Almost since its beginning, Christianity has had a complicated relationship with the teachings of the Greek philosopher Plato. Part of this complication has to do with what I consider a misunderstanding of two Greek words that the apostle Paul uses: pneuma (spirit) and sarx (flesh). Paul describes these two entities as being in perpetual conflict and exhorts us to live according to the spirit rather than the flesh. In Plato’s philosophy, there are two levels of reality: the abstract realm of forms and ideas and the concrete realm in which these forms and ideas are expressed in particular objects. Plato also defines the human soul as consisting in three parts: reason, emotions, and appetites. Many of Christianity’s mistakes have resulted from trying to map what Paul is talking about into these two sets of Platonic categories.
[This is a repost of an article I wrote for Ministry Matters on the two sides of God's judgment and the way that Christ's atonement converts us into loving God's judgment.]
Many have misinterpreted this year’s battle between Rob Bell and the neo-Reformed bloggers who have dogged him for the claims that Bell makes in his book Love Wins. It’s actually not a debate about whether or not hell exists; there’s a deeper question whose answer shapes how we understand the nature of hell and what we are saved from by the cross: Why does God judge us? Continue Reading