plato, socrates & yolo

It seems like my head is always in the ancient world.  History is a definitive factor  in every conclusion I come to.  It is why I have a strong faith that the person of Jesus came, died and raised to life again and appeared to over 500 people including the Apostle Paul, who had previously persecuted the church.  I am always going back to history because it informs the present so much.  It answers the question, “Why?”

If we have deep questions about our society, they can usually be traced back to their origins in history.  I have always wondered why there were huge segments of people that say they believe in Jesus and look nothing like him.  When I became a Christian, I immediately read the entire New Testament.  I didn’t understand people who called themselves Christians but looked nothing like Jesus.

I found what I was looking for in the writings and beliefs of Plato and Socrates.  They believed that the body and soul were completely separate.  They believed that the soul pre-exists the physical body and that the body may indulge in whatever impulses it may have at the time.  The thought was that as long as the soul worshiped and the body took care of its needs, then the person would be fine, the soul lived beyond the physical anyway.

I think this belief has infiltrated our minds in a powerful way.  There is the old cliché of, “living like a saint on Sunday and a sinner the rest of the week.”  There are widely held societal beliefs as simple as, “YOLO.” (You Only Live Once) It’s what all the kids are saying these days.  The thought behind YOLO is since you only live once you should try everything once, for students who are trying to follow Jesus this flys in the face of denying yourself and taking up your cross. The implicit philosophy of this belief is everything is beneficial because you only live one time.  However, not everything is beneficial.

I think the idea of a separate body and soul that have the ability to live in opposition to each other has done a lot of damage to Christian witness.  This kind of duality allows you to physically partake in some activities that are damaging to your health or spiritual vitality.  Remember Paul tells the church in Corinth that their bodies were bought at a price, so honor God with your body.  I’m pretty sure Jesus, Paul or John don’t teach YOLO.  I think the New Testament idea is that you relinquish your rebellious spirit to God and allow him to fill you with His Spirit. When we relinquish our self to Jesus and are guided entirely by Him, this duality that I have described begins to die.

The denomination that I am a part of is a Holiness denomination,  Holiness simply describes what happens when you surrender your life to Jesus and allow Him to fill it.  It describes the change in thinking and desires to glorify God with your life rather than living for your own glory.  So, why is it so hard to call people to holiness? Maybe it has something to do with Plato and Socrates and YOLO.


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  • Jonathan Yoni Callahan

    Aaaaaactually, this completely ignores the fact that Plato and Socrates were strict advocates of eternal education in all aspects of life. They’re not saying “try everything”, they’re saying “learn everything”. This article was written by someone who doesn’t really understand the minds of Plato and Socrates, and assumed that the idiots going out and saying “YOLO” as an excuse to do really really stupid things, without understanding that that is the exact opposite of what Plato and Socrates intended. Don’t insult geniuses of the past by blaming them for the stupidity of the present.

    • reclaimbeauty

      I’m not sure why I didn’t see this comment 5 months ago, but the only point that I was trying to make here is not to criticize these ancient geniuses, but to shed light on the way our culture has interpreted them. I admiralty have only read some of the basics of these philosophers and do not mean to say that our world is in the shape it is in because of them. There is clearly much more going on here. Thank you for your comment, I think you have straightened this out quite well.