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Athanasius Trash-Talking the Greek Philosophers

October 11th, 2012 | 1 min read

By Jeremy Mann

Athanasius takes a swipe at the limited popular influence of the Greek philosophers:

As to Greek wisdom, however, and the philosophers’ noisy talk, I really think no one requires argument from us; for the amazing fact is patent to all that, for all that they had written so much, the Greeks failed to convince even a few from their own neighborhood in regard to immortality and the virtuous ordering of life.

He then contrasts this with the teacher from Nazareth:

Christ alone, using common speech and through the agency of men not clever with their tongues, has convinced whole assemblies of people all the world over to despise death, and to take heed to the things that do not die…

A good reminder of the fact that reason alone holds little power. In fact, saying that the Greeks were not “convinced” undersells the point; were there not likely many who were convinced by the philosophers in argument and yet still helplessly afraid of death? Imagine the father of a boy seized in convulsion, who cried out to Christ with tears pleading “I believe; help my unbelief!” For all the genius and charm of Socrates, what authority does he hold over demons? Who is even he next to the King of Glory? I have heard he stood without shivering over a winter night, but did anyone ever ask “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'”

For a long time I’ve wrestled with the implications this has on evangelism and the general witness of the church. But for now, I’m dwelling on the extent to which I would be counted as one in the number of those who despise death.