Skip to comments.Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics: Introduction
Posted on 05/05/2020 1:27:02 PM PDT by CondoleezzaProtege
The power of the word classic cannot be underestimated, communicating as it does the idea of excellence, truth, order, discipline, and beauty.
The word classic brings to mind something that has withstood the test of time, and by virtue of this fact, participates in some way in the timeless and the eternal. And what is the only thing we know of with these attributes but God and His Eternal Word? When looked at this way, every Christian should want a classical education for their children: It has everything we instinctively want.
But when we examine this word classic, we find that there is one, and only one, civilization in all of human history that we call classicthe classical civilization of Greece and Rome, the world that Christ was born into, which was not Christian, but pagan. And there are two, and only two, languages that we call classical: Latin and ancient Greek. And furthermore, the original classics, the real classics you might say, were the works written in these languages by Homer, Plato, Vergil, and Ciceronon-Christians all; and this is what we mean by pagan literature.
So now we have a conundrum. Why do we have to read these pagan classics? After all, they did not know the true God. Their works are full of references to their own false gods. Hasnt all of the ancient wisdom been surpassed anyway? Isnt it all out of date? Why cant we just read modern classics like The Great Gatsby or Huckleberry Finn? Why not read the Bible and good books written by Christiansmodern classics?
Looking for justification, then, we have latched onto the Biblical metaphor, spoiling the Egyptians, given to us by no less a personage than St. Augustine himself. Like the Israelites who grabbed some Egyptian gold on their flight from Egypt, we Christians too can grab some useful tidbits from those pagans. They got some things right, and since all truth is Gods truth, it belongs to us Christians anywayor so the argument goes.
This version hardly does justice to the riches of classical wisdom and, what is worse, many classical Christian educators use the pagan classics mostly to emphasize their errors, rather than mine them for their gold. All of this leads the thoughtful Christian educator to ask again why we are reading these classics in the first place. We can find plenty of bad examples in the modern world.
Obviously this approach to the pagan classics is weak and wholely inadequate to sustain, much less advance, the classical Christian education movement. We need to give our parents and teachers a robust rationale for why we study the pagan writers, and we need to give them, in addition, the knowledge and tools they need to understand and recognize their significance.
What I hope to show is that the pagan classics provide the foundation for all human knowledge and that, without them, we have no hope of making sense of history or our modern world. The pagan classics are the indispensible foundation of a classical education and, what is more, they provide the key to unlocking the errors of modernism. For the Greeks did more than get some things right; they asked all of the important questions and either gave us the right answers or laid the foundation upon which answers could be found. It is not too much to say that the providence of God prepared two sources of lightone human and one divineand both are needed to defend and preserve our civilization and our faith.
Carefully note the difference.
The ancients were humble enough and wise enough to recognize that there are other spiritual entities larger than themselves, who control certain aspects of the world.
That they invented pagan deities to meet this need is irrelevant. The more important fact is that the ancient civilizations all acknowledged the presence of divinity in some form.
Only modern, Christian, western, enlightened beings were arrogant enough and vain enough to cast off all the ancient wisdom and declare themselves atheists. Only in the west, only in formerly Christian countries do you see atheists.
There were no atheists in the ancient, pagan world. (Mic drop).
Perhaps you should pick up your mic.
Thank you for link to article on Lewis :)!
Wow are you ever 100% wrong. There were plenty of atheists in the ancient world, especially in the Greek and Roman world. And don’t drop mics, it’s incredibly rude to the sound guy.
Yes. The traditional saying is that Western civilization was created by the meeting of Rome and Jerusalem. One clear example is provided by the seven canonical virtues, of which four are the cardinal virtues of pagan philosophy (prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice), which the Church Fathers accepted (and to which they added the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity). The orthodox Christian view has always been that right reason and revelation are fully compatible and that, when one discovers an apparent contradiction, one is seeing either bad theology or faulty reason. Reason and revelation are supposed to act as checks on each other.
“Pagan Classics” sounds like the name of a smooth jazz band.
But, yeah, read the aforementioned writers, along with Marcus Aurelius. Some good readin’ to be had there.
They were basically deists, not atheists. The Epicureans decided that, yeah, there was something, but they didnt know what it was and all we had was right here, right now.
I recently listened to an excellent book by N.T. Wright on the Psalms, and he said that essentially that is what the modern world has chosen.
But other Classical thinkers - we have to remember that the official state religion was a mixture of polytheist and emperor worship, which they rejected tacitly so they didnt get persecuted - went much more into the mystery of why we are here, who created us, and what were supposed to do with our time.
Yes, we should read them. Thats why Dante picked Virgil as his first guide (until he reached Paradise, which Virgil could not enter because he wasnt baptized). They used to be referred to, prior to VII, as the virtuous pagans, that is, abiding by Natural Law, which is available to every human being.
>>>What I hope to show is that the pagan classics provide the foundation for all human knowledge<<<
It would seem that the serpent in the garden was all about telling Eve that she needed to just experience the world, to get some of that knowledge that God was keeping her from.
She listened to him, and thus we ended up with the pagan classics a few years later.
Paul said we are better off being simple when it comes to the evil around us.
“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil (Romans 16:19).
AMEN AND AMEN AND AMEN.
The best of the Spanish voyagers to the New World, brought not only a missionary zeal, but the accoutrements of Western thought and development.
Father Kino(an Italian) brought the Gospel, knowledge of building beautiful edifices, animal husbandry, seeds for planting and general education and more.
No siree. The idea of atheists as people who proudly and emphatically reject, rebuke, denounce and denigrate the idea of a spiritual being as deity is completely a modern fabrication. It did not exist before the modern age (last 2-3 centuries).
No there weren’t. They are correctly classified as skeptics or doubters. They were most certainly not what we would call atheists (e.g. Bertrand Russell or Christopher Hitchens).
Yes there absolutely were. You can have your own opinion, but you don’t get your own facts. And the FACT is there WERE atheists in the pagan world. Just because they weren’t $%^holes like Hitchens doesn’t mean they weren’t atheists.
Exactly. Again, to restate my point from above - there were no atheists in any ancient civilization (Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Chinese, Persian, Indian, Mesopotamian, etc.). Avowed atheists, as we understand them (e.g. Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, etc.) are a modern, post-Enlightenment phenomenon.
Nowadays, a little penicillin clears that stuff up.
Socrates probably was one as well.
Many of them claimed that if there was some sort of god then he was not the creator and did not interact with the natural world.
That allowed them to tread the thin line between being exiled or executed and just being weird.
Of course there weren’t atheists back then. The fedora was centuries from being invented, and Reddit came even later than that.
Thanks. You didn't intend it but you just promoted a sale by Amazon. I'm a Psalms fan from way back.
C.S. Lewis of course, 5 large volumes of rabbinical commentary including Rashi, a transliteration Hebrew to English, several books like Bringing the Psalms to Life by Daniel Polish, and a really excellent large format book From Your Lips to God's Ear by Reuben Ebrahimoff which classifies the types,purposes and musical instruments noted and all that.
As with all my Bible study I feel each year that I know a smaller and smaller amount of the immensity of what is out there to be known. I listen to Morning Glory just about every morning and love to hear the daily psalm and quick comment. Thanks again for the tip about the Wright book.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.