Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Battle for Our Minds, Part I

Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (KJV).


Watch how Paul concludes this section of the book of Phillipians. He does it with a summary of six items that are objects of a wholesome thought life. As we know Paul frequently had debates with the Greeks (Acts 17:22 etc.). The Greeks were quick to debate the foundations of virtue. They believing that God was unknowable frequently argued that one should simply be the best that one could be. The Greek word Paul used here for virtue is arĂȘte (Strongs G703), which to the Greek simply means excellence. The word is also linked with human knowledge and is used interchangeably by them with knowledge. Hellenistic thought concluded, “Virtue is knowledge.” Therefore they reasoned that the study of human knowledge is the highest form of human happiness and ability.
Paul in his debates with them asserted that God has revealed Himself to us, is knowable and all truth and knowledge emanates from Him, not from the human being He created. The Bible is revealed truth. Christ says that He is truth (John 14:6). The problem with the Greeks approach was, it was arbitrary or subjective. Consider the following quote of Aristotle from his Nicomachean Ethics:

“Virtue (arete) then is a settled disposition of the mind determining the choice of actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man would determine it.”

It is therefore important for us to see the struggle Paul had to bring Christ and revealed truth to the Philippians. The Greek scholars were debating him frequently and had several hundred years of scholarly thought to draw from in their arguments with him. We should realize that this Greek thought has influenced our western societies. They did not know from whence knowledge came or virtue either. It is clear from Aristotle’s comment that the so-called principle came about through a “prudent man”. Our present day legal system draws on this reasoning when determining what a normal response of a human should be in various situations. They refer to the so called prudent man by saying the normal response of any situation should be judged by what the “ordinary man of reasonable prudence” would do. So in any humanistic explanation for life and knowledge and especially virtue we are left with no specific definition. This is why Paul and us today must advance God’s Word as the only revealed truth. We can rely on it as it has been proved repeatedly to come directly from God and contain the highest standard for all thought and behavior.