The Christian Philosophy
by Jamie Cassata
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"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8).
Metaphysics studies Being as such, Reality as such - and so occupies the loftiest seat in the discipline of philosophy. The quintessential metaphysical question, and thus the quintessential philosophical question, is, What is Being? To put it another way, what is the ultimate principle of Reality? We might ask, What does it mean to be? When we say that something is, what do we mean by that? The Christian philosophy, taught by Jesus Christ, not only gives us the answer to our metaphysical dilemma, but also gives us an ethics that constitutes the Way to live in accordance with this answer.
Martin Heidegger, in his 1927 work "Being and Time," asserted that Being is essentially Being-in-time. That is, Being is defined by temporality - change, flux, a succession of moments. What is most real is change. Man, the fullest expression of what it means to be, according to Heidegger, is essentially and purely an historical thing, defined by the span of successive, changing moments. Being is Being-in-the-world. This world.
This metaphysical work of Heidegger was an attempt to counter the Platonic metaphysics of Being that had dominated the West for millennia, in which Being was conceived of as spirit and eternity - timeless, ahistorical, immutable. According to Plato, what is most real is what is changeless and forever. Material, historical realities are less real and depend upon what is spiritual and eternal for their very existence. Thus, for Plato, there was this world of constantly changing things, and then there was the eternal world of the changeless. This temporal world, and that eternal world. This temporal world is something like a fluctuating image of that eternal, stable world - shadows of the invisible realm.
Here we have two sides of a spectrum in metaphysical thought: on the one end, Being as time, and on the other, Being as eternity. Let's return to that verse of the book of Revelation in which Jesus Christ says, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." This certainly accords with Plato's conception of Being as eternity.
Should we need more evidence that Christian philosophy is in accordance with the Platonic doctrine, we have the letter to the Hebrews: "Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth: and the works of thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail" (1:10-12).
And St. James writes, "...the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration" (1:17).
Even more, St. Paul writes, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal" (2 Cor 4:18).
And perhaps the clincher are those words of Jesus Christ Himself: "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal" (Jn 12:25).
It becomes clear that the Christian philosophy holds that God, the principle of all things, Being itself, is eternal - timeless and without change. Eternity is of His very essence. Furthermore, Christian philosophy holds that there is this world and that world, this world of the temporal and that world of the eternal - as Christ says, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36) and "You are of this world, I am not of this world" (Jn 8:23). This world is less real than that other world. Something is lacking. Something is dreamlike about it - as St. James writes, "What is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away" (4:15). And St. Paul: "The form of this world passeth away" (1 Cor 7:31).
So far, Jesus Christ and Plato seem to be of the same mind. But...
...Then we see those words of St. John's gospel: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father)" (1:14). And with this, the philosophy of Jesus Christ surpasses Plato's, becoming something wholly new, as Christ Himself says, "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5). Spirit is made flesh. God becomes a man and lives upon the earth in an historical existence. He undergoes change. He laughs, he cries. He suffers and dies. He rises from the dead. Christ is "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15).
In the Christian philosophy, Being takes on temporality - as St. Augustine says, not as such that the eternal is transformed into the temporal, as if it ceased to be eternal, but assumes the temporal and takes it up into itself - as Christ says, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" (Jn 12:32). And St. Paul: "And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6). Inasmuch as the incarnate God is forever seated at the right hand of the Father, the temporal, the changeable, the historical, dwells in the life of God. Time and eternity have embraced.
This hypostatic union of the divine and human natures of Christ in the incarnation constitutes the basis for how we are to live our life. It is our philosophy: through participation in the mysteries of God's life in this world, we will come to share in the eternal life of the next world. Sharing in His suffering, in a love that endures all things, in holy patience, we will come to share in His glory. We will come to share in the fullness of Being. There every tear shall be wiped away forevermore. In the words of Plato, "Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!
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