Ecumenism, Christian Origins, and the Practice of Communion

By Nicholas Sagovsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Aristotle's revisionism

CRITIQUE OF PLATO

The platonic vision of 'two worlds' and the ascetic path from one to the other was the overarching framework for much of early Christian thought. Christianity began as a messianic movement amongst Jews, but rapidly took root amongst the Greeks and other peoples who inhabited the cosmopolitan cities of the Hellenistic world. It began as a way of living, with a spirituality and teaching that was cultivated through the common life of little ecclesial cells. It survived through institutionalisation, as it developed a recognised ministry, church organisation, and an ordered body of teaching. The Greek thought-world in which it ¯ourished was formed in the platonic mould, and proved remarkably hospitable to this dynamic new movement. Plato's vision of a just and ordered society in which each takes their place, from the 'philosopher-king' to the humblest craftsman, has continued to captivate the Christian imagination, both as a vision of the church in the world and as a vision of the heavenly City of God.

The story of the emergence of the modern world at the time of the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment, of the rejection of 'medievalism' and the rise of secularism, can readily be told as the story of the long demise of platonism. This is how it is put by Nietzsche, the most articulate and prophetic modern critic of platonism. In the Twilight of the Idols,1 he has a brief

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1
F. Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968), pp. 40–1.

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