The Gospel According to Plato

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428-347 B.C.) believed that everything in the material world is a shadow of that which is eternally true, beautiful, and good. While what we see is imperfect, especially concerning humans, there is something about humanity (and all other facets of the material world) that leads us to conclude that there is a commonality among humans. Plato would say that we, like a batch of gingerbread cookies, are all cut from the same mold. I don’t think that he would say that humans are created in “the image of God,” but the concept is incredibly similar.

In the remarkable novel, Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder takes a young girl on a tour of the history of philosophy. Concerning Plato’s ideas about the material world being a shadow of the eternally true, beautiful, and good, Gaarder says, that even though the cookies possess various flaws, “You are seized by the irresistible desire to see this mold… because clearly, the mold itself must be utter perfection—and in this sense, more beautiful—in comparison to these crude copies.”

As I read that I was struck by Plato’s insight, and how stunned he might have been to discover how correct he was, for the mold has been revealed in the person of Jesus, who in his incarnation became the revelation of the eternally true, beautiful, and good, and in his crucifixion, took on my deception, ugliness, and evil, so that—by the wonder of sheer grace—I might be declared eternally true, beautiful, and good (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Gaarder said that I would be seized by an irresistible desire to see the mold and I am. An irresistible desire to see and to savor Jesus, the ultimate mold of the beautiful, good, and true.

So thank you, Plato, for such an unintentional, yet helpful insight into the gospel.