From the earliest centuries, humanity has sought to understand the meaning behind the world and everything in it. In this brief clip, R.C. Sproul engages these questions which find their ultimate fulfillment in God Himself.
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Now, that whole question of the one and the many, unity and diversity, was the question that this scientist in the sixth century BC, by the name of Thales, was passionately engaged in trying to resolve. What he was looking for is what we call “ultimate reality.” What does he mean, or what did the ancient thinkers mean by “ultimate reality?” Well, one of the technical terms that we learn in the study of philosophy is the word “metaphysics.” We’re all familiar with the term “physics,” because physics describes the natural world of forces and powers and things and how they interact. Metaphysics is the attempt by the philosopher to go above and beyond the seen world that we encounter with our five senses from day to day, to search for that which is above and beyond the physical realm, from which everything comes and by which everything gains its ultimate unity and harmony. Another concern that the ancient Greeks had was for the word that they called “telos.” We get the word “teleology” from this word “telos.” And the Greek word “telos” can be translated by the English words “end” or “goal” or “purpose.” And so, the question of Thales and of the ancient philosophers was not simply, “What is everything made of, and how did it come to pass?” but also the deeper question of “Why?” “Why are things the way that they are? Is there any purpose for birds? Is there a purpose for wind and for water, for stars and for the moon? Is there any purpose to human existence?” That was a serious teleological question. That is, they were asking for the goal or the end. This is a profoundly theological question for those of us who are Christians. In fact, the old Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the first question, “What is man’s chief end?” That is, it’s asking, “What is the purpose, or the telos, of human existence?” Well, these were the kinds of questions that were being raised by the pre-Socratic philosophers.
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