“Socrates in the City” A Review

Socrates in the City by Eric Metaxas; copyright 2011; Blackstone Audiobooks; approx. 15 hours

“Socrates in the City” is a compendium of talks given in the forum of the same name that takes in place in New York City. This periodic event’s premise is based on Socrates’ words, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I’m as pleased as I can be that I read this as an audio book because it meant I could hear the speakers and the questions in their own voices. I would have missed the nuances of each speaker’s voice and those of the audience members in the Q & A sessions.

Each guest speaker does, indeed, talk about the topics listed in the subtitle. These topics are what I call gritty. You may not agree or even understand the stance each speaker takes on his subject, but you’ll have to admit that they are people who challenge your thinking. They know the subjects and are astute to the fact that we might not be.

It was refreshing–their delivery of facts about their given topic, observations which form and affect culture, and their expressions of their individual opinions on the topic. They speak in civil discourse, something that’s lacking in our age of “power through social media.” The audience members asking questions following each speech prove that they are no slouches either.

Socrates in the City is a platform I respect because of the content and the method in which the content is delivered. Metaxas’ introductions often make me cringe with his attempts at humor, but his keen wit in these efforts outweigh the groaners, so I forgive him. In fact, a few of the speakers found his introductions of them clever.

Metaxas ends this audio book with a talk on his most recently (at that time) published book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Having read “Bonhoeffer,” it was a pleasure to hear the author explain a little about his writing and research process and some high points in the biography to look out for. Truly, “Bonhoeffer,” though a monster of a book, has been listed as one of two of my favorite biographies to date. The book Socrates in the City: Conversations on “Life, God, and Other Small Topics” is fairly high up there on the current list of favorite non-fiction too.

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Five Ways to Gain Wisdom

wisdom road sign“For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:6).

A former professor of mine told our class, “Sometimes common sense isn’t so common.” I don’t remember to what he was referring and I don’t know if the comment was original with him. He could have been quoting someone.

But I believe he was right.

Even more than a need to use common sense, however, is the need for what might be called uncommon sense. Wisdom.

Wisdom, by definition, is the right use of knowledge. So how do we get wisdom and what are some steps we can take to practice godly wisdom?

Know God

Scripture says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Our ability to put wisdom into practice increases when we know God’s character. Knowing God’s character, we come to trust him more and our relationship with him deepens. We better understand his purposes and his ways so we make choices that are in alignment with his will.

Know God’s Word

In addition to knowing God through prayer and meditation, reading scripture can give us wisdom. Every story, proverb, and teaching includes principles for us to live by. The apostle Paul advised the church in Colossae, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

God’s word dwelling in us means that it lives in us, becoming part of us. Then, our minds are constantly tuned to the things of God.

Know Well a Few Key People

Members of the body of Christ also help us in our ability to apply wisdom to the choices we make. Other Christ followers can help us by pointing out those things they’ve learned in their walk with the Lord.

“Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together”)

Know What Wisdom Looks Like

Scripture says, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17, 18).

These character attributes will increasingly become evident in our decisions as we increase in wisdom. This is godly wisdom–wisdom from heaven. We can be more sure of making godly decisions if we use these criteria.

Know How to Ask

God has promised for those who ask sincerely without doubting that their prayers for wisdom will be answered (James 1:5). In fact, his word says wisdom will be given generously.

Father, I know that without your Spirit working in me, I’m a stranger to godly wisdom. Even when I pray for wisdom, it shows that you’re making me wiser. I know that putting wisdom into practice is an ongoing lesson in my journey. Please keep me on the path.