Thursday, August 29, 2013

Part 2: The Uniqueness of Jesus in Contrast to Socrates

Who Was Socrates?

Socrates was born about 470 B.C. when the Greek Empire was flourishing.  His parents were wealthy and he was well educated in philosophical matters.  He began his campaign to teach truth and right when he heard from the Oracle at Delphi that he was the wisest man in the world.  Socrates was sure that this could not be true, but after speaking with many other wise men, he concluded that it must be true because he was the only one who knew that he was not the wisest man in the world. However, Jesus is clearly superior in many respects.

Do We Have Any of His Writings?

Socrates did not leave any writings, but Plato, his disciple, wrote a great deal about him, though these accounts may reflect as much as Plato’s thoughts as Socrates’.  Plato presents Socrates as a man convinced that God has appointed him the task of promoting truth and goodness by making examine their words and deeds to see if they are true and good.  Vice, in his opinion, was merely ignorance and knowledge led to virtue.  He is credited as the first man to recognize a need to develop a systematic approach to discovering truth, though the system itself was ultimately formulated by Aristotle – a disciple of Plato.  

Similar to Christ, Socrates was condemned to death on the basis of false accusations from authorities who were threatened by his teaching.  He could have been acquitted if he had not insisted on making his accusers and judges examine their own statements and lives, which they were unwilling to do.  He was content to die, knowing that he had carried out his mission to the end, and that death, whether a dreamless sleep or a wonderful fellowship of great men, was good.  

So. . . How is Jesus Superior to Socrates?  

Despite Socrates' conclusions, that it must be true because he was the only one who knew that he was not the wisest man in the world, Jesus is still superior in the following ways:

Jesus had a superior basis for truth:  Jesus like Socrates, often used questions to make men examine themselves, but His basis for knowing truth about men and God was rooted in the fact that He was the all-knowing God.  He said of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  He was, in His very being, the fount from which all truth ultimately flowed.  Likewise, as God, He was the absolute goodness by which all other goodness is measured.  He once asked a young man to examine his words by saying, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is good except God alone?” (Mark 10:18).  Jesus was the ultimate truth and the good which Socrates wanted to understand. 

Jesus gave a more certain knowledge of the truth:  While Socrates taught many true principles, he often was left to speculate about many important issues, such as what happens at death.  Jesus, on the other hand, gave as sure answer to such questions because He had a sure knowledge of man’s destination.  Where reason (Socrates) has insufficient evidence to make a definite conclusion, revelation (Jesus) gives answers that would otherwise would not be known.  And Jesus is the only One who has died, and come back to tell us all about what happens after this life is done.

Jesus’ death was more noble:  Socrates died for a cause and did so with courage, which is certainly to be commended.  However, Jesus died as a substitute for sinners (Mark 10:45) to pay the penalty that they deserved.  Not only did He die for those who were and are His friends, but also for those who were and would remain His enemies (Rom. 5:6-7).  Such a demonstration of love cannot be equaled by any philosophy or philosopher.

Jesus’ proof of His message is superior:  Rational proofs are good when there are sound evidences for their conclusions.  But Socrates cannot support his claim to be sent by God with anything that compares to the miracles of Christ and His resurrection.  In these acts there is a superior proof that Jesus’ message was authenticated by God the Father as true.  

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, and if we have the Word of God, we have the true message from God on how we should then live.  No philosopher or philosophy can match the teachings and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  That is what makes Him unique to Socrates.

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