Food for Thought: Socratic Humility and Jesus, May 1, 2019

Food for Thought: Socratic Humility and Jesus, May 1, 2019

Notes composed and discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Socratic Humility—Is it Christian too?

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” (Socrates, as reported by Plato)

 Plato wrote about him. Socrates “went around talking to people”

“When told that the Oracle of Delphi had revealed to one of his friends that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens, he responded not by boasting or celebrating, but by trying to prove the Oracle wrong.”

By asking questions to expose ignorance in a quest for true wisdom.

Socrates seemed to think that the people around him could help him acquire the knowledge he so desperately wanted—even though they were handicapped by the illusion that they already knew it.  Indeed, I believe that their ill-grounded confidence was precisely what drew Socrates to them.  If you think you know something, you will be ready to speak on the topic in question.  You will hold forth, spout theories, make claims.  And that, combined with Socrates’ relentless questioning, is a recipe for actually acquiring the knowledge you had previously deluded yourself into thinking you already had.  Socratic Humility, Agnes Collard, July 3, 2018

“…handicapped by the illusion that they already knew it” This is probably my core answer to the questions, “Why mystery? Why unknowing?” I have seen that handicap, lived it, spouted it out. Ignorance is bliss. Unknowing is terrifying.

Relentless questioning: “a recipe for actually acquiring the knowledge you had previously deluded yourself into thinking you already had.”

Jesus is the Question—I wish I had thought of the book title!

Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers 3. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, for every question he answers directly he asks—literally—a hundred.

Confronting the Pharisees (well-regarded religious leaders of the day) “illusion that they already knew”

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Helping us confront the illusion that we already know…

“This is why I speak to [people] in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Parables have the power to overturn religious (and other) certainties, to disrupt and disturb a comfortable and confident worldview.

At one point, just before his death, the disciples expressed a relief of great frustration that he was finally “speaking plainly” and not in figures of speech (parables, metaphors, etc.)

Even then he indicated that they did not know what they thought they knew!

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