Plato is often termed the father of Western philosophy. His ideas have had a massive impact on the West, including on Christian thinkers, and continue to do so even today. But how indebted is Christianity to Plato? Did Christianity come from Plato’s philosophy? T.S. from Spain writes:
I´m a student and I´m trying to do a research of philosophy vs Christianity to do a project for my philosophy teacher. He said that Christianity came from Plato’s philosophy (theory of forms). I´m really not agree with that. I would like to know how to refute that. And what articles would be better to share with him from your website. Thank you and God bless.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Plato’s philosophy was by no means the historical ground from which Christianity sprouted. Historically speaking, Christianity is a form of early Jewish messianism—it was birthed in a 1st century AD Palestinian Jewish milieu in which there was a lot of messianic speculation. Many Jews of the period hoped that the Messiah would come and overthrow the Romans, and establish universal Israelite rule. Jesus came into that context claiming to be the Jewish Messiah, though with a very different agenda than what many Jews were expecting. Of course, to understand any of this, one needs to be familiar with the Old Testament—the creative and sovereign supremacy of the God of Israel, His promise to Israel to make them a nation of priests and a light to the world, and the historical dealings God had with Adam, Noah, and Abraham before that, and David and his royal line after that. In other words, the foundational corpus for understanding the ideological origins of Christianity is not Plato’s dialogues, but the Old Testament. Christianity certainly didn’t start off as a Greek philosophical school of thought.
Nonetheless, in terms of philosophy, Christianity does share some important features with Plato. The New Testament writers believed that we remain conscious after physical death (e.g. Philippians 1:23), as Plato did. The Bible rejects atheism and materialism, as Plato did. Both believed in a supreme beneficent reality. Both believed that the physical universe was designed.
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