Plato on immutability and perfection

Plato on immutability:

And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one shape, and now in another–sometimes himself changing and passing into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image?

I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.

Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing?

Most certainly.

And things which are at their best are also least liable to be altered or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest, the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks, and the plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from winds or the heat of the sun or any similar causes.

Of course.

And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or deranged by any external influence?

True.

And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all composite things–furniture, houses, garments: when good and well made, they are least altered by time and circumstances.

Very true.

Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or both, is least liable to suffer change from without?

True.

But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?

Of course they are.

Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many shapes?

He cannot.

But may he not change and transform himself?

Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.

And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for the worse and more unsightly?

If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.

5 comments

  1. Plato would have not liked the Hebrew scriptures, which strongly imply a God that can “repent”, or who grants creatures TRUE alternative possibilities rather than deceptive illusions.

    A God who allows/permits creatures to determine what actualized outcomes will be, rather than determining in advance, what the creature will/can determine.

    Plato would have been more inclined to see God as a great bio-robot in the sky who has programmed into the decrees every neurological impulse every creature will/can have.

    R.C. Sproul would agree saying: “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, God is not God”. And Paul Helm would add: “Not only is every atom….every thought and desire….every twist and turn of each of these….under the direct control of God”

    The great weakness of viewing the God of scripture this way is that it makes him the author/determiner/controller of every neurological impulse the creature can/will have. And yet in scripture He clearly represents himself AS-IF he doesn’t.

    The great problem with this God then, is that he operates as a deceiver, communicating [A] to his creatures, while secretly holding to [NOT A]. In such case, the creature comes to recognize whatever this God communicates may be TRUE or may be FALSE.

    How can the creature TRUST a God who creates life events as illusions and who misrepresents the truth and communicates falsehoods?

  2. I haven’t researched the post apostolic fathers on Plato. But I do remember an article in Encyclopedia Britannica outlining the adoration the Catholic fathers gave to Plato – calling him the “Great Master” of the church and making celebrations on his birthday.

    And I believe it was Ambrose, or those in his affiliation, who likened Plato to the “Moses” of the New Testament, and declared the doctrines of Plato to be the “Mid-Wife” that brings forth the correct interpretation of New Testament texts.

    Pretty serious stuff! Plato and not Jesus is the “Great Master” of the church! What happens when extra-biblical becomes canonized. Just as the people of Israel never fully purged themselves from the “high-places” – Leviticus 26:30. I don’t think the church has ever fully purged itself of from the “high-places” of 3rd and 4th century syncretism.

    Blessings for your work Christopher! :-]

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