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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Joy and Suffering in Psalm 30

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5

The psalmist displays a posture of worship reflecting the full spectrum of human experience – he calls God’s people to praise Him for His faithfulness and grants the freedom to cry out when our suffering seems too great to bear. He proclaims that God knows our sorrows, hears our cries and is near (Ps. 34:18). His words speak comfort from the Lord, that in our pain we have hope, the promise of joy in the end.

To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!
Psalm30:8-10

Yet sometimes in suffering, our only response is, “Why, Lord?” Another friend, parent or sibling diagnosed with cancer. Another baby lost before his parents could know the joy of the first cry of life. Another marriage that ends with a spouse alone the first night after the funeral. It’s too much to bear. The pain is too great. So we cry out, “Where are you, Lord?”

And we wait. Sometimes for a night. Sometimes for weeks. Sometimes years. We wait with darkness laid heavy like the heat of a late summer’s night. Will it ever break?

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing:
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothe me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12

But then, when the weight is at its heaviest: relief. The light of the morning dries our tear-stained cheeks, and we can see, maybe for the first time, that there is joy. We come to know that our story, with all its hurt and brokenness and grief, is part of God’s grand redemptive story. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, consummation. The story of a people ruined by sin, of a love so great that even death could not overcome it, of a Savior who lived, who died and was raised – Jesus, who will one day come again to set all that’s wrong to right. The tension may remain, the aching still present, but in the morning, there is hope. In the morning, there is joy.

Originally posted on The Village Church’s blog by Brady Goodwin here: http://ow.ly/cvABe

Summers Are For Seeking Christ

Every season is God’s season, but summer has a special power.

Jesus Christ is refreshing, but flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word, but then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.

Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come — “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.

Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is preeminent in all things (Colossians 1:18), including vacations, picnics, softball, long walks, and cookouts. He invites us in the summer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is serious summer refreshment.

Do we want it? That is the question.

Christ gives himself to us in proportion to how much we want his refreshment. “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, RSV). One of the reasons to give the Lord special attention in the summer is to say to him, “We want all your refreshment. We really want it.”

Excerpted from John Piper’s Setting Our Minds on Things Above in Summer” (May 31, 1995)

The Gospel’s Very Heart

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Now.  Not five years from now when you are a better Christian.  Right now.  At this instant.

No.  None at all.  Not even a little.  Zero.  Gone.

For those in Christ Jesus.  And only because we are in him.  We provide everything that deserves condemnation.  He provides everything that deserves acceptance and even glory.

This is the clear message of the Bible, because God not only does not condemn us in Christ, he doesn’t want us feeling condemned in Christ.  He wants us feeling freed.

James Montgomery Boice, Romans (p.789) — “Verse 1 is not only the theme of Romans 8.  It is the theme of the entire Word of God, which is only another way of saying that it is the gospel.  Indeed, it is the gospel’s very heart.”

Christian Love (A Puritan’s Prayer)

It is your will that I should love you
with heart, soul, mind, strength,
and my neighbor as myself.
But I am not sufficient for these things.
There is, by nature, no pure love in my soul;
Every desire in me is turned away from you;
I am bound, as a slave, to lust,
I cannot love you, lovely as you are
until you set me free.
By grace I am your freed slave and would serve you,
for I believe you are my God in Jesus,
and that through him I am bought back from slavery,
and my sins are forgiven.
With this freedom I wish I would always obey you,
but I cannot walk in liberty today,
any more than I could first attain it on my own.
May your Spirit draw me nearer to you
and your ways.
You are the end goal of all the helps that draw and keep me near to you,
for if they lead me not to you,
I go away empty.
Order all my ways by your holy Word
and make your commandments the joy of my heart,
that by them I may have a happy relationship with you.
May I grow in your love and display it to all.

Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus;
give me his kind attitude
his generous actions
that I may shine before men to your glory.
The more you do in love in me and by me,
humble me more;
keep me meek, lowly,
and always ready to give you honor.

Gospel Freedom

I recently read a story in my devotional that painted a fascinating picture of freedom. The story was about Abraham Lincoln visiting a slave auction.

Upon arriving, Lincoln saw a young black girl up on the block. Moved with compassion, he placed a bid and won her. After purchasing her, Lincoln told the young disbelieving girl that she was free.

In her surprise she said, “What does that mean?”

“It means you are free,” he replied.

“Does that mean,” she said, “I can say whatever I want to say?”

“Yes, my dear, you can say whatever you want to say.”

“Does that mean I can be whatever I want to be?”

“Yes, you can be whatever you want to be.”

“Does that mean I can go wherever I want to go?”

“Yes, you can go wherever you want to go.”

And the girl, with tears streaming down her face, said, “Then I will go with you.” Although this account is probably more fiction than fact, it reminds us that, just like this young girl, we too have been set free.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, paints this very picture:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God
Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul writes that when God reconciles us to Himself, He calls us out of death and darkness into life and light. He makes those who were once strangers and aliens sons and daughters.

He did not just enter our story, but He also grafted us into the grand story of redemption. This story is one of a loving God setting the captives free.

You and I were once far from God, dead in our sins and trespasses and without hope. But God, being rich in His mercy and love, reconciled us to Himself through Christ. We have been set free by the blood of the cross.

This means that you and I have been set free, and like this young slave girl, our response is to cling to the One who set us free – our response is to use our stories to paint a picture of freedom to those around us.

Original Post found on The Village Church blog here: http://ow.ly/a0dG2