True Philosophy

After standing up to bloodthirsty tyrants with holy cheek, Peter and John might have been disposed to boast of their victory.

Instead, these “true philosophers,” as St. John Chrysostom calls them, return “to their own company,” and join them in a most sober and instructive prayer (Acts 4:23-31).

These earliest of Christians reflect on the humanly hopeless circumstances of the newborn Church. “Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the People of Israel”—in other words, all the powers of their world—have recently put Christ to death, and are bent on wiping out anyone foolish enough to continue following in his footsteps.

“Filled with true philosophy,” Chrysostom remarks, the disciples do not resort to “old wives’ talk or fables.” That is, they do not attempt to construct their own explanation of what is happening, or devise their own escape from the forces seeking to extinguish the light by which they have learned to live.

Instead, citing Psalm 2, they remind themselves that the Lord has foretold that the rage of nations and counsels of kings will be directed against his Christ. And he has promised that such rage and such counsels are, and will always be, “vain things.”

Buoyed by these divine assurances, the faithful beg for the confidence to speak his word (logos) despite the vindictive rage and superior positioning of his foes.

In answer to their prayer, “the place was moved wherein they were assembled,” so that, witnessing the power of him whose gaze makes the earth tremble (Ps. 103:32), the hearts of the disciples would be “all the more unshaken” (Chrysostom again).

As nations rage and kings scheme, true philosophers will be reminded, to cite the Venerable Bede, that “earthly hearts [will] pass away from those under whose feet the earth itself [is] shaken with dread at the coming of the Holy Spirit.”

Only those who have “learned to rise with Christ and to taste of heavenly things” can endure this heavenly shaking with joy.

This is what true philosophy teaches, and it is no fable.

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