Resolved: Socrates, if reborn, would not be a Christian

In response to Peter Kreeft’s (a Boston College professor and Roman Catholic) series of "Socrates Meets . . . ", wherein the bearded and ugly philosopher subtly argues from a Christian perspective, I propose we resolve the following:

Socrates would not be a Christian because his character was inherently skeptical, and would therefore be hostile to religion, especially Christianity, especially the Catholic veneration of saints, and perhaps even more so concerning fundamentalism,and biblical literalism. Christianity is based on faith and supernatural claims; while Socrates might tolerate the pagan concept of the Gods, it is no more than Deism, and in fact Socrates would truly be an Agnostic.

Socrates key idea was that he knew nothing; however, at least he knew that he knew nothing, and therefore knew more than others, who only thought they knew something, but in fact knew falsely. This philosophy of Socrates fundamentally conflicts with supernatural-based religion.

Some may claim that Socrates makes statements (through the hand of Plato no doubt) of the ‘Gods’, not directly questioning them. Yet in response, we should know that speaking of Gods, or even acknowledging their existence, is one thing, and a thing quite different than believing in active Gods who should be prayed to. That is, Deism is not Christianity. Also, Socrates’ mentioning of the Gods referred to the Greek Pantheon, and Zeus is no Jehovah.

Therefore, let us not allow Socrates to go the way of Saturnalia and be transformed into what it never was, nor intended to be. He was no Christian, no Protestant, and no Catholic. Kreeft’s work, while excellent Catholic propaganda, and valuable philosophical work in its own right, nonetheless is founded on a nonsensical premise.

Without reading anything Peter Kreeft has written I have no idea if this is something we need to say ‘resolved’ to (by the way, I don’t really care what its origins thread titles like that have always set the wrong tone IMO, this isn’t a forensics get together.)

I’ve read enough works by philosophers to know that just because someone might be using a famous historical figure like Socrates and putting a “Christian perspective” in their words doesn’t necessarily mean that person is making the argument that Socrates would definitely be a Christian. It seems to me like you’re making your opponent’s arguments for you, which is bad form in and of itself.

Finally, disbelief does not equal hostility. There is good evidence Socrates wouldn’t be a Christian based on a few things:

  1. Socrates died a few hundred years before Christianity existed, so if you brought him back to life it would be a religion totally alien to him
  2. Socrates was raised in a culture with a totally different religion and religious traditions. If religious at all, he would most immediately be still adhering to his prior beliefs in life

There is also no evidence Socrates would be hostile to Christianity, firstly because as I said he would be unaware of it and secondly because he hasn’t been alive for the last two thousand years so all the things that various Christian churches and organizations have done that have earned them condemnation from their critics would not be thing Socrates would be aware of at all.

There is also the fact that we know very little about Socrates the man, in any case, so while we may know some bit of his philosophical teachings as they were distilled through his protégés we do not know enough about him as a human being to have any idea what his religious convictions would be in a fantasy world where he was resurrected in the 21st century.

He’d definitely be a Scientologist.

Unless it was God’s plan. Then he definitely would be, because we know God loves America and Jesus and white Anglo Saxon Christians the best. That’s why we have more guns and tanks.

Well . . . We know Socrates chiefly through Plato, who, from a modern perspective, was not all that skeptical.

As Bertrand Russell said in A History of Western Philosophy (Chapter XVI, “Plato’s Theory of Immortality”):

So, maybe he could be a Christian of some kind.

He’d be a cargo cultist.

I just know he’d be so; crates and all being fascinating to him…

Skeptical, but not cynical. I do not think Socrates would be hostile to religion, but he would turn his Socratic questioning on it, looking for contradictions and inconsistencies, trying to draw out the implications of its beliefs—not unlike Christian thinkers, such as Augustine, who were influenced by Plato tried to do.

You are comparing Augustine with Socrates; but would not Socrates, unlike Saints of the Church, challenge the beliefs of Christianity in ways that Augustine would not?

For example, there are countless Biblical verses that are used to justify doctrine, but at closer look, there are quite a few different interpretations. “Confess to each other your sins” does not necessarily justify the Catholic confession booth. Would not Socrates, (Assuming this is Augustine’s time) free from fear of the world and the church authority, even at the risk of death, inquire into Christianity and see the ambiguous bible verses, and rebel at orthodoxy?

I for one do not see much connection between Socrates and any Christian saint on matters of faith.

But you’ve just postulated that he’s been reborn. Presumably he can’t ignore that fact.

Well, we do not know Socrates only through Plato, and in fact I think we know enough to be able to say that most of the negative things Russell says about him there are actually characteristics of Plato, projected onto the ‘character’ of Socrates that Plato created in his middle and late dialogues, rather than the Socrates we see in Xenophon, and in Plato’s early dialogues (and in hints in Aristotle and elsewhere), and who is almost certainly much closer to what the real guy was like. This Socrates certainly had his bad points - I am sure he must have been annoying as fuck if you weren’t in the mood for a lengthy philosophical discussion, or indeed, if you had a sincerely and deeply held point of view about anything - but it does seem that he was a real a skeptic, and not the religiously oriented and subtly intellectually dishonest thinker that Russell depicts. That guy was Plato.

So, if someone with the mind and personality of Socrates had been born into our present culture, I think he would have found his way to atheism, or perhaps agnosticism.

Plato, on the other hand, would be one of those sophisticated Christian sophists (oh, how he would hate me calling him that!), who will patiently explain to you why it is really not important whether God “exists” in the sense that the breakfast table exists, or whether anything in the Bible is “true” except in some multi-layered allegorical or metaphorical sense, but that, nevertheless, God is a notion that we must accept as an essential and central structural element of our conceptual framework, or as something outside the framework that nevertheless underpins its integrity, if we are to have any hope of constructing a coherent world view that is authentically livable</paraody> (or some other such casuistical guff - although Plato, of course, would do it all so brilliantly and ironically that we might all end up convinced:().

Whereas, if he were born again


If Socrates were reborn he very probably would be a Christian, since he’d be born in Greece, which is overwhelmingly Christian.

We can speculate all we like about the personality of a man whose opinions we know of only through secondhand accounts that aren’t even straightforward histories, but the fact is that most people more or less follow the religion of their parents.

Ah but then I can play (Let me practice Greek keyboard skills) Σωκρατης myself, and say that just because one is reborn from 2500 years of deep, deep sleep, does not mean it is the Biblical revelation type of resurrection. It could be Zeus; or just magic powers!

Who else read the OP and mentally pronounced the guy’s name as “so crates?”

btw, he might become a pentecostal, just in case somebody slipped him a hemlock mickey finn again…

And shouldn’t we consider Socrates as depicted by Aristophanes? :slight_smile:

I don’t think he would be a good Christian, but some think that he would be an excellent world cup soccer commentator…


My point was that, even though Socrates never encountered Christianity, Christianity did encounter Socrates; and some of Christianity’s greatest thinkers, notably Augustine, were influenced by Plato’s writings.

I’m not sure, but you may be assuming an attitude toward Scripture that was decidedly not characteristic of the Church at the time.

Truly my friend, there is nothing new under the sun. I first saw this cartoon in a collection of Punch caption competition winners more than 20 years ago.

I know, I know, it’s not precisely Socrates in the Punch toon, but the joke - ancient Greeks & philosophy & the offside rule - is the same. Great minds think alike and all that.

Now I do.