The Relation Of The Grecian To Christian Ethics -- By: George P. Fisher

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 010:40 (Oct 1853)
Article: The Relation Of The Grecian To Christian Ethics
Author: George P. Fisher


The Relation Of The Grecian To Christian Ethics

George P. Fisher

The ethical principle of Plato, at the first view, appears to coincide, in a preeminent degree, with the Christian principle, since Plato characterizes it as the assimilation (so far as possible) of man to God, and regards virtue as the means for the attainment of this end.1 Christianity aims at nothing else. The kingdom of God is the community of men, realizing the image of God, under the conditions of their earthly being. Morality has its highest significance when it recognizes this principle. In it is founded the unity of morals and religion, the unity of the entire life, as a life that is animated by the Divine consciousness. But two conditions are requisite to the right understanding and application of this principle. It is a vital question how the idea of God is itself shaped. Is it such a notion that, in accordance with it, moral action can be truly understood as a becoming like God? Is God recognized as acting in such a manner, that an imitation of him can be spoken of in earnest? Or is prominence given to such a conception of God as renders this impossible and, as a consequence of which, this principle must be weakened and bereft of its true meaning? In the second place, the question arises, whether this principle is in harmony with the conformation of this world. Is this world looked on as one in which the likeness to God can really be exemplified; or is there in it something which resists our efforts to be like Him — an insuperable antagonism to Deity [dem Göttlichen], so that the highest of human aims cannot be realized under the circumstances of our earthly being? To carry out completely this principle, it is, moreover, requisite that we be able to regard not merely a single human life as the realization of it, but that this be also regarded as the one principle by means of which the whole life of mankind is to be regulated and directed to a single end. Only then will it be clear how the life of every individual has its peculiar place and peculiar mission in the comprehensive moral mission of mankind, which is the manifestation of likeness to God.

Accordingly, the whole constitution of man must be considered in connection with Nature. The teleological idea of the world and of the course of its development must be ascertained. Now the inquiry is, how the Platonic conception stands with respect to these three points.

We are first to say how it is with the Platonic idea of God. We touch upon a topic here which is somewhat controverted in the investigation of the Platonic system. On the whole, we are led by Plato’s expressions to think of the highest being as a personal spirit; es...

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