Plato, a Platypus, a Bookstore, Bad Jokes and Eternal Truth

by Gary

Meghan Hill, Lindsay Slone and I walked into a book store in Detroit, Michigan. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? It gets better.

Just inside the store, on the impulse buying rack, was a book: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. You can’t walk past a book with a title like that so I read the subtitle as I picked it up: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. Interesting.

The back cover was topped by a Groucho Marx quote: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” It occurred to me that Groucho had, in a fit of wit, summed up the basic, apathetically disconnected relationship most of the world has with eternal truth.

The book turned out to be an amusing way to remind me of philosophical ideas that I already knew. The jokes did a good job illustrating the ideas, although many of the jokes were a tad off-color in their themes. And the tounge in cheek cartoons were priceless. Read it with discretion if you buy it. Mike and Matthew read it also so they can give their take on it if they choose to.

The section that most stoked my philosophical fires was on Jurisprudence; the philosophy of law. It tackled points from Aristotle to Kant to Bentham. It was in this section that my mind turned to the eternal and, more specificly, to eternal truth; God’s laws.

There are three major ways to view laws. 1) Virtue jurisprudence says that laws are made to teach us what is right; they instruct us through information and consequences.  2) Utilitarianism, in the realm of law, says that good laws produce the best results for the greatest number of people; this way of thinking doesn’t consider whether or not laws are inherently or altruistically good. Its concern is that laws are functional in creating the best outcome for the masses.  3) Deontology says that laws are made for the purpose of reminding us of our duty to society; these are duties that we should already understand and know without the existence of law. The law simply compiles and brings into a code things that we should all believe.

All of this thinking about earthly laws made me reconsider the purposes of God’s laws. It also has me considering if it’s important which of these three views of earthly laws that I hold to in relation to God’s laws. And I’ve decided it really could be important.

Before I go on, I want to say that I believe God’s laws take in all three ideas in some ways. His laws teach, correct, bring the most good for the most people, help us comply with His will and speak of our purpose. But I think we have possibly focused to much on the correction and compliance end of things.

I grew up in fear of God and His laws. I saw them as only teaching me lessons in how I continually failed. His laws reminded me I wasn’t able to be good enough for the masses; that I wasn’t achieving enough personal righteous to have some left over to share with others. I felt like I constantly sat in the chair across from the principle’s desk with him reading a litany of how I wasn’t living up to the code. I sat a lot of years in that chair waiting to be finally scared badly enough to change. But change was seldom the outcome and sustainable transformation was almost non-existent.

“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals.”  -Jesus, from John 23: 4 (The Message)

I’ve struggled with this for so many years that I’m wondering now if I missed the point. I think Deontology may be what speaks the most to me. It makes sense to my soul that God’s laws are, by and large, to show us the eternal truth that already lives within us: the “deep magic” that C.S. Lewis speaks of in Narnia. God’s laws do teach and guide and point out consequences but I’m coming to see that His laws, above all else, remind us who we are. That we are his creation with eternity placed in our hearts. That we are his beloved children in whom He has already made a deposit on Heaven. God laws aren’t for fear. They are to sing in our ears of who we are.
“The kingdom of heaven is not come even when God’s will is our law; it is fully come when God’s will is our will.”  -George MacDonald
This is something I can be inspired to live for more fully. Fear never did the trick for me. Consequences fade quickly when passions overpower me. But being reminded of who I am…now that can hold my attention. I’m not constantly trying to live up to something larger than life and unachievable. I already am those things. I’m larger than life because eternity is within me. There’s nothing unachievable because I’ve already accepted the highest achievement by calling on the name of Jesus and His blood. The Spirit, my deposit on Heaven, defines me. And God’s laws come and whisper to me of who I am.
And now I feel more at peace; not trying to live up to something but, instead, living out who I am. And living out provides many more inspiring views and landscapes than living up, which always just reminded me of how low I was.            

What do you think? Am I just playing with words here? Or does this make sense to your soul also?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, New Thoughts

One response to “Plato, a Platypus, a Bookstore, Bad Jokes and Eternal Truth

  1. I think this definitely makes sense. For a long time I believe human nature was to look at God as a mean spirited, frigid man that created rules and laws in order to punish us for being who we are. But I think God’s “rules” are really just revelations to us about the nature of God; guidance that he provides for us to become more like Him. Afterall, we were created in His image…that in and of itself is one of the most powerful messages I have found in the Bible.

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