In what three ways can Socrates be considered a Christian thinker?

Quick answer:

Socrates advocated many of the same values that are important to Christians. He believed in a higher power and the immortality of the soul, virtues found in many religions. He also encouraged forgiveness and humility, which are core Christian values. Like Socrates, Kant believed that people should take responsibility for their actions. In fact, he felt that it was impossible to live a moral life without free will. However, Kant did not believe that humans were naturally good. He was very pessimistic about human nature, believing instead that we are inherently selfish and immoral creatures who need to be controlled by external influence. Kant believed that an outside power is necessary to keep people from being completely self-serving. Or as he puts it: "

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Socrates lived centuries before Christ. Thinking of him as a Christian thinker is somewhat problematic. However, there are a few elements of his philosophy that align with common Christian philosophy.

First of all, Socrates was a huge proponent on the power of forgiveness. He advocated that people should find ways to live as harmonious neighbors, despite their differences or grievances. In Crito, Plato ascribes quotes Socrates as saying

One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.

This sentiment of forgiveness being necessary to live a peaceful existence is in line with Christ's urging his followers to "turn the other cheek" to any who would harm them.

While Christianity is certainly not the first religion to believe in the immortality of the soul, everlasting life is a central part of its dogma. Socrates also believed that the soul is immortal. Like Christians, Socrates believed that the soul faces judgment after death. However, instead of being awarded a place in heaven or hell, Socrates felt that souls would then be reincarnated.

Socrates also would have agreed with the Christian sentiment that there are reasons to praise poverty. He advocated leading a humble life, free from the burdens of wealth. Like Christ, Socrates felt that worldly attachments stand in the way of spiritual pursuits. In Plato's Apology and Xenophon's Memorabilia, Aristotle claims that people who prize wealth over all things fail to understand the true nature of the universe. The greedy are self-serving, and therefore are out of touch with the true needs of the spirit.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial