Customer Reviews: Socrates Meets Jesus: History's Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ
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on June 8, 2005
First of all, if I may get away with answering some critics. I was a philosophy and religious studies student at a secular liberal arts university where Christianity was not thought of fondly. I then went to a divinity school where I learned that not everything called "Christian" really is. Though I may not be an expert, I know what kind of things go on in the setting that Kreeft has offered, a divinity school.

If nothing else, Socrates criticizes modernist "Christians" who try and have it both ways (All the success of the spread of Christianity without any doctrine or personal piety). Now with regards to the critics, many of them use two words: "straw man" and "fundamentalism." The irony is this: anyone who does not want to critically consider the claims of Christianity calls even its basic, central beliefs (crucifixion, resurrection, Bible) "fundamentalism." Anyone who goes to Divinity School will (hopefully) learn that there have been Benedictines, Puritans, and Lutherans; however all these people had in common basic beliefs about who Jesus was and what he did. After a belief is deemed "fundamentalist," it is no longer studied. Fundamentalism becomes such an all-encompassing, and thus poorly defined staw man, that Christianity is considered easily dispatched.

However, it would serve such critics well to read the sociologist of religion Martin Marty's "Fundamentalisms Observed." In it, he dispels the popular notion that fundamentalism is the predominant mode of Christianity, and second, contends that many "conservative" Christians really aren't fundamentalists. In fact, this irony is aptly exposed in chap. 3 of Kreeft's book when Socrates concludes that the definition of fundamentalism employed currently is too broadly conceived.

Furthermore, this Socrates, for better or worse, is exactly the "gadfly" of the Apology/Phaedo, the eternal questioner. The central method of Socrates was to start with a set of premises and follow them to their logical conclusion. Aristotle later criticized Socratic logic in his "Prior Analytics," suggesting that premises themselves might have to be established from a more empirical basis, preventing an ad nauseam of logical progression. However, this Socrates is the very rationalist who Aristotle criticized. The exact reason for some of the philosophical overlaps between Socrates and Christians (theism, monotheism, ethical holiness of God) is still a subject of great debate; Kreeft just offered an answer to that overlap that displeases the philosophical secularist.

Perhaps the bottom line is that several critics don't want to acknowledge/consider even the most basic premises of faith. In this sense, they are ironically dogmatic. Either Jesus was who he said he was or he wasn't. This much is a tautology. We'll call it J v ~J. If he wasn't, it is because the Scriptures were untrue or the ones who wrote Scripture were deceived (argument in pp. 169-170, one critic stopped reading at 150). The argument is logical. What it really means is that Christianity is an all or nothing. You either accept it or mightily refute it as a lie. There is no middle ground of "Jesus was just kinda nice." The historical character and teachings of Jesus simply burned that philosophical bridge.

I guess my bottom line to critics is, just read the book. Don't read the book reading your stereotypical view of a Christian apologist such as Kreeft into the book (an inherently ad hominem read). Just take the premises as they come; avoid gratuitous emotion or subjectivity, try to look at the ideas themselves. That is the true task of the philosopher, and Socrates makes that evident, unlike an "intoxicated hippie" (to use words of a profound critic of this book). Socrates may yield to some foundational propositions that are occasionally questionable, but each argument he makes necessarily follows from the starting premises.

Whether you believe or do not believe, I implore you to look at the ideas and logic itself, and judge the book on this basis, not on the basis that this book is written by a Christian apologist. I think then you will realize one thing that both a secularist and I can agree on: Jesus was, and will continue to be, one of the most influential figures of all time.
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on May 7, 2007
This is another in a series by Kreeft that has Socrates reappearing in a modern day setting to challenge people with what they believe or why the live the way they do. So, much like his other books The Best Things In Life and The Unaborted Socrates, the names of people and places in this book are a series of puns and jokes. In this book, Socrates wakes up from what he assumed was his suicide in the 'Broadener Library at Have It University', which is supposed to be a renowned hub of learning in 'Camp Rich, Massachusetts'. Sound familiar?

It appears that he has been registered at the Have It Divinity School. The characters he interacts with are varied and interesting. The first student he meets is Bertha Broadmind, then Thomas Keptic, Professor Flatland who teaches 'Science and Religion'. Then Socrates encounters Professor Shift who teaches 'Comparative Religions'. Next Socrates encounters the claims of Christ in Professor Fesser's 'Christology' seminar. This is the purpose of the book - to have Socrates encounter the claims of Christ. The rest of the book takes place around these seminar classes.

Kreeft has a very interesting book here, in that he tries to answer the question of what would happen if Socrates of Athens were to reappear today and interact with a modern university crowd. Socrates has not changed much from dying and reappearing somewhere and some time else. He is still the ultimate questioner and his questions will challenge what people believe and why they believe.

The first time I read Kreeft's Socratic style, a book written directly as dialogue, I was not all that enthusiastic about it. But now that I have read a few books in this style, I really enjoy it. It makes the reading of philosophy very quick and painless. That, combined with Socrates method of asking questions, lets you read more serious philosophy in an easier-to-approach method.

Kreeft is known as a great scholar who specializes in apologetics (the defense of the faith), also C.S. Lewis and Socrates. This book brings together two of those passions of his academic life and highlights them in a fun, uncomplicated way. Kreeft has a knack for taking very difficult topics and making them far more approachable.

This is a great book to encounter the claims of Christ and the modern academic setting. Though a little kitschy with all the puns, that just makes it more fun and memorable.

So pick up this book and join history's greatest questioner as he confronts and challenges the claims of Christ and the modern academic environment - especially in religious schools, colleges or seminaries. My recommendation would be to give it a try even if you just want to broaden your knowledge of Christianity or to learn how to ask the right questions to get the answers you are looking for. A great scholar, Dr. Peter Frick, once said, 'Life is not about knowing all the answers but about learning to ask the right questions.' This book will help you learn how to do that. Therefore, I can only say this book is definitely a 'Love It'.

(First Published in Imprint as 'Love It' in the 'Love It / Hate It' book review column 2007-05-04.)
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on November 29, 2003
Several reviewers have commented on the simplistic nature of the discussion within the book. However, I think that fails to recognize the intent of the book. Kreeft is not attempting a thorough, painstaking, philosophical examination of Christianity. He is not a New Testament scholar, and would scarcely even suggest such a thing. His purpose is to use Socrates as a vehicle for approaching some of the core concepts of Christianity, specifically those most frequently addressed in popular circles. Even among the topics most purely "philosophical", he is able to address them in only an introductory way. He succeeds admirably in revealing some of the absurd notions regarding Jesus that find such frequent mention today. He employs logic in a very clear, vivid way, using it as the tool that it is to test and examine these notions. The book seems intended to introduce and encourage one to consider the claims of Christianity ACCORDING TO THE PRIMARY TEXTUAL SOURCE, the bible. NOT hearsay, weekly news magazines, and Discovery Channel documentries. If Christianity is true, then we better wake up to it, and face the issues Jesus raises as though our lives depended on it. And maybe they do. Logic and common sense demand such an examination.
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on January 4, 2003
Imagine! An author wants to use philosophy and logic to examine common underlying principles of modern culture. Instead of writing (another!) college-text available to and of interest to only college students and their professors, he finds a premise and style that will apeal to the scholars and the uninitiated alike. Kreeft brings Socrates to life on the modern-day campus of Harvard. Through Socrates, Kreeft questions and examines and identifies many of the often unnamed and unspoken assumptions of modern US culture.
Kreeft's writing is clean and direct.
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on June 18, 2006
First, I will address the reason I gave the book four stars instead of five. I have read and re-read Plato's dialogues (from which we get our knowledge of Socrates), and based on what I have read, I believe that Socrates would have addressed many of the questions raised by the antagonists in the book differently. Nevertheless, through his character Socrates, Kreeft does an admirable job of addressing the assumptions underlying the mantras and monikers bandied about by those who attack the core principles of Christianity (Jesus as God incarnate, the Resurrection, and others), and pointing out the need for such people to take the beam out of their own eye. The book is over 180 pages long, and should be read to determine its merit. As for those who don't like the book and attack its supposed lack of logical integrity and accuse it of fundamentalism, if you are going to post a review of this book, and you are going to make assertions about its (supposed) fallacies, please state not only the supposed fallacy, but an example of the fallacy from the book.
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on November 3, 2006
The last reviewer was right-on. Considering its intended audience, it hits a home-run. I read this book several times, starting in 1983 and bought it several times to give to people. It's #1 characteristic is its humor. You cannot help but smile or burst out laughing at "Socrates" reactions to various things, especially in light of his being transported to a "progressive, 20th century age". The theme/idea is marvelous, and its treatment genuinely intriguing.

Of course I am a believer in Jesus Christ, but also studied Socrates from an atheistic English professor who introduced our class to the real Socrates in a fantastic way. Always lucid and sensitive. When this book was handed to me by a friend, I could tell, just by the concept of the book, that it had a more-than-likely chance of being fun to read. Well it was, and it is very thought provoking about what our world esteems as good.

Even if you are dead set against books which you think attempt to trick you into meeting God, this book is a fun read. Very witty, too.
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on August 29, 2008
Years ago, I read Kreeft's book "Between Heaven and Hell," a great idea that pitted C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and JFK against one another in debate after their untimely demises on the exact same day and year. In searching for that title, I came across "Socrates Meets Jesus."

I was surprised, even amused, by the didactic tone that reflects the 1980's Christian creative landscape. While Peretti was using angels and demons to portray spiritual ideas in fiction (not exactly a subtle approach), Kreeft worked on this title that shows a similar mindset. In other words, Kreeft uses a less sophisticated tone than he probably would've if he'd written this in our modern day. He would've relied more on deep thinking than on clever--or not so clever--wordplay, naming the university, Have-It University, instead of Harvard, and referring to another as Bussed-In, instead of Boston. These seem almost childish now, particularly in view of his serious yet readable attempt to challenge Christianity with the Socratic method of questioning.

That said, I enjoyed the book. We follow Socrates as he attends classes at Have-It, and we hear his reasoning for and against elements of the Biblical account. If you're looking for an exhaustive treatment of philosophy or theology, this is not it. If you're looking for concise and often lucid dialogue between liberal and conservative Christians, you'll find it here. There's no great delving into atheism or Darwinism, but there are passages that raise valid questions about the character of Jesus and his influence on the past two thousand years.

While Socrates "conversion" does seem somewhat sudden and easy, I do appreciate what Kreeft was trying to do here. This is a book worth mining for questions of ethics, philosophy, and religion. These questions, in keeping with the Socratic method, might have had more impact if left with possibilities still bouncing around in readers' heads instead of tacking on definitive answers from the great questioner himself. Instead, we get an entertaining, even enlightening book, that might resonate more with current readers if it were to be updated and revised.
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on June 26, 2004
I found this not only an intellectually rich book, but also well written and quite frankly, difficult to put down. Kreeft stays true to using Socratic Method as different heretics come across Socrates' path on a University campus. He ends up finding Christ through a reading of the Bible. Great book for believers and unbelievers.
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on April 1, 2004
This is partly about Kreeft's book, which I read for a seminary apologetics class - and partly a reaction to George M. Bruhl's inexplicable review ("Gnostic literature"). Buddy, grab a clue: the book isn't a literal portrayal of Socrates; how in the world could you possibly have missed Kreeft's whole point? (And what the heck does gnosticism have to do with this book?)
Socrates' legacy is the "Socratic method" of dialogue: teaching by asking incisive, thought-provoking questions. Whether Socrates is entirely accurately portrayed by the writings of Plato is beside the point. Kreeft took the "Socratic method" and applied it to discussing the claims of and about Christ. And in so doing, he's written a book that is very intellectually stimulating but also very accessible to most readers. Kreeft has managed to score major philosophical points by asking the right questions and getting his readers' mental wheels turning. And it's all written in a non-preachy, entertaining and disarming dialogic style.
I intend to collect all of Kreeft's "conversation" books.
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on December 28, 2015
Very enjoyable, and very interesting. I liked this "Socratic Method" of approaching the major issues of the day. My only disappointment is that when I compare it with the brilliance of a book by CS Lewis, this book is slightly in the shadows.
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