For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me.1

Almost a year ago I made a post about living the examined life. This follow up is an attempt to answer some of those questions.

Marrying the Socratic examined life with the mysteries of Christ requires a balance of heart and mind, spirit and logic. The clash of worldview between Greek and Hebrew makes them difficult to unite. Hebrew pursues tangible, concrete thought through stories and pictures. Greek pursues abstract, theoretical thought through reason and argument. Hebrew emphasizes mystery and wonder. Greek emphasizes logic and definitiveness. Hebrew looks to God. Greek looks to Man. The problem of defining an examined Christian life lies in this fact: the Christian life often defies definition and formula. It is paradoxical not logical. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.2

Paradox and Sophism

paradox n. a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true
sophism n. a clever but false argument, especially one used deliberately to deceive

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.3 The Lord’s paradoxes create life. The devil’s sophisms destroy it. Therefore, we must seek out these paradoxes and incorporate them into our examined life. We gain our lives by giving them away.4 We lower ourselves to gain authority.5 When we are slaves then we are free.6 When we are weak then we are strong.7 When we become fools then we are wise.8 We are alive only when we have died.9

The devil’s sophistry allures us to believe we use our power to prove ourselves.10. He deceives us into thinking God will not give us good gifts.11 He convinces us God withholds from us.12 However, Christian paradoxes force us to think differently about our examined life. We must evaluate everything on the basis of scripture not worldly knowledge. The Christian life is defined by dying to self, coming alive in Christ, considering others better than yourself, serving others through giving your life away, and becoming a slave to Christ. Therefore, any Christian living an examined life must ask “Am I giving myself away to others?“.


Why does it matter? Do we even need bother with defining the examined life? Yes! We, as followers of Christ, need to continually seek him and his truth. It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. 13 As we seek him through the Spirit we will grow like Christ–in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.14 As we seek the Spirit, he will continue to lead us into all truth.15 In order to find truth we must cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Thus, the another question presents itself: “Do I depend on the voice of the Spirit in my life?“.

We must compare the claims of Socrates to scripture so that the truth may be uncovered. In this process, it is critical we be present to the voice of the Spirit. We must be aware of both the logos–the word that has been spoken, and the rhema–the word being spoken. The rhema must be tested against the logos for a true word from the Lord will not contradict what has already been said. I will expound upon this idea in a later post; however, the example of Abraham helps to explain my meaning. Abraham obeyed what God said by taking Isaac to the  mountain to sacrifice him, but he also obeyed what God is saying by stopping before he killed him. Abraham was obedient to God’s word–both past and present. In the above quote Socrates says: “that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man”. On the other hand, Jesus says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”16

These two statements are not far from each other, especially when Deuteronomy is taken in context;17 however, in their difference resides both defeat and victory.

Law and Grace

Socrates says to discuss virtue, know what is right, and then do it regardless of the consequences. However, our human iniquity, or evil bent, keeps us from doing good. Think of a small child who, when told not to do something, will undoubtedly be pulled toward the very thing he or she was told not to do. Through the weakness of our flesh, sin seizes its opportunity and causes us to do what we know is wrong. We are left with nothing except sin and death, but the wonderful mercy of God sets us free from death through Christ’s sacrifice. When we believe by faith that Christ has set us free we are “released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”.18 Thus another question in the Christian examined life must be “Am I living by faith that Christ died for me, so that I may be justified to God, dead to the law, and alive to the Spirit?“, and the follow up to it: “Am I reigning in life through his abundant grace and gift of righteousness?“.19


I cannot belittle the power and intelligence of human beings. Our history is filled with idea after idea and event after event in which the previously unfathomable becomes attainable. We hold within us the almost limitless potential for good but also for evil. As Lewis said, to be a son of Adam or daughter of Eve is “both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.”20 In the garden we chose the knowledge of good and evil over an active living relationship with our creator. We have since been suffering the consequences. Socrates was a great man. A man who chased after virtue, and through striving was able to be a law to himself.21 This seems good because we know that God is just.22 However, even our best is “as filthy rags”,23 because no one seeks God and no one does good.24  Even our best leads to destruction.25

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.26 We have gained life through Christ’s death, because we are justified to God by faith.27 And now we are able to fulfill the law of the Spirit of Life through this faith.28

And herein lies the difference. Socrates best seeks to set himself above the gods, because they were corrupt and evil. However, the commands of Christ only make sin known,29 because the law, weakened by the flesh, cannot bring us to God.30 Socrates assumes man can be perfected through examination and discussion of virtue, but Christ knows that man can only be perfected through faith.31 So, a Christian examined life must also ask “Am I trying to be perfected by the flesh or am I being perfected by the Spirit?“.

I’ve struggled with how to end this post, because it’s incomplete. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of an examined life. It must be a constant conversation with God through his Word and the Holy Spirit. We must deepen our relationship with him. As we draw nearer to him, he’ll draw nearer to us, and only then will be become more Christ-like–the ultimate goal of a Christian’s examined life.

  1. Plato. Apology.
  2. Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV
  3. John 10:10 ESV
  4. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:35 ESV
  5. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, Matthew 20:26-27 ESV
    For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 ESV
  6. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:22 ESV
  7. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
  8. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. 1 Corinthians 3:18-21 ESV
  9. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:4-5 ESV
  10. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Matthew 4:3 ESV
  11. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9 ESV
  12. But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 ESV
  13. Proverbs 25:2 ESV
  14. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52 ESV
  15. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13 ESV
  16. Matthew 22:37-39 ESV, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18
  17. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV
  18. Romans 7:6 ESV
  19. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 ESV
  20. C.S. Lewis. Prince Caspian. quoted from
  21. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. Romans 2:14 ESV
  22. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. Romans 2:6-10 ESV
  23. Isaiah 64:6 KJV
  24. Romans 3:11-12
  25. For the wages of sin is death…Romans 6:23 ESV
  26. Romans 3:21-25 ESV
  27. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:28 ESV
  28. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:31 ESV
  29. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 ESV
  30. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Romans 7:9-12 ESV
  31. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV
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