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Peter Kreeft

Introduction

I: Who Is this Book For?

IT IS FOR BOTH Christians and non-Christians.

  1.  It’s designed to show Christians a new dimension of Jesus: Jesus the philosopher.
  2.  And it’s designed to show non-Christians a new dimension of philosophy, a new philosophy and a new philosopher. It’s not designed to convert them.

But I am a Christian as well as a philosopher; that is, I believe Jesus is God. And I won’t hide that or fake it. That’s why I capitalize His name throughout the book.

But wait! If I just lost your potential readership by that statement, I challenge you—as a philoso­pher, now, not as a Christian—to ask yourself this question before you leave, and to give a logical answer: would you refuse to read a book about the philosophy of Buddha just because it was written by a Buddhist? Or a book explaining the philoso­phy of the Qur’an just because it was written by a Muslim? Wouldn’t it make more sense to refuse to read it if it wasn’t?

What? Jesus, a philosopher? Would He give a lecture at Harvard, or engage in a long Socratic dialog in Plato’s Academy, or write a critique of Kant’s Critique ofPure Reason ?

Obviously not. And everyone knows that. That is “trivially true.”

In another sense, Jesus was a philosopher, but this second sense is also trivial. Everyone has some “philosophy of life.” Even Homer Simpson is a philosopher.

But Jesus was a philosopher in a meaningful middle sense, the sense in which Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Solomon, Marcus Aurelius, and Pascal were philosophers.

I quote C.S. Lewis as my authority to support this classification, in a letter to Dom Bede Griffeths (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, volume II. San Francisco: Harper/SF, 2004, p. 191):

I question your account of Our Lord, when you say “He is essentially a poet and not at all a philosopher.” Surely the “type of mind” represented in the human nature of Christ (and in virtue of His humanity we may, I suppose, neither irreverently nor absurdly speak of it as a “type of mind”) stands at just about the same distance from the poetic as from the philosopher. . . . After all, how full of argument, of repartee, even of irony, He is. The passage about the denarius (“whose image and superscription?”); the dilemma about John’s baptism; the argument against the Sadduccees from the words “I am the God of Jacob, etc.”: the terrible, yet almost humorous, trap laid for his Pharisaic host (“Simon, I have something to say to you”); the repeated use of the a fortiori (“If . . . how much more”); and the appeals to our reason (“Why do not ye of yourselves judge what is right?”)—surely in all these we recognize as the human and natural vehicle of the Word’s incarnation a mental complexion in which a keen-eyed peasant shrewdness is just as noticeable as an imaginative quality—something in other words quite as close (on the natural level) to Socrates as to Aeschylus.



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