The search for truth is a most compelling tale. And that is perhaps not quite strong enough – it makes for the most compelling of tales. Can you recall any gripping stories of searches for lies or deceptions? It is in fact quite the opposite – from murder mystery novels to lone individuals battling against powerful and deceptive organizations, it is the search for the truth of things that keeps the reader glued to the page. Dorothy Sayers, mystery novelist and Christian apologist contemporary with C.S. Lewis, was reported to have enjoyed this very aspect of the murder mystery – that there was a truth that inevitably emerged from the fog of circumstance. Such is the nature of the spiritual autobiography – the tale of a life in which the truth of meaning and purpose peeks like sunshine through the clouds.
Betrayed, having played the Roman Empire Wheel of Fortune to an ill end, Boethius is visited by Lady Philosophy as he seeks meaning to his days, however few of them may be left.
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In many senses, Aristotle brings to fully flowered fruition Greek philosophical thought, stemming from the mythological roots of pre-Socratics such as Homer and Hesiod, nurtured into a philosophic awareness by the questionings of Socrates, and more fully formed into the trunk of Philosophy with Plato (of whom it was famously stated that all of philosophy is a but a footnote). While Plato gave us the dialogues of Socrates and imbued them with form – literally with his positing of the ultimate guiding Forms of the Good, the True and the Beautiful – it was Aristotle who more fully pruned them into the branches of philosophy and intellectual disciplines we recognize today: ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, rhetoric and biology to name but a few. As we consider this philosophical legacy, which has so profoundly shaped Western civilization, we are challenged to assess its value for the Christian.
“Laughing, crying, tumbling, mumbling,
Gotta do more, gotta be more.
Chaos screaming, chaos dreaming,
Gotta be more, gotta do more.”
Knox Overstreet recites in the cave of the Dead Poets, in a youthful search for meaning. Order or chaos? – a question pondered by physicists, political scientists and ethicists, to name but a few, has as much relevance for us today as it did for the Greeks of Homer’s day. While Dostoevsky shows how we often end up in chaos, “without God … everything is permitted,” to Homer and the early Greeks, such chaos was something to be avoided, to elevate one’s self, community or polis, and civilization itself above. But to the Christian, the message of God to this world, the divine Word or Logos, that is, Christ, provides an interpretation to history and a meaning culled from the apparent (or perhaps all too real) chaos of our lives.