It has been a while since my last, poor post about New York pizza, so here’s my attempt to jump back into the blog-pool. I recently spent some time with a friend of mine who’s a Christian on his high school campus, Woodbridge High in Irvine, and has every intention of attending Irvine Valley College next year. This buddy of mine, Alex, is a very intelligent young man and after politic’n at the coffee shop for a few, about the conversation turned to Plato and his Allegory of a Cave.
Let’s shift to a higher speed now because this is where things take off…
In Plato’s dialogue with Socrates and Glaucon, he supposes there to be a group of prisoners chained at the neck and feet, all facing one wall of a cave. For their whole life, this is all they can see; this is all they know. Behind them, there is a fire and a puppeteer creating shadows projected on the wall that the prisoners see. These prisoners are delighted to discuss the shadows and predict what will happen next. They put words to what they see along with the echoes they hear in the cave. To the prisoners, these shadows and echoes are reality.
Plato then supposes that one of the prisoners is freed and permitted to stand up and see where the shadows are coming from. Wouldn’t this prisoner see how wrong his understanding of reality was? How about if he could see the fire? Further, what if he was dragged out of the cave and could see grass and trees? Having formerly lived in a dark cave, he would initially be blinded by the light of the sun. Eventually, his eyes would adapt and he’d see the source of light is the great sun! What does he think is reality now? Having seen the sun, this prisoner could never go back to discussing shadows on a cave wall.
Now, suppose he attempted returning to tell his fellow prisoners, his friends, about all he saw and how false the reality was that he grew up to know. His desire, out of love for his friends, was that they could see what he saw and experience what he’d experienced! However, when he returned to the cave, he stumbled and tripped because he couldn’t see a thing inside the cave. He was blind. Having seen the brilliance of the sun, his eyes needed time to readapt to the comparatively meager light of the fire. His friends laughed at him and mocked him and even called him stupid for thinking he knew reality when he couldn’t even see inside the cave anymore. What does he do now?
This is where Alex turned Plato’s allegory to his experience of the Lord Jesus and this is where we began to really fellowship. The allegory of the cave is the story of our lives! We were all prisoners looking at shadows on a wall before we came to know the Lord Jesus in a real way. By calling on the Lord’s name and believing in our heart, as it says in Romans 10:9-13, we were dragged out of the cave and began to know reality as it really is. When the Lord Jesus came as a man, He came full of grace and…you guessed it, reality (John 1:14). The Lord Jesus went through a long process drag us out of the cave. He lived 33.5 years, went to the cross, went into the tomb and then resurrect to become a “LIFE-giving Spirit” as it says in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian believers in chapter 15 verse 45. Now, God as Spirit is leading us in the way of life to know the truth, which translated from the Greek, also means reality. As we get to know the Lord Jesus in a real and living way, He is “a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and He is giving us a taste for reality or, as Paul says to Timothy, “that which is really life” (1 Tim 6:19).
We can never go back to the cave and we want all our friends to know what is real and what are just shadows on the wall in our lives. We have to help each one of our friends if we truly love them. At the very least, Plato understood that once you’ve tasted the truth, you can’t return to ignorance, and I am looking for any opportunity to let my fellow prisoners know the truth. May we each be dragged out of our caves and meet the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2).
(I am considering making this into a gospel tract for the club I am in, Christian Students at UCI, so please let me know what you think!)