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Plato and Progressivism in Christianity

Bosnian church
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

It has been said by Christians and non-Christians alike that Christians are Platonists. In a small sense this is true—only in the fact that we are in the shadowlands—a place that has not been remade or culminated with Christ on the throne. But in most respects Christians are not Platonists.

There is some confusion in the Christian community and the Western world in general. Christians have never been Platonists. The orthodox Christian stance is not a belief that all matter is evil, that the body is evil. Or that the Christian must escape this material world to reach the ultimate disembodied spirit world, which is perfection. Platonism has crept into Christian thought. Many current Christians don’t have an understanding of what the Christian heaven is truly. There has been a loss of the understanding of a bodily existence with God and all the saints.

Another view that permeates the Western world and even Christianity is the myth of progress. Early Christians did not believe in progressivism as it is understood today. Humans were never and are never going to create something perfect—a perfect city, society, empire. Progressivism cannot deal with the problem of evil. The evidence: every world empire has crumbled. If the theory of progressivism or evolution of progress were true there would never have been nuclear weapons, the Gulag, the holocaust, genocide, abortion. Our modern theories of the universe shows either a cooling and eventual freeze of the universe, a tear in the cosmos, an age of black holes destroying this universe, or a crunch where gravity implodes the universe. There are also meteorites to worry about. Even the sun going supernova causing death on this planet. What of all the suffering and death in the world? If God were to build and rebuild kingdoms on earth much like we try to build perfect societies one after the other, the problem of evil and sin would still exist. That is why resurrection had to come about—the new creation.

The kingdom of God—this new creation—came into history at the nativity, the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ ushered in the kingdom of God. But it was by his death on the cross and resurrection which began the new creation.

In Revelation 21-22 the account is told of this new creation, the marriage of heaven and earth. It has not yet come to fruition, but since Christ came, the world has been turned on its head. It is not by human effort to build the perfect society that will guarantee peace and eternity, but the new creation in Christ. Heaven is a physical reality, similar to what we know now, only perfected, all evil cast away, what God cannot abide is cast away. How the new heaven and earth will be remade is up for debate.

If Christians were pure Platonists, when following Christ, one may as well commit suicide if one’s only purpose is to go to heaven. But the Christian life is to follow Christ. To carry out his mission. We are to show what this kingdom of God is—Jesus Christ. As is stands, Christ is remaking the world not through human effort, but through himself. At one point like a thief in the night, Christ will return. All will be raised bodily from the dead, be judged, some entering eternal perfection in a land much like the familiar land of earth—only perfected. Others will be cast from God. Christians yearn for the culmination of the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and earth. Creation yearns for it.

So be wary of the mantra of progressivism and the Gnostic Platonism that permeate Western thought. The true king will return and set up his throne among his people.