Monday, February 16, 2009

More Good Stuff from Cahill

I've been reading Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History series over the last few years and have commented here and here on the second and third books (the post on the third book contains some thoughts on the first book). I'm about to finish the fifth book and, before I write about it, I thought I'd better say a few words about the fourth, which I finished earlier last year.

For those of you who think that I post too infrequently, we're all in the same boat. I am only able to post about 1 in 5 ideas that come to mind and I'm always mad at myself when I finally find the time to post and all the "stored-up" ideas are just get too far out of reach to resurrect. This one's an exception.

The fourth book is, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, and is about as good as any of the others. I hesitate to say this because, in contrast the other books, the history of the Greeks is filled with a whole lot of depravity and Cahill really accentuates that aspect. So, if you choose to read this one, beware. However, in spite of the depravity, we have a lot more in common with the Greeks than we think we do and it is very enlightening to make some of those realizations. Art, philosophy, history, poetry and politics all took a huge turn toward the recognizable in the centuries before Christ came and much of it at the hand of the Greeks. We can be thankful to them for the skeleton of our form of government and, of course, the kind of robust philosophical life that we value today (or should value) became much more normative in the Greek culture.

But the coolest observation that Cahill makes has to do with the mix of the Greco-Roman culture with the Judeo-Christian culture. His words give substance to the Christian claim that the idea of God, revealed to Israel and revealed in Jesus Christ, is revolutionary. This world should not be and is not the same with the advent of our one true religion. Cahill doesn't necessarily believe in Christian exclusivity, but his words sure do support Her uniqueness. And Her uniqueness points to Her authenticity.

"For the most part, in the union of Greco-Roman with Judeo-Christian, the Greco-Roman turn of mind combined with Judeo-Christian values. While the outward form of the Western world remained Greco-Roman, its content became gradually Judeo-Christian. The worldview that underlay the New Testament was so different from that of the Greeks and the Romans as to be almost its opposite. It was a worldview that stressed not excellence of public achievement but the adventure of a personal journey with God, a lifetime journey in which a human being was invited to unite himself to God by imitating God's justice and mercy. It was far more individualized than anything the Greeks had ever come up with and stressed the experience of a call, a personal vocation, a unique destiny for each human being. The one God of the Jews had created the world and everyone in it, and God would bring the world to its end. There was no eternal cosmos, circling round and round. Time is real, not cyclical; it does not repeat itself but proceeds forward inexorably, which makes each moment—and the decisions I make each moment—precious. I am not merely an instance of Man, I am this particular, unrepeatable man, who never existed before and will never exist again. I create a real future in the present by what I do now. Whereas fate was central to Greeks and Romans, hope is central to Jews and Christians." (258-259)

May you be filled with that hope today.

No comments: