Finding Truth in the Pre-Christian Philosophers

snow covered mountain during sunrise

An unusual icon hangs on the icon wall in my living room. It pictures some “pre-Christian philosophers” or “pathfinders of the way.” At the very front of the group of thinkers are St. Paul and St. Justin Martyr. St. Paul holds a scroll with words from Acts 17:23-24, when he preached to the Athenians about their altar to an unknown God, “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since he is Lord of heaven and earth …” St. Justin’s scroll reads from his writings, “Come, be taught; become as I am, for I, too, was as ye are.” Behind St. Justin and St. Paul are The Sybil of Erythraea, Socrates, Plato, Solon, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Thucydides, Apollonios, and Homer, all of whom were philosophers or writers who discovered important truths that the Church has used in her theology.

St. Justin wrote to Greeks and Romans about how the Christians “teach the same things as the poets and philosophers whom you honor, and on other points are fuller and more divine in our teaching” (The First Apology, Chapter 20). It has been a long custom in Christianity to take what is true in the thought of a philosopher and in the traditions of a culture and to “baptize” it by drawing it into the tradition and truths of the Catholic Church. This adds to the fullness of our faith, especially as we acknowledge that God can choose to reveal truths to and work in the hearts of any of his human creatures. However, when we do this, we must do so cautiously and be careful to only accept what is actually true in these works.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register…