Why did the Greeks Analyze and Critique their religion?
Philosophy from its inception has always tried to answer the quintessential question “Why is there something, rather than nothing” as well as the famous question of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate “Quid est Veritas?” (What is truth?). Our reading also describes what it feels to be the ultimate philosophical question: “What is the nature of the cosmos” (Bishop, p. 45)
The Greek Philosophers like Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had within themselves what Philosopher’s many years later referred to as “our need to know God”. I think one of our strongest desires to know God, is to thus know ourselves. We want to understand God, because, as our creator, we are made in his image (so we are told in the book of Genesis) and the more we know about that image, the more we can understand about ourselves.
As Augustine of Hippo stated, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God (Augustine), and Blaise Pascal referenced what is often referred to as a “God shaped vacuum”, a space within ourselves that cannot be filled with anything other than an infinite and immutable object – namely God (Groothius, 2006).
Greek Philosophers had this insatiable desire to be filled with knowledge and understanding, but had at their disposal only a general revelation of the origins of humanity. They were, however, given this strong desire to seek out and study the nature of knowledge and the world around them.
It is interesting to me, to see many years later, the Apostle Paul walking into the Areopagus in Athens and using words from their own Philosophers, Epimenides and Aratus, to explain to them that they have this idea of God that has been placed in their minds through general revelation, and that if they truly want to know God, he is not far from any of them.
This is, as C.S. Lewis puts it in his book “Mere Christianity”,
God sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men.
The Greek Philosophers, therefore, I believe were analyzing and critiquing their religion to continue the ever relentless quest to answer the question “Quid Est Veritas?” which in bitter irony was the question asked of the man called Jesus of Nazareth, of which, he himself was the answer.
Augustine. (2002, 07 13). Confessions of St. Augustine Bishop of Hippo. Retrieved 12 07, 2007, from Leadership University: http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/augconfessions/bk1.html
Bishop, P. (2007). Adventures in the Human Spirit. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Groothius, D. (2006, 05 15). Incorrect Pascal Quotes. Retrieved 12 07, 2007, from The Constructive Curmudgeon: http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2006/05/incorrect-pascal-quotes.html