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The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. We need to question more, to study ancient wisdom, to acquire knowledge about the key to happiness and how we may fulfil the purpose of life.
Socrates believed that each man has access to the truths of life, as they are embedded deep within himself. The soul and the mind are chambers of immense hidden treasures. Man needs to open these inner rooms and bring forth the treasures that may help him achieve balance, wisdom, virtues and the connection with the Divine. It is precisely in the mental-spiritual sphere that man connects to God, through an inner conversation reaching out to the Almighty beyond the narrow scope of time and space.
The early Christian philosophers, such as St. Justin, embraced Greek philosophy, stating in his “Second Apology” that whatever rightly said and done among all men should be studied as it contained “seeds” of truth. He said that as the Old Testament was inspired by God, so was Greek philosophy.
The ideals of religious philosophy may help man better himself in fulfilling the aim of making the world a better place, by refusing to be ruled by his selfish desires. The aim is to be filled with spiritual light. The purpose of life, its ultimate destination, is to become more similar to God, more knowledgeable and more filled with love toward one’s fellow man. This is how Clement of Alexandria said it. In other words, as Pope Benedict XVI points out in “Great Christian Thinkers,” “faith itself builds true philosophy,” as we diligently work toward the goal of combatting evil and doing that which is good.
One of the early church fathers, St Augustine lived during the decaying years of the Roman Empire. It was a deteriorating, hedonist and demoralized culture not unlike the current West, where values once upheld were falling apart. In books such as “Confessions” and “City of God,” he referring to the need for “true religion” as opposed to “false religion.” True religion always leads men to holiness, with virtues such as honesty, humility, trustworthiness, justice – diligently working for the betterment of the fellowship of men. False religion makes men speak of God, but their actions display hypocrisy, greed, theft, lack of empathy for others. Augustine famously wrote that knowledge is valuable when charity informs it. Without charity, knowledge ceases to be constructive; it exalts men to arrogance, emptiness, hatred and self-glorification at the expense of others.
The deep-rooted essence of spiritual faith rests on the fact that man is created by and profoundly dependent on God’s benevolence to exist. It is the Creator, outside time and space, that has established the rules of nature. This is why man ought to listen to God’s advice, as presented to him in his inner man, through the body of religious texts that have withstood the test of time, as well as through spiritual priests and teachers whom he is led to consult.
The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously stated that morality is our following the voice of nature within us. This voice is often drowned by passions, greed or pride. Thus, the path to moral redemption becomes turning back to humility and the intimate contact with God.
Billy Graham talked about pride in a harsh manner in his famous speech at the Madison Square Garden in 1957, saying: “More people stay out of the Kingdom of God because of pride than any other sin. You are too proud, you do not want to humble yourself, so you rebel. It is a humbling thing to come to the foot of the cross and repent of your sins and receive Christ, but no man shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he comes. There must be a self-emptying, a self-crucifixion. Yet, we don’t like to do it, because we are all egocentric. We don’t like to humble ourselves, we don’t like to say we are wrong, we don’t like to confess that we are sinners, but God says you must do it before you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Graham points out: “The only remedy that the Christian faith prescribes is to give one’s life to Christ for him to place in it a new heart. He demands that you deny self, take up the cross, take up His unpopularity, take your place with him in suffering. In turn, he will make you a new man.”
More than ever, we need to be connected to the light in a steadily darkened world.
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