Some of my philosophy teaching
OVERVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY [updated 12-16]
THALES AND THE PRE-SOCRATICS
Ok- let me do a little teaching- maybe finish it tonight.
Christianity is not simply ‘made up stories’ from some bible.
No- the history of Western Thought- Philosophy- ideas- all of the various World Views are imbedded with God- our concepts of God- and ask the ultimate question ‘where did all this come from- and why are we here’.
We usually trace the beginning of Ancient Philosophy to the 6th century BCE.
A thinker by the name of Thales sought to find ways to describe natural phenomena without the use of Greek Mythology.
Even though Philosophy deals with Metaphysics [things beyond the natural- physical realm- Physics] yet Thales wanted to find explanations for existence- without leaning on Myth.
He is considered a ‘Pre Socratic’ thinker [before Socrates] and espoused an idea that water was the key source of all things.
These guys were looking for a singular thing to explain stuff.
Sometimes referred to as a unified theory- the same thing that Einstein was seeking to find some 2 Millennia later.
So- Thales surmised that water was the key thing.
There are various ideas of why he came to this conclusion- but one reason might have been the idea of motion.
Many Geek thinkers were looking for the source of motion- where did it come from?
And to the natural eye- if you observe the ocean- rivers- etc. - there does seem to be no cause for the moving of water- so to these guys it seemed like water itself was the source- motion came from water.
Now- there were other religions who taught a sort of idea along these lines.
Some pagan religions said that the ‘god’s’ moved upon the water- and life came that way.
If you read the Christian account of creation in Genesis- you will notice that God did move upon the waters- and the account in Genesis does indeed say that he brought forth life from the water.
Thales came from for Miletus- in Asia Minor.
He was famous for the prediction of a Solar Eclipse that occurred on May 28th- 585 BCE.
The earliest account of this is found in the writings of Herodotus.
Thales is considered one of the 7 sages of the time.
Christianity was born at a time where Greek thought/ideas were a big part of society.
We do find the early apostles using the language/ideas of the Greek philosophers when describing the reality of Christ.
The apostle John refers to Christ as THE LOGOS- The word Logos- is a Greek word for ‘word’.
Jesus is called ‘the word of God’.
Now- the Greek thinkers were in fact seeking for the Logos- they used this term to describe the ultimate answer to all tings.
They were on a search for some Divine principle that could explain things.
So- the writers of the New Testament were in a way saying ‘look- we have found the Logos- the thing that you guys are looking for- it is Christ- the Divine Logos’.
We also see the apostle Paul debating with the Greek thinkers in the city of Athens [the seat of Geek philosophy- the city/state where Socrates was forced to drink cyanide].
In Acts chapter 17 he is preaching to these guys on Mar’s Hill- he says ‘In him we live AND MOVE and have our being’.
Now- today as we read this- we don’t get the full import of what he was doing.
But- to the Greek mind- the source of motion was a big thing.
Paul was a smart guy- and he was saying ‘in him we move’ showing that yes- the ‘source of motion’ [Thales water] is not found in the natural world [Physics] but the source comes from the Metaphysical world [God].
He also says ‘when I was walking thru your town- I saw one of your altars- to the unknown god’.
At the time many believed in a Pantheon of gods- and to cover their bases- they had an altar for any god they might have missed- smart thinking!
So Paul says ‘him I declare unto you’.
Notice how Paul was able to debate- converse with them- and at the end actually use their own ideas- to present the gospel.
In this chapter- Acts 17- we read of the only 2 groups of philosophers mentioned in the bible.
The Epicureans and the Stoics.
The Epicureans were an early form of what we call Hedonism today- the idea that pleasure is the principle purpose of man.
The Stoics believed in ‘stoicism’ that man should have no emotional response to pain or pleasure- that’s why we call people today ‘Stoics’- when they seem to not be moved by anything.
Ok- that’s it for now- might make some comments tonight- but I’m getting ready to fly out soon- and trying to wind down before I leave.
If I don’t write tonight- I’ll talk again when in North Bergen- God bless you all.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
1Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Corinthians 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Corinthians 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1Corinthians 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1Corinthians 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
1Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
1Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
1Corinthians 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
1Corinthians 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
1Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
1Corinthians 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.
See? Paul the apostle had the intellectual capacity to engage with the best of them- but he knew that the core issue- was sin. That is those who reject Christianity on the basis of ‘it’s a religion of foolishness’- in reality- even if you win the intellectual argument- yet for the most part people will still not believe. In the end it is always a matter of true repentance- being honest with ourselves- and others. So- Paul didn’t rely on the ‘wisdom of men’ but the power of the Cross. When needed- he would ‘use it’ [men’s wisdom- Acts 17- Mars Hill] but he closed his argument by declaring Christ.
THE 5TH ELEMENT.
Ok- let’s talk philosophy today- the last post on this subject I traced what we normally refer to as the beginning of Greek philosophy- a man by the name of Thales- 6th century BCE.
We said that Thales had an idea that water was the principle element- water seemed to have the ability to move [motion] by itself- so Walla- maybe water is the principle thing.
He was what we refer to as a Monist.
Monists believed that there was one principle element- responsible for all other things.
Now- the pre Socratic philosophers debated about this- some said it was air- others earth- some said fire- as a matter of fact- some said all 4 of these elements were responsible for existence.
Now- some sought a 5th element- some yet to be discovered thing that would explain it all.
A man by the name of Anaximander described it as ‘the boundless’- something that has no origin- he said it was ‘both unborn- and immortal’ ahh- you can already see the attributes of God in this [boundless- what Theologians call omnipresent- God having no limits- he is everywhere [but not everything- get to that in a moment] and ‘unborn’ that is he himself has no beginning].
Ok- this 5th element [some called it Ether- or Aether- a sort of wave theory- that light travels along this ether- this idea lasted till the day of Einstein- who showed us that Ether does not exist [in this way] but that light itself is made up of particles- photons- this was one of the major breakthroughs of modern physics].
A few years ago the movie ‘the 5th Element’- Bruce Willis- hit on this theme- sort of like the ‘God particle’- that is they were in search for some type of being that was eternal – self existent.
The term Quintessence [quint- 5] came to be defined as this 5th element- and today we use the word Quintessential to describe the pure essence of a thing- the perfect embodiment of something.
Over time the Greek thinkers would arrive at the idea that yes indeed- there was one main thing- Monism- that could be the source of all other things.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish prophets- and wisdom literature- which predates these guys- already started from the standpoint of Monotheism- one God.
Now- Monism is not Monotheism.
Monism is really a form of what we call Pantheism [in the study of religion].
Pantheism says that God is ‘everything’- some eastern religions hold to this concept.
The Christian view is that God is separate from creation- that he is indeed the original source of creation- but not the creation itself.
The Geek philosophers even described this 5th element as ‘The One’- see- they were getting close.
In today’s debates- some espouse an idea that there was no beginning point- that the universe is either eternal [something Einstein disproved with the Big Bang theory] or that there is a sort of infinite regress- that there is no one starting point- but that there have been a never ending [or beginning] series of ‘big bangs’ that go on forever.
This defies the laws of logic- and math.
Yeah- many of the great physicists were also great mathematicians [like Einstein- and Max Plank- who was first a mathematician].
If there was no beginning point- mathematically it doesn’t ‘work’.
You would never be able to arrive at the present time- if there was no starting point to measure from [I know this might sound strange- but this is indeed a proof- that there had to be a starting point].
What these thinkers show us is that even thru the ancient field of Philosophy- you still arrive at some type of ‘thing’ that is responsible for all other things.
Some Christians reject the Big Bang theory- but in my view it gave the Christian apologist the greatest tool to argue for the existence of God.
For many centuries it was believed that the universe was eternal- and if that was true- then indeed you did not have to have an outside source that was responsible for it.
But Einstein showed us that there was a beginning point- that the universe is in a continual expansion mode- and if it is getting ‘bigger’ by the second- then yes- it did have a starting point.
Many today think that it ‘popped’ into existence on its own- this is both scientifically and logically impossible- it violates the law of Cause and Effect [every effect has to have a cause also ‘out of nothing- nothing comes’].
There was a famous Christian who abandoned the faith- Bertrand Russell- he said ‘if everything has to have a cause- then God must have one too- and if God needs a cause- then why not see the universe as the cause’.
Tough Russell was a good man- he made a mistake here.
The laws of logic do not say that everything has to have a cause- but every effect has to have one.
In essence- somewhere along the line- going back to the beginning- there must be an initial cause- that has no beginning- Anaximander’s Boundless One.
Ok- I won’t do too many of these posts in a row- because as you can see- this takes time- and you lose people along the way.
But- over the next few weeks I’ll slip a post like this in- it helps when dealing with those who have sincere objections to the faith- and it also debunks some common misconceptions.
HERACLITUS- Ok- lets pick up on my philosophy stuff.
Heraclitus lived in the 6th/5th century BC. - He was from Ephesus and his key thought was Ever Present Change.
That is he saw everything as being in a state of continual flux- one of his famous sayings was ‘No man ever steps into the same river twice’.
He is called the Weeping Philosopher- sort of like the prophet Jeremiah in the bible- also called the Weeping Prophet.
Heraclitus is known for his concept of the Logos- the Word- or thought/reason.
Now- this aspect of his thought plays a role in the development of the Christian understanding of Christ himself- in our New Testaments [written in Greek] Jesus is indeed referred to as the Logos- or Word of God.
The Greek philosophers understanding of the Logos was not the same as the Christian view- mainly expressed thru the writings of John [The gospel- the 3 epistles- and Revelation].
But- some see the Greek view as a precursor to Christ.
In the work of one of the early church fathers- Hippolytus ‘The Refutation of all Heresies’ he attacks Heraclitus view of the Logos as an early form of heresy.
The apologist Justin Martyr is more gracious- he [Like Ulrich Zwingli- the great Swiss reformer of the 16th century] viewed the early Geek thinkers as ‘pre- Christian’ or ‘Christians before Christ’.
Though many reject this view- yet there is some scripture to back it up.
The apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans that if the Gentiles [non-Jews] do by nature the things contained in the law- then they are justified in God’s sight.
Of course these things are debatable- but I add this to show you that some great Christian thinkers did indeed view the early Greek thinkers- who did live by a moral code- as being right in God’s eyes.
And the bible does teach a theme that we will be judged according to the amount of light [understanding] that we had at the time.
I should note that Plato [one of the 3 titans that arose after Heraclitus- from the city/state of Athens] disagreed with Heraclitus on all things being in a state of constant change.
When [if?] we get to Socrates- Plato and Aristotle- I’ll try and cover the ways they advanced- built upon- the thought of the pre Socratic thinkers.
As a side note- the most famous student of Aristotle- who was the most famous student of Plato- who was the most famous student of Socrates- was Alexander the Great.
This goes to show you how great an influence Greek philosophy had on the ancient world.
A few nuggets from Heraclitus- ‘all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos’ ‘follow the common’ ‘not having their own judgment’.
Recently I covered Acts chapter 2- and we see some of these ideas in the early Christian movement.
The first Christians did ‘follow the common’ they sold their goods- and had ‘all things common’ [communal lifestyle].
The apostle Paul teaches the early church to all ‘speak the same thing- that there be no divisions among you’.
And the New Testament also says the scripture should not be given to Private Interpretation- meaning- ‘not having your own personal judgment’.
All in all- we do indeed see a sort of pre Christian thought in the pre Socratic thinkers- they did indeed speak of the Divine- God- though there understanding of him was not the same as the Christian church.
In a sense- Heraclitus idea that in life- the only ‘constant’ is the fact that there is no constant- that life itself is made up of an ongoing journey- we live day by day- not ever knowing what ‘the next day will bring forth’- Jesus.
Yeah- the man had some good points- the later Stoics would consider Heraclitus as the father of their movement.
And in the study of Philosophy- the Stoics- who had a good run from a few years before the Common Era- were overtaken in the 4th century [as the main influential philosophy of the time] by some new and lasting philosophy- started by a man named Jesus Christ- who his followers claimed rose from the dead.
Yeah- this New Way was called Christianity- and this philosophy has endured now for over 2 thousand years.