I remember hearing a famous Christian philosopher give an argument to show that the material world had a beginning and then finish by saying “and that is how we prove God exists.” But his debating partner was not a philosophical materialist. He was a Platonist. And Platonists believe in God. Right? Or at least they got close enough with what they had in general revelation?
It can be misleading to read one of the influential philosophers, say Plato or Aristotle, and see them write about God and how our highest good is contemplating God. That sounds true, what could be misleading about that? Well, we have to ask what they mean by “God.” The meaning of a belief is always first. We cannot believe what has no meaning to us. And by “God” Plato and Aristotle did not mean God the Creator and Ruler.
Neither Plato nor Aristotle taught God the creator. For them, God was co-eternal with the world (hence, dualism, two things are eternal). This is as much a denial of the eternal power of God as is materialism. It denies that God only is eternal and denies there is a creation that reveals God (what has no beginning is not created). Both of these equated change with imperfection. And so, the best life for the human soul was one that escaped from the world of change and could directly perceive being in itself. This direct vision of God denied the knowledge of God revealed in creation and providence.
But is this the best of what the world could discover from general revelation? If it is clear that the material world has not existed from eternity and that our highest good is the knowledge of God, which is mediated through his works, then Plato and Aristotle’s “God” is an example of unbelief. Like the Greek philosophers that Paul speaks to at Athens, they should have known God their Creator. This unbelief is without excuse. If we can borrow an argument from them here or there, we still must remember this fundamental rejection of God and replacement with a God who does not create, providentially rule, or redeem.
We can know God does all three of these from general revelation. Would you like to know how? Sign up on our web page for our conference. Bring a friend or two. And interact with our weekly blog posts. Our conference is coming up and I can’t wait to see you there.