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Volume 27 - Page 178 of 212 Index | Zoom | |
A world of change, without Him, Who changes not.
The philosophy of Heraclitus.
pp. 132 - 134
Human wisdom, in its brief course from Thales to Zeno, had entered in mist and
darkness. God had been shorn of every personal attribute, and the world had been
whittled away into illusion. Without being uncharitable, we feel that across the labours
of these wise men might be written the words: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is
no god." A reaction was inevitable, and found expression in the teaching of Heraclitus
In the philosophy of Heraclitus, we find the pendulum swinging to the other extreme.
He denies the permanent and affirms the changeable. The key-word of his philosophy is
"becoming"--a word of great importance in the first chapter of John's Gospel, where we
read, if we translate literally: "All things through Him became, and without Him not one
thing became that did become" (John 1: 3). Heraclitus affirmed the fact of the changing
world, but only dimly realized Him "through Whom" it became, and "without Whom" it
could not exist. In the fragments of his writings we read:--
"The Logos existeth from all time, yet mankind are unaware of it, both before they
hear it, and while they listen to it."
This a remarkable anticipation of John 1: 1-5, and enables us to perceived that, while
the Jews had the privilege of the Law and the Prophets, the Greeks, in the interval of
Israel's rejection, were being used to prepare the way for the wisdom of God in Christ.
We hope to give the place of the Logos more definite consideration later.
Centuries before Heraclitus, Solomon, King of Israel, had surveyed the world and
observed its incessant change.
"Into the same river no man can enter twice, ever it disperses and collects itself again"
"All rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the
rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour: man cannot utter it:
the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing" (Eccles. 1: 7, 8).
As part of the revolt against the teaching of the Eleatic school, Heraclitus asserted that
we do not become cognizant of "becoming" or "change" by the exercise of reason, but by
the evidence of the senses. Dialetic methods--the methods of formal reasoning as
opposed to experiment and observation--were therefore inadmissible. Ecclesiastes,
however, had tried the empirical method before him, and has left on record the result:
"The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." Heraclitus, however, in
spite of his insistence upon the senses as opposed to formal reasoning, had to confess that
the ears and the eyes were capable of deception, referring probably to the idea that what