Christianity and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

The text to follow is borrowed from a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Parawan. As of late I’ve had many run-ins with tying together the content of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave with the lives and struggles of Christians, so I trudged through some old conversations to compile this post. I pray that this will provide a unique insight on our lives as christians, our call to share the Gospel, and the Truth that Jesus enlightens our hearts and cures our blindness to see the significant realities around us (See John 1:6-13 & John 9).

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In Plato’s Cave Theory, there are men and women who are born in chains inside a cave (go figure!).  From adolescence into adulthood, their entire lives are spent in captivity, and their heads are placed into a metal vice that prevents them from looking anywhere but forward, facing a giant cave wall.  While no one knows exactly who is around them, they are aware of each others’ presence.  What they are not aware of is that they are enslaved; since they have no concept or understanding of what “freedom” is, they do not know that they are not free.

Behind them are guards that hold figures of the world (i.e. a wooden cutout of a house, horse, etc.) against a fire and the shadows of these figures are cast onto the cave wall which the prisoners are facing.  That’s how they interpret and understand the world and their “reality”; through shadows.

One day, one of the prisoners is miraculously freed.  He stumbles out of the cave and into the real world, seeing true light (the sun) for the first time and all of that which its glow falls upon.  At that point, he has two options: run away into the world and finally live his life, or return to the cave to warn the others of their enslavement.  He surprisingly chooses the latter and runs back into the cave to warn his fellow prisoners.  He tells them that they are not “free” and that they are slaves inside a cave.  To his shock, many of them become quite angry with him, and violently threaten to kill him if he does not stop with his “lunatic ravings”.  The rest are too afraid to even take the risk of believing that there is more to their lives than what they have known inside the cave.

Here’s the twist: the man who was free was already free; he just had to believe he was.  They have the power to free themselves from their prison, yet they choose not to.

See, many Christians choose to live their lives this way; we know we’ve been set free in Christ yet we choose to live like we’re still imprisoned in darkness!  We’re content with false light (the fire) and are too willing to believe that shadows have substance.  Because we’re truly afraid of what the light will reveal.  The true light (the sun) revealed to the man who ran from the cave the state of his imprisonment; it showed him how blind he was.  And now that he had Truth, he was faced with the responsibility of what to do with it: share it or suppress it.  In the same way, we’re given that same choice.

Again, the text above is the interpretation/contribution of my good friend Elizabeth Parawan and not my own.

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