Plato’s Cave

Life Notes—February 23, 2012

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.”  Ephesians 1:17-18

The Allegory of the Cave is found in Book VII of Plato’s work The Republic, dating back a few hundred years before the birth of Christ.  A very rough paraphrase goes like this:  Imagine people living their lives in a cave, chained in such a manner they can neither move nor look around.  All they can see is the cave wall in front of them and the shadows created and animated by the fire behind them.  Others pass between them and the fire with statues of animals and other figures.  To the prisoners of the cave, the shadows of these figures are just as real as their own shadows, for they do not have the wherewithal to distinguish what is real from what is shadow. 

Imagine how limited our knowledge and life-experience would be in Plato’s Cave.  The story may seem far-fetched, but it illustrates Plato’s belief that the world we perceive is but a poor copy, or a shadow of the real world.  Paul expressed a similar sentiment in 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly…” Just as reality for those in the Cave was limited to shadow, so our understanding of reality today is limited by our senses, intellect and the restrictive nature of human experience. 

If you were one of Plato’s cave-people, imagine how dramatically your “reality” would change if your chains were released and you could actually look around.  You would see the dancing flames of the fire and your fellow cave-people and the persons carrying around the inanimate figures that appeared so real in your world of shadows.  Then, imagine being freed from the cave and able to experience the world outside in all its glorious color and fragrant beauty and melodious song.  We would understand how different actual reality is from what we perceived in our former existence in the cave. 

Yesterday marked the beginning of Lent, a time of reflection and introspection leading up to Easter.  It is a time to ponder our current reality in contrast to Christ and his teachings.  Clearly, our life-experience is only part of a much greater life-experience.  Are there chains you need to shed to expand your experience of reality?  Is there a cave you need to exit?  There is no better time than Lent to begin that journey… 

This Sunday is the first of Lent.  Both Tom (downtown) and Mitch (west) will preach a sermon titled, “Connecting to God,” based on Matthew 4:1-11.  Life worship begins at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  West campus contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Come out of the shadows into the Light!

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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