Socrates, Dying,
& Truth-Seeking

[An email I sent out sometime in 2000, I think...  E. Fox)

 

Fellow Christians,
 
        I just read the following passage in the current issue of Touchstone and was deeply moved by it.  I had taken a course in Plato in college, majoring in philosophy, and remember reading his (really Plato's) account of his death in Plato's dialogues, but did not quite know what to make of it then.  (from Plato's Apology)
 

        You think that I was convicted because I had no words of the sort which would have procured my acquittal....  Not so; the deficiency which led to my conviction was not of words -- certainly not.  But I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me....  I would rather die having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live.  For neither in war nor yet at law ought I or any man to use every way of escaping death.  Often in battle there can be no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is willing to say and do anything. 

        The difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.

 

[Comment: In the reading, I was convicted of cowardice, realizing that I would not likely have given anything like the response Socrates gave to his accusers.  Some Christians today are willingly and amazingly laying down their lives for Christ, but most of us -- I wonder.   The Lord led me to a renewed commitment to be willing to die for truth at any cost to myself in a way that I have never felt.

I think Socrates (and Plato) will be among those to whom the Lord will say:
    "Come, o blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For you encouraged me when I felt cowardly, you spoke to me the truth when I was ignorant, you challenged me when I would have taken the easier road...." 

I had to wrestle through some hard issues with the Lord.  What if I gave my life for the truth, and the truth turned out to be that He was not there?  The Lord responded that I must be willing to die for the truth in either case, for if I am not, the world, the flesh, and/or the devil will put me right at that fork, I will choose the easier path, and I will never know the truth of whether or not He is there.  We must first be truth-seekers if we are to be disciples of Jesus.  We will do it poorly, of course, but then He will draw us more and more deeply into that commitment.  "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 

Following Jesus is a radical journey in truth-seeking.  We must "continue" at any cost to ourselves.

I take issue with much of Greek philosophy, chiefly the depersonalization of the cosmos which it implies.   But I rejoice in the beginning attempts to seek rational understanding, the beginnings of the sharpening of our intellects, and the commitment to truth.   All that is part of the "fullness of time" which the Lord was preparing for the Incarnation.  Christendom is still working out the implications of that.   We jumped the track planned for us by the Lord when we failed to integrate the rise of science and the development of due process in law, the two crown jewels of Western Civ., into our Christian worldview.   We MUST get back on track.  E. Fox]   

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