This semester has been filled with lesson after lesson after lesson. I think that the lesson about compassion that I shared earlier has had the greatest impact on me, but it was backed up by another lesson that I was (and still am) learning at the time. In the class that I have been writing about, we read Plato's Gorgias, which is a Socratic dialogue about the purpose of an orator and of persuasion in general. As Socrates tends to do, the conversation became an ethical argument. (Now I'm all for searching for the truth, but Socrates is really annoying about the manner in which he goes about it. That being said, I agree with him, with reservations.)
The argument that Socrates eventually centers on is what power means. He insists that to be good is the only power. Socrates then argues that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong. I agree with Socrates that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong, but my argument diverges from his in that I don't merely see the effects of both as pain versus painlessness or pleasure. There are bigger things at stake here.
However, looking at Socrates' argument and coupling it with Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, I learned that virtue is the only way to happiness on the earth. (I don't think that it is possible to be entirely virtuous until we have reached heaven, and I think that the happiness we get from virtue finds its source in being godly.) Aristotle's argument is a sort of corollary to Plato/ Socrates' argument regarding power. Aristotle insists that virtue is the only way to happiness, and Plato insists that goodness is the only (or at least the greatest) power. Plato, also through Socrates, argues in Phaedo that the purpose of rhetoric is to lead men into the Good. Coupling this with his argument in Gorgias, we must assume that Socrates thought that rhetoric is intended to make men powerful. Socrates' idea that good is the highests power is backed up in the Bible. Proverbs 3:27 says "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your power to do it." Other passages mention being in someone's power, which means they have the authority to do good or evil to you. That being said, Socrates' argument about doing wrong or suffering wrong is an argument about power. God has given us all some extent of power (2 Peter 1:3), and the more power we have the more good we can do, but when we have power we can also do evil. This is where Plato's argument and Aristotle's argument couple with the Word of God. If we have the power to do evil, but doing wrong is worse than suffering it, and virtue is the only way to reach happiness, then we need to be able to do good and to be virtuous in order to be happy.
This is where Romans 7 comes in. In Romans 7, Paul is discussing his inability to do what he knows is right. He doesn't have the power to do it; even though he knows what is good and virtuous, he can't. Socrates would tell us that he didn't really know, but I disagree with Socrates' definition of knowledge in this case.
I'm going to backtrack here. People want to be happy. And in our culture, "a virtuous person" is not on the top of many peoples' lists of "what I want to be when I grow up." They want to be happy, but they seek happiness outside of virtue; that's a surefire way to avoid happiness according to Aristotle. The Bible says, "Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" Even when we were told directly by God that the way to peace and happiness is His Way, humankind rejected Him.
If we want to be happy we have to follow God, but as Paul says in Romans "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." We can't do the good it requires to be happy. That's where grace comes in. At the end of this semester, I went to a friend's musical performance. She wrote of grace, and in order to help the audience understand her point, she had a theology professor explain some things about grace. He spoke about the practical implications of grace and what it meant to us once we are saved. We cannot be good without God's grace. We are slaves to our sin. However, once we have been set free from our sin, we are able to be good, virtuous people and to show the compassion I spoke of in my last post. It takes God's transformation of us to make us into good people. It takes God to make us happy. And though we will not be perfect on the earth, we are charged with being "perfect as [He] is perfect," "holy, for [He is] holy," pure "as He is pure," and "merciful [as He] is merciful." We will not reach it here, but our work on earth will bring glory to God and will last into eternity. We should think about what we do with eternity on our minds. Since virtue is the only way to happiness, it shouldn't be a chore, but rather a joy to do these things; besides, we have God's grace giving us the power to do all of this. Also, since it's Mother's Day, I thought I'd leave you with the admonition with which my mom sends me into the world: "Be good!"
P. S. Written from my dining room at home.
P. P. S. Thanks, Mom!
- Hi, my name is Justus, I'm a Christian.I attended Patrick Henry College for three semesters, and I transfered to College of the Ozarks in the fall of 2013 where I graduated as an English major in 2016. I love the Lord Jesus Christ the savior of my soul. He has made me new. He leads me in the Old Path; He is the Way. I am not perfect; my Lord is sanctifying me though.