The Greco-Roman Ideal Man vs. the Christian Man

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When comparing the Greco-Roman “ideal or high-minded man” to the Christian man, it is easy to see many similarities between their system of ethics and their set of values. The greatest similarity between the two is their mutual pursuit of goodness. The greatest difference, however, is the contrasting motives behind this pursuit.

Both the ideal man and the Christian man seek to live honorable lives by being virtuous. Descriptions of the Christian man found in the Bible parallel many qualities of the ideal man. Galatians 5:22 characterizes the righteous man as having “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In dealing with others both seek to demonstrate temperance, tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness. They both strive to shun gossip, and instead aim always to seek the truth. Aristotle said, “He (the ideal man) must care for truth more than for what men will think of him, and speak and act openly.”

While both types of men aspire to be honorable and achieve goodness, the ideal man is motivated by the notion that he will be treated well. The Christian man is motivated to be like Christ through goodness and righteousness. Also, the ideal man views the relationship between ethics and politics to be the measurement of perfection. According to Aristotle, “Man is only an animal outside the state; only through the state can he attain moral and intellectual perfection.” Conversely, as the Christian works towards fashioning himself after the character of God, who is the ultimate source of goodness and perfection, he becomes perfect. The ideal man works to change himself, but the Christian allows God to change his heart. Furthermore, both types of men avidly strive to obtain happiness. They do not however, share the same definition of happiness. While the ideal man defines happiness in terms of wealth and good health, the Christian finds happiness in serving God. The ideal man “claims much and deserves much”,...
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