This is the third of a series of articles on `The Last Generation'.
The renowned Greek philosopher Plato sought to elevate the Greek concept of the love of God to a level that soared far above the mire of sensuality it had fallen into, and conceived of a form of love which he called `Heavenly Eros. He believed that this Heavenly Eros comprised the character of God, and is a love which is so pure and noble that it is unsullied by human emotion; for Plato believed that anything which is sensual and of the material world corrupts and weighs down the soul; which accounted for the mire of sensuality that Eros had fallen into. Plato believed that it is the sole duty of man to free his soul from the bondage of this material world that weighs it down, and purify it by doing good works, so that at death, the immortal soul might once again ecstatically partake in the parousia; the divine essence of God.
As the `Heavenly Eros' which Plato conceived of was based upon the premise that the essence of God is perfection - then to be even aware of imperfection was considered to be a corruption of the divine essence and therefore God could no longer be considered as God. Thus the Greek idea of perfection can be seen in Dante's `The Thinker'; in which God is depicted in an eternal moment of the contemplation of Himself. Which left imperfect man in quite a predicament. `As men are imperfect,' the Greeks reasoned `and imperfection is a corruption of the divine essence - then God must be completely unaware of our existence!' Coupled with this was the belief in the divine origin of the soul - as the soul was considered to be divine, and all souls eventually returned to the One God from which they originated, then what need of a resurrection of the dead who lay in non-being in their graves? It just didn't make sense to them! According to the Greek philosopher Plotinus (c 204-270 A.D.):
`Our doctrine of the immortality of the heavenly system rests on the firmest foundation once we have the sovereign agent, the soul . . . . . how could anything once placed within this Soul break away from non-being: No one that understands this principle, the support of all things, can fail to see that, sprung from God, it is a higher stay than bonds.’ (`Enneads’, 2.1.4.)
Thus Plato's conception of God was of a God which can only love that which is already lovable; for He is the unmoved mover, ineffable and inaccessible, Who is so far removed from the affairs of men, that He constantly plays hide and seek with us. So when the Greeks were confronted with `agape' they were unable to comprehend it and thought that it was complete foolishness! (1 Corinthians 1:23) `Why, this is unthinkable,' they sputtered, `and downright foolishness,' they exclaimed, 'because God can't do that! God would no longer be God! He would be just like us instead! It is for this reason that the Greek philosophers Celsus and Plotinus, who lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries; found Christianity `to be a thoroughly objectionable creed'. (`A History of God', Karen Armstrong, 1994, p. 124.)
At its base level, Eros amounts to little more than disguised selfishness, for the only reason the Greeks did anything good for anyone, was so that at death they might benefit from the good works which they had done during their life. Eros typifies the greatest form of love there is which man can conceive of himself, for fallen man cannot rise higher than Adam's fallen estate. For this reason, Christ commented on our `natural' human love, by exclaiming `Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15: 13.) Unfortunately though, as few understand the nature of Eros and Agape, there are few who understand that in his fallen estate, Eros is the greatest form of love which man can devise.
Think of it this way. When Lucifer first sinned, it was because of his great pride in himself. Thus self-love, or Eros was born; for when Lucifer first sinned he introduced a form of love into the universe which had previously been unknown by the unfallen beings which inhabit it. It cannot really be called `love' at all; for it is anti-love and based upon the love of self. So when this fallen angelic being which was now called Satan first tempted Adam to sin, Adam then appropriated the Eros of the devil when he did sin - and became selfish by nature. Therefore the entire human race has inherited the selfish nature of Adam from him, and it is that selfish nature which is subject to condemnation - for it determines that it is inevitable that no matter what we do or what we think, we will sin! In fact, our fallen estate determines that we don't even know what sin is, until we are confronted by the Law! (Romans 5:13,14) Therefore the natural love of fallen man is by nature self-serving and is originally derived from the devil; indeed it is the character of the devil - for Eros is the love of self which we have inherited from Adam. For this reason, the greatest form of love which the Greeks could conceive of was Eros; for fallen man can rise no higher than fallen Adam's estate.
The sophistries of the devil are more cunning, deceitful and flattering than we can ever imagine; for Eros is like water that seeks its own level. We seek out those who are attractive to us, and tend to shun those whom we despise - for we could never be like them, could we? Or so we like to think! It is also natural for us to aspire to bigger and better things; for instance while the Congressman desires to be President, the teacher also desires to be Principal. Yet how many people desire a position which is lower than their estate, and become a garbage collector by choice? Yet, this is what Jesus did when He `was made a little lower than the angels' (Hebrews 2:9),and `in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8:3) so that He might `taste death for everyman' (Hebrews 2:9) , at Calvary; `even the death of the cross' (Phillipians 2:8) - at which He then became the garbage collector of fallen humanity. Our Saviour does not hide from us, so that we have to search for Him so that we might find Him, for He came all the way down from the lofty heights of heaven, so that He might save fallen humanity from sin. The Greek mind found this impossible to comprehend.
That which we despise the most is that which we are by nature, and it is only by the grace of God that we don't do the things which `they' do. Indeed, it is only by the grace of God that we don't do the things which it is our nature to do; which is to say that by nature we are murderers. Indeed, until we are confronted by Agape, it is natural for our self-love to lead us to think more highly of ourselves than our fallen state allows; for Agape relentlessly strips us of our thin veneer of cultured civility and exposes us for what we are - children of the Devil; for in our natural state (which Paul called the `Old man' of sin), our character is Eros, for we are selfish and self-seeking by nature. When confronted by Agape in its pristine beauty, it either makes disciples of us, or enemies of us. There is no sitting on the fence. Where do you sit?
Here are the other articles in this series:
The Last Generation - Part One
The Last Message of Mercy - Part Five