Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why ancient philosophy?

Yes, I've been incommunicando for a while. We've had a lot going on at church, at home, and I've been in the throes of my advanced studies in Ancient Cultures through the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Right now I'm working on a module on ancient philosophy. How do such studies help the church? My primary reason is to make me a better interpreter of scripture. Hellenistic philosophy oozes through the New Testament, and for me to better explain the New Testament, I'd best have a working knowledge of how Hellenistic philosophy was actually practiced. A little tidbit of what I'm working on right now as an example. I'm reading an essay on the contrast of friendship and flattery in the Epicurean schools of philosophy. Apparantly Epicureans were criticized by adherents of other schools (such as the Stoics) for being flattering sycophants to the great leaders and powerful men of the day. Epicureans saw no problem with a philosopher attaching himself to a powerful man as a "house philosopher" for that man. Of course the Epicureans defended this practice, making a distinction between being a sycophant and being a court sage. Now put this context as background to the Paul before Roman Governor Felix (Acts 24: 24-27). The passage tells us that Felix was waiting for money. This of course is true. The whole Roman economy functioned on patraonage, bribes, kickbacks, loans, favors .... from Findlay's depiction in his work The Ancient Economy, it seems like the Roman economy looked ahead to Don Corleone rather than Adam Smith.
But the passage also tells us that Felix kept bringing Paul to speak with him over the course of his two year assignment. Could it be that Felix was treating Paul as his own captive court-philosopher? It was the mark of great men to surround themselves with men of learning. Was Felix trying to offer Paul opportunities to continue on as a court philosopher if he would but tone down his rhetoric? Was he grooming Paul to be part of his entourage? Does any of this background make the tragedy of Felix's incomprehension even more pressing? Soli Deo Gloria

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Trying out Posterous

I'm trying out a new social media app called posterous... a way to manage updates to multiple social media applications via one email. More to come later. Russell
Russell Smith
Covenant-First Presbyterian Church

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