I recently came across some fascinating quotes from the two most well-known philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. What I found so interesting about them is that modern philosophers claim they don’t need god. But the two most influential philsophers would beg to defer. While I don’t know for sure if they were Christians or not, they certainly were not atheists and concluded quite solidly that a god does exist.
Plato reasoned that there were two things that “lead men to believe in the gods”: the argument based on the soul and the argument from “the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe.” Plato used both of those arguments to refute the notion of atheism and concluded that there must be a “best soul” who is the “maker and father of all…who ordered the primordial chaos into the rational cosmos we observe today.” Plato established two of the most commonly used arguments for the existence of God – that man has a soul and the universe has design. It was obvious to him that in light of those two things a god must exist.1
Aristotle reached a similar conclusion. Look at his thoughts on the subject:
“When thus they would suddenly gain sight of the earth, seas, and the sky; when they should come to know the grandeur of the clouds and the might of the winds; when they should behold the sun and should learn its grandeur and beauty as well as its power to cause the day by shedding light over the sky; and again, when the night had darkened the lands and they should behold the whole of the sky spangled and adorned with stars; and when they should see the changing lights of the moon as it waxes and wanes, and the risings and settings of all the celestial bodies, their courses fixed and changeless throughout all eternity-when they should behold all these things, most certainly they would have judged both that there exist gods and that all these marvelous works are the handiwork of the gods.”2
The grandeur of the heavens and the movements of the celestial bodies led Aristotle to conclude there must be a First Unmoved Mover, which is God; a living, intelligent, eternal, and most good being, who is the source of order in the cosmos. From the earliest of times even men who are without a Biblical revelation, have concluded on the basis of the universe alone that a Divine Being must exist. If that sounds familiar to you, let’s revisit the words from Paul in Romans 1:18-20.
“For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”
Some may say that so little was known about science at the time of Paul, Plato, and Aristotle so those men just did not know any better. They didn’t have a scientific explanation for most things so they just relied on God to explain it. We know so much more now about how the world works, and we have a scientific explanation for nearly everything. Surely this information age has shown that there doesn’t have to be a god, right? But in reality, that kind of statement is incredibly naïve about what science has actually revealed to us. And honestly, it’s highly ironic that the same people accusing Paul of not being scientifically informed will rely solely on a theory proposed during the Civil War era to explain all of life’s origins. Darwin’s theory of evolution was first published in 1859, around the same time that patients were having amputations without anesthesia, people were dying from gangrene, and bloodletting was still the recommended cure for illnesses.
With all the knowledge we’ve gained in science since then, particularly in biology, we should stop and see what it reveals. The double-stranded helix of DNA was first discovered in 1953. Since then we know that in a simplified explanation of DNA replication there are at least five components (helicase, single stranded binding proteins, DNA polymerase, primase, and ligase) necessary in order to replicate the first piece of DNA. Without any one of those, DNA replication could not take place. Yet DNA replication is the most essential mechanism to the existence of life. If DNA could not replicate, cells could not replicate, and no further organisms could be created. But it is an amazingly complex mechanism that must run with absolute precision. In fact, it is considered to be irreducibly complex. You cannot remove one of its components and have it still function in its intended fashion.3
We find the same thing with protein synthesis. The formation of proteins in the cell requires the integrated activities of nearly 100 different proteins, all carrying out different, very specific steps in the assembly of a new protein molecule. If any one of these did not exist, proteins could not be generated and therefore life could not be sustained. In other words, you have to have proteins in order to make proteins. We often jokingly ask, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” but it would be better to ask, “Which came first, the protein or the protein?” Where did we get the first protein?4
So how could anything have ever reproduced, “evolved” even, without all of those enzymes and proteins already present for DNA replication? How could the “first cell” have ever survived without there already being hundreds of proteins to create other proteins? The answer is it could not have. Those mechanisms had to be in existence since the very beginning in order to sustain any life at all. There are thousands of other examples in biology of a level of complexity that Paul, Plato, Aristotle, and even Darwin could not have imagined. It is a level of complexity that only further proves that something intelligent beyond our wildest imaginations designed it that way and created it for us. The philosophers of old with minimal scientific knowledge could see the vast expanse of this universe and the amazing creation on this earth and knew they were “without excuse.” And now we have such a wealth of knowledge about the cosmos, the cell, and subatomic particles which all declare the wonders of this same God. The evidence all around us is so compelling for God’s existence that we, even more so than our predecessors, stand without excuse for rejecting that a God exists. What it tells us is that no one fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; people fail to become a Christian because they love darkness rather than light.
1 Plato, The Laws Book XII
2 Aristotle, On Philosophy
3 Cathryn Buse, Teaching Others to Defend Christianity, (Denver, CO: Cross Link Publishing, 2016), 41-44.
4 Cathryn Buse, Teaching Others to Defend Christianity, (Denver, CO: Cross Link Publishing, 2016), 32.