Why Classical Studies and Christianity?
I remember having lunch with my Pastor a few years ago and explaining that I was about to pursue a M.A. in Classical Studies. He looked at me with a tilted head and slight smile and asked, “why classical studies if you are planning to pursue Christian ministry?”. My response was short and to the point. I stated, “Christianity was birthed in the middle of the Classical world”. As has often been pointed out by professor Gage, “God was preparing the world for the Gospel”. Through the writings men like Plato, Aristotle, and Heraclitus, the world was being introduced to the mystical intelligent force of the universe known as the Logos. Plato’s Republic foreshadowed the coming of Christ through the dependence of humanity on a fixed-point of Justice. Through men seeking to know more about their world, not just in the physical sense but in the metaphysical as well, God was leading their discovery to him. Their philosophy was committed to knowing truth and they were slowly beginning to paint a portrait of what the face of that truth looked like so the world would recognize Christ.
The Logos was the transcendent divine intelligence innately within the universe by which we could exist and more importantly know that we exist. It defined justice as an immaterial target to aim toward. It expressed the moral goodness on which virtue and love found solidarity. The Logos was considered divine not because it was thought to exist but because it must exist, and all things existed because of it. To Plato, the Logos was the force that drove his Theory of Forms. To Aristotle, it was the foundation on which all reasoning could be understood. The Apostle John would build his Gospel on this understanding when introducing the world to Christ (John 1:1-14). Christ was the Logos that became flesh for the world to see. Similarly, Paul would interpret Classical philosophy when explaining the mysteries of heaven as revealed through Christ. He would build upon Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to explain that the things of this earth in worship and service to God were shadows of the reality found in Christ (1 Cor. 13:12; Heb. 8:5; Col. 2:17). The shadowy figures were only a blurry representation of the truth, and Christ was the ultimate light by which all things were visible.
These Classical concepts prepared the world to accept Christ as the Logos, and ultimately as God. The reason a Classical education is not only relevant but important to Christianity, is because God has been at work in all men to bring about his purpose of redemption and salvation. And he has been progressively building his rhetoric for all men to believe. Truth is truth whether given from an ancient Greek philosopher, or an Apostle. Christ is that truth and the classical world was the appointed time God prepared as his stage to announce it.
- Gage, Warren. “Aeschylus and Aristotle Lectures.” Knox Theological Seminary, 23 Aug. 2017, knoxseminary.edu/moodle/mod/page/view.php?id=11946.
- Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes: The Republic, Translated by Paul Shorey. Vol. 5. Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1969.
- Aristotle. Aristotle in 23 Volumes: Rhetoric, Translated by J. H. Freese.Edited by J. H. Freese. Vol. 22. Medford, MA: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann Ltd., 1926.
- Ibid., Plato, Book VII