November 2, 2010

The Incarnation of Truth

As a philosopher, Plato's highest desire was the attainment of truth.  For Plato, though, one major problem stood in the way of the fulfillment of that goal, namely his body.  You see, Plato saw the passions and desires of the body as foolish fancy that distracts us from beholding pure truth.  He believed that human beings were slaves inside their bodies.  In this scheme, the body is denigrated and death is a blessed release from captivity to bodily desire into unhindered freedom to encounter absolute truth.  At death, one is free to be who they really desire to be.  Until then, we are slaves to the service of the body.* 

The problem with Plato's view for the Christian is that it constitutes a denial of the truth of the Incarnation.  As Christians, we not only believe that truth is knowable while in the body, we also believe that truth himself has become embodied.  The Word that is with God and is God has become flesh and lived among us, and we have beheld his glory (John 1:1, 14).  Further, this embodied Word has declared of himself: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."  Not only then is truth knowable in the body, truth is not knowable apart from the body.  In the person of Jesus of Nazareth, truth has taken on a human body in order that God may address the world with his truth. 

Plato's view is also a denial of the Christian hope for resurrection.  Unlike Plato, we Christians do not hope for an escape from the body but for its redemption (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15).  We are not awaiting death so that we may then encounter truth; rather, we look forward to resurrection so that we may have the fellowship of eternal life with Christ, the one who will eternally be the embodiment of truth.

The church must recapture this incarnational truth for our day.  We are surrounded by a smorgasbord of pluralistic alternative spiritualities accompanied by the denial of absolute truth.  In this context, the task of the church is to proclaim that truth is real, that truth can be known, and that absolute truth is exclusively knowable in the person of Jesus Christ. 
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*See Plato's discussion of the body in the Phaedo.

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