For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
- Romans 1:20
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
- Psalm 145:3-7
“Aristotle’s later argument against the theory of Forms was more straightforward, and more directly related to his studies of the natural world. He realized that it was simply unnecessary to assume that there is a hypothetical realm of Forms, when the reality of things can already be seen here on Earth, inherent in everyday things.
“Perhaps because his father had been a physician, Aristotle’s scientific interests lay in what we now call the biological sciences, whereas Plato’s background had been firmly based in mathematics. This difference in background helps to explain the difference in approach between the two men. Mathematics, especially geometry, deals with abstract concepts that are far removed from the everyday world, whereas biology is very much about the world around us, and is based almost solely on observation. Plato sought confirmation of a realm of Forms from notions such as the perfect circle (which cannot exist in nature), but Aristotle found that certain constants can be discovered by examining the natural world.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
We are, at this point, taking a detour in chronological order to keep the order of teacher-student going. Socrates had a student named Plato. Plato had a student named Aristotle. Aristotle had a student named Alexander, as in Alexander the Great, who might have written philosophy if he had not died young. Thus, with Aristotle (384-322BC), the great line of Athenian Greek philosophers died. As I have mentioned before, I do not think it a coincidence that philosophy gained such a foothold in Greece a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus. In fact, the birth and ministry of Jesus lands squarely in the middle of a large gap in notable philosophers, nominally Aristotle to St. Augustine of Hippo, a gap of about 700 years. For those seeking knowledge and trying to understand the world around them, there was no great teacher until Jesus came along, and the Apostle Paul then took Jesus’ message to the Gentiles. To add to this, that Alexander the Great insisted on all conquered lands learning Greek, at least a simplified version to be used as a business language, we have another piece in God’s timing. And then, the Romans conquered the Greeks and built roads. So, when the apostles were given the charge to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth, they had a common language to use, a road system in which to travel greater distances, a common empire so that there were no problems with border crossings, and an earnest appetite in learning and seeking knowledge, especially seeking a fresh idea on how the world works. Then you have the timing of Jesus dying on a cross when the Romans had not used crucifixion long before this point and they quit using it not that long after. God’s timing is always perfect. (It is just us who are impatient.)
For those of us who believe in God the Father, the Creator of all things, we can see His wonders in our hands. They are marvelous things. Mine are not school trained in typing, but just think of how easily the fingers go from one key to the next. But then, some of us can peel an apple with taking very little of the meat and having the entire peeling come off in one long continuous strip. If you are like me and have done that, your hands might have spent a great deal of time sharpening the knife that you used. The sharpening took great, but gentile, well-controlled force, but still a delicate touch. Then you decide to make a meat loaf and you dump the ingredients into a large bowl and you knead the ingredients with your hands until they are evenly mixed. You have gone from a delicate touch that is soft, to a delicate touch that is stronger, to a rough touch. As the Incredible Hulk might say, “SMASH!” And all the time, we use the tool God made that is unlike any other on earth, our hands and fingers. The apes may have hands, but not opposable thumbs and not the wide range of ability in using the fingers – that ability being available using many muscles and tendons that apes do not have, none of which would be needed without the rest of those many muscles and tendons that apes do not have, thus genetically rejected if they formed by mutation. (I just threw in that last bit in that Evolution’s idea of a slow progress from one to the other was “fact,” when, in reality, it is not even plausible.)
But someone mentioned in a recent Sunday school class that they lamented the rains washing the snow away, but when the snow was completely gone, they noticed that the daffodils had emerged from the ground, just the first leaves. They marveled at how the daffodil could withstand the snow. We could study a single snowflake in amazement. We could study the lifecycle of a daffodil or the intricacies of the bloom or the variations in aroma among the narcissus family of flowers. God ensures the sparrows have food to eat, and He counts the hairs on our heads. He also puts equal detail into a small flower and an even smaller snowflake.
Yet, Aristotle did not have the upbringing in a Christian home as I did, to see that the God, the Creator of the universe did all that. He sought the great philosopher, Plato, and studied at his feet. Then when it came time to take over that philosophy, he blended Plato’s ideas, of a World of Ideas, a Form or Ideal for each thing, with the experience of learning from his father, a practical application of the basic knowledge of the world in order to heal the sick.
Aristotle, as Plato was with his Ideals, was on the right track if he could have been introduced to Christianity, only dying about 350 years beforehand. Yet, this is the foundation of the thought process that was taught among the Greeks as the Apostle Paul went from town to town.
It is no wonder that these people seeking knowledge, at least some, saw the message of the Gospel and devoured it, wanting even more. And why did God choose the Apostle Paul? Paul was a murderer of those who followed Jesus. Why him? For one thing, God can forgive and does forgive those who believe. In reading Paul’s letters though, you see why. Paul was highly educated and was very precise in his letters. He did not shy away from any controversial topic. Aristotle might not have agreed with him, but he would have been impressed. But the Apostle Paul was more than just a philosopher. He had the Holy Spirit within him, guiding him in words spoken and words written.
This may seem more about Paul than Aristotle, but with Aristotle, the great thinkers of the world would die out for a few hundred years. And the foundation of a clear school of thought was grasped by the early Christians. Because of the process taught by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the world was ready for the Gospel.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.