Ancient Philosophy, The Case For Christ And What To Do With Your Ambition - What I Learnt This Month

A person making notes whilst learning

Last month I started a new section on my blog called 'What I Learnt This Month'. 

It is a great place for me to catalogue what I have learnt. I hope that it is also a great place for you to find great new resources to aid in your learning.

This post covers what I learnt in December 2017.

*Please note that the book link in this post is an affiliate link. This means that I receive a small percentage of the book cost if you buy it through the link*

Course - Ancient Philosophy: Aristotle and His Successors

The introduction image from the Ancient Philosophy course
This course was created by Pennsylvania University and I completed it through Coursera. The type of course is called a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). This means three things:

      1. A lot of people are taking it at any one time.
2. It is entirely online.
3. It is entirely free.

If you have never heard of a MOOC or never taken one then I highly recommend it. The main three MOOC providers are Coursera, Edx and Udemy.

The course is the second part of another course I took a while ago (Plato and His Predecessors – also really good).

The material focused on three main groups of philosophers: Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics.

The primary reason that I wanted to learn about ancient philosophy was to help me better understand the world of the Bible.

The philosophers discussed in the course all lived before Christ and would have been well known by the New Testament Writers. 

The New Testament borrows a lot from Plato and Aristotle as the language was so pervasive. When Paul spoke in the Areopagus he spoke to Epicureans and Stoics (Acts 17:24-29).

Not only did the course help me to understand the world of the Bible, but I also found a great level of practical wisdom.

At the point of taking this course, I had recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. It was only in my big toe, but I was finding it painful to walk even short distances.

I love walking. I live right next to the Yorkshire Dales and there are so many incredible walks. I was lamenting the fact that I might not be able to participate in these walks.  I was lamenting that were so many walks that I want to do, but now might not be able. I was lamenting that I might never be able to take walking holidays with Joanne when I was older, that I so desired to do. And I was lamenting how difficult it was making exercise.

It was during the discussion of Epicurus and what makes a good life that I had an AHA! Moment.

The Epicureans were often accused of being hedonists, as they believed that pleasure (and the avoidance of pain) were the primary goals of life. The epicureans vehemently contested this. It was not that they wanted to gain as much pleasure as possible, it was rather that they wanted to reduce their desire for pleasures that were not attainable.

The epicureans taught a deep level of gratitude for the things that you have, rather than on a dwelling of the things that you don’t have.

Within this context, my focus was shifted onto all of the good things that I have.

Book – The Case For Christ

The front cover of the book 'the case for Christ'
This book is a classic apologetic book and was recently made into a movie.

It follows the story of Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist with a degree in law who, after his wife becomes a Christian, decides to examine the evidence for Christ.

Lots of people have critiqued this book, both good and bad.

I will say that a lot of the claims in this book are overexaggerated and sometimes conclusions are drawn prematurely.

The ending of the book states that to not believe in the resurrection of Christ and His deity is the crazy thing to do, rather than the other way around – which again I think is a rather extreme conclusion.

That said, I found a lot of extremely useful content in this book.

The archaeological evidence, as well as the information about the putting together of canonical scripture, was very interesting, and some of the arguments were well laid out.

For me where we part ways is that I do not think that we will be able to prove that God exists, or even that through the scientific method prove that God is more likely to exist than to not exist.

Rather all I ask of apologetics is that it creates a space for me where my faith can exist. That it creates a space where God can exist. The primary essence of our belief is faith, and that is okay.

Yes, our faith must be built on something. Yes, our faith can be built on some logic and reason. But most of all we want our faith to be built on Christ, and our experience of Him.

Ultimately, want we want is a reasonable faith, and I think that this book provides some good blocks towards a reasonable faith.

Podcast – What To Do With Your Ambition

The cover of Rob Bell's podcast
This was a great podcast by Rob Bell.

The essence of the podcast is a juxtaposition between fear and ambition.

Fear, in its proper place, is a good thing. For millions of years, it has kept us safe and allowed us to develop as a race. However, when fear moves out of its proper place it becomes a phobia and can cripple peoples lives.

The same can be said of ambition.

When in it’s proper place ambition can be a good thing. It is a healthy drive to create, to do good, to create meaning and beauty. Ambition is not something to be feared.

However, when ambition loses its proper place it begins to twist us. It can make us bitter, it can cause us to do harm to others, and it can cause us to burn out.

I have ambition. I have things that I want to create and achieve. And this podcast helped me to see that that is okay 😊.

And finally, there are also the things that I have been learning for blog posts that I write on this blog. For a recap these were:
What have you learnt this month? Leave a comment below.
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