We left Athens this morning and headed off across Greece for other adventures. We first stopped at Eleusis, which is the site of the Demeter mystery cult of ancient Greece. This cult was one of the oldest mystical cults within Greek mythology. It is concerned with the mysteries of life and death, specifically what happens after life. When Demeter’s daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter mourned unceasingly and all the crops died. Basically, she went on strike until her daughter was returned to her. Unfortunately, Persephone ate a bit of a pomegranate while in the underworld, so she could only return to her mother for 3 (or 6) months out of each year. This is why we experience the seasons that we do. The cult was based around this myth, and it was a more individual, emotional experience of religion than the normal practice of Greek religion was.
After Eleusis, we traveled to Corinth. First we stopped in modern Corinth to look at the canal that was dug. Before the canal in ancient days, people were too scared to navigate the waters from one side of Greece all the way to the other because it was so treacherous. As a result, they would dock on one side of Corinth, pull the boat out of the water, unload it, remove the heaviest pieces, place it on tracks, and pull it to the other side of the isthmus where they would reload it and put it back into the water. You can imagine how difficult that would be! It was good business for Corinth, though, which became a successful, sinful city. The canal is very deep and very beautiful… so we decided to go bungee jumping off the bridge! It was such a fun experience! J They strap you up in the gear, walk you to the edge of the platform, and you jump off and plummet more than 70 meters before the cord rebounds you back up again. Nathan, Emily, and I were the only ones who did it, but it was so worth it! It was not nearly as painful for my back and neck as I expected, so thank God for that. I can’t even describe it. I was nervous right until I jumped, and then it was just pure adrenaline. Due to surrounding circumstances and jokes during the trip, I shouted, “The unexamined life is not worth living!” It’s a quote from Plato as Socrates, so I’m hoping for extra credit in class haha.
After the most exciting bit of the day, we went to ancient Corinth to see the ruins. Paul spent a year and a half in Corinth and was successful in converting a large number to Christianity. The largest basilica in Greece was built in Corinth as a result of Paul’s influence. There is a church there today called St. Paul’s with the love chapter of Corinthians on a monument outside. We also drove up to AcroCorinth, which is the ancient settlement of Corinth on a huge mountain. It has also been used throughout the ages as castles and battlements by different people and is practically impregnable. Not very much of it is left standing today, but it is a very impressive site. Now we are at the hotel in Tollo where we will be for the next two nights. It is beautiful here!
Augustine discusses the relationship between science and the Christian religion in Political Writings. For some Christians of the time, their education (especially involving nonreligious texts) was lacking. Augustine acknowledges this and its effect on the suspicion with which Christians considered the philosophers. There is reason to doubt – the Bible has warned believers not to be deceived by those who philosophize according to the elements of the world (Colossians 2:8). Being knowledgeable about the world and the things it contains is important; if one can educate one’s self in these matters, it should be done. However, earthly knowledge is not the be all, end all. In fact, Augustine would argue that spiritual knowledge for a Christian is far more important because believers are only traveling through the earthly world, but they are eternal citizens of the spiritual world. Therefore, the issues of the earthly world should not be ignored, but should be used to draw one closer to God and to better understand Him. Christians are also told in the Bible that God manifests the knowledge of himself through philosophers (Romans 1:19). As a result, Christians must be wise and attentive listeners and critical thinkers. Wisdom and falsehood can be gleaned from secular philosophers, so it is important that Christians learn to identify which is which. Secular knowledge should not be discarded automatically by believers because this knowledge succeeds in bringing one closer to God and seeing His power manifest on earth. In Augustine’s own words, God uses visible miracles “that He may thereby awaken the soul which is immersed in things visible to worship Himself, the Invisible.” The two need not be mutually exclusive: the understanding of one can amplify the understanding of the other.
However, knowledge is a powerful tool and must be used rightly. Many who seek knowledge do not use it as a means by which to seek God. Instead, they view earthly knowledge as the highest form of wisdom and earthly things as the ultimate end of knowledge. Augustine warns Christians about men and women who think this way. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). Augustine applies this Scripture to the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, but especially to the Romans about whom he wrote The City of God. The Romans – wise philosophers, militarists, doctors, artists – in all their wisdom chose to worship lesser gods. Instead of worshipping a God who surpassed science and their own humanity, they chose to craft gods into things like themselves: corruptible, fallible, and changeable. The Egyptians went so far as to worship animals! Augustine believes this to be the low point in human knowledge. God is being ignored in the midst of His own creation and replaced by far inferior ideas.
Sadly, things have not changed much in society today. Many people still seek earthly knowledge while refusing to seek the superior spiritual knowledge. A large number of those who consider themselves wise set themselves up in the position of god. As a result of their knowledge, they do not worship the true God, but congratulate themselves on their wisdom. Even Christians must be wary not to commit this fallacy. In modern society, liberal arts educations are becoming far more common. While this is an extremely beneficial opportunity, Christians must be careful not to stop worshipping God in order to start worshipping a lesser creature. Christians today, especially Christian students, must be exceptional listeners and critical thinkers in order to absorb the knowledge they are given and properly apply it to their spiritual lives.
In Zorba the Greek, the narrator believes that he already has a somewhat sufficient amount of earthly knowledge. He is, after all, a scholar. What he wants now is an exciting life. His friend Zorba attempts to show him a good time and to introduce him to the ways of the world. For the narrator, however, certain problems are difficult to ignore. His spiritual knowledge (and perhaps dormant spirituality) prevents him from completely diving into the life Zorba encourages. Zorba lives as if there is no after-life, this world is all that matters. The narrator cannot quite come to terms with that reality. He appears to have a special affinity for Buddha and Buddhism, and he often studies or contemplates Buddha. The narrator is, so far, unable to completely put aside the possibility of a spiritual knowledge in order to live the way he pleases. Augustine would still, of course, say that worshipping Buddha is worshipping a lesser god than the true God, but I think he would appreciate the narrator’s attempts to continue holding onto something. The narrator is currently in the midst of his trial: he must take his knowledge and apply it rightly and in so doing worship God, or he must take his knowledge and apply it wrongly and in so doing create a lesser god.