Hellenistic Piffle

“Inferior people discuss people; mediocre people discuss events; great people discuss ideas.”

I came upon that notion somewhere in my travels as a head-in-the-clouds youngster and thought it was brilliant.

Not least because it meant I was superior to my peers.

Incarnated, this is the notion that two philosophers discussing the nature of metaphor in a cafe somewhere are vastly superior to two parents discussing whether to let Johnny sleep over at his friend Richard’s house this Friday night.

The philosophers are so learned, so interesting, and the parents are just so…common.  Boring.  Joe and Mary Sixpack with their mundane problems.  Who cares?

God does.  Truth is, Mom and Dad deciding who Johnny gets to spend time with will impart more wisdom than all the philosophy departments in all the universities in all the land.

Now before I get an endless stream of angry comments, let me hasten to say that gossip is a sin, and ideas are important.  But the notion that ideas are the only subject really worth talking about is just so much Hellenistic piffle; the ideas only matter when a person incarnates them.    The weightiest idea you can think of wouldn’t crush a gnat if it landed right on top of him.

Johnny has crushed lots of gnats.  Johnny matters.  Whether Mom and Dad let him spend the night at Richard’s, and how they handle the situation, shapes his character.  If they do their job well, then by the time the philosophy professor gets hold of him, he already knows which ideas he ought to incarnate, and which ones he’d better not.


2 Responses to Hellenistic Piffle

  1. Bobby Grow says:

    Good one!

    Which is why the Incarnation is so brilliant, so wise. We don’t have God’s being in abstraction, but in action. That’s why we should think of grace, truth, love, righteousness, etc. in terms of persons (God) and not abstracted ideas as most of classic theology has done.

    Great points, Tim!

  2. Jim Reitman says:


    Your comment really resonates from a hermeneutical standpoint as well (I’ve always got my hermeneutical antennae out for this kind of stuff). The entire NT was written in an environment saturated with “Hellenistic piffle,” and I can just imagine all these Hellenistic Rabbi’s and Corinthian “preachers” sniffing at Jesus’ gnat-crushing parables or the very mundane epistles of James and John.

    Thanks to Bobby for that affirming reminder of the monumental weight of the incarnation. We’re prayin’ for ya, Bro., as you work with the doctors in the next few days and weeks.

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