Spirit, like they teach in Church?” Socrates’ dedication to truth still influences youth today.

Greek Philosophy

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