Reason, Existence, and Creation

Reason, Existence, and Creation

“I think, therefore I am.”
~Rene Descartes

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“I think, therefore I am.” ~Rene Descartes. This is a syllogistic statement which equates thinking with existence. The formulation is neat, particularly in Latin (cogito, ergo sum). Some consider Descartes the originator of Rationalism and a major contributor to The Age of Reason.

Whatever Descartes’ definitive place in the development of Western thought, he comes up with a brilliant formulation here: “I think, therefore I am.” It is a statement which both feeds the mind and puffs up the ego. It inflates the importance of thinking in relationship to self and universalizes the idea of conscious self-reflection as the primary aspect of personhood.

But, with all these qualities in its favor, the question remains, “Is this a true saying?”. The correct answer is, “No. According to the Bible, this is definitely not a true saying.”

In the Scriptures, “God created man in his own image” (Gen 1:27, ESV). Moreover, God made man and “breathed” life into him (Gen 1 & 2). A person does not exist because they think; a person exists because God created them. Conscious thought – thinking – is merely a fascinating attribute we possess because we were created in the image of God. To get hung up on it to the extent that Descartes does is really a pathway to idolatry. Why? Because a person can come to believe he owes his existence to his own conscious thought, rather than to God. We all owe our existence to God, and we all live only because of God, not because of anything self-sustaining originating from ourselves.

While Descartes’ statement may not seem that important to Christians today, it is very important in terms of the development of Western society, the academy, and the prevalence of extreme egotism today in our culture. The importance of our own thoughts is more important to most people than what God says. The Scripture warned us about a time when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25, KJV). Obviously, this is both wrong and bad for society. But this is where we are in America today! And we’re here in part because people believe that their existence is shaped by their own thoughts rather than by God. In this sense, Descartes’ famous saying is not only beautiful and logical but also ugly and destructive. This dualism reflects the reality that human reason was also subject to the Fall, despite what some church scholastics may have believed in the late Middle Ages.

8 Comments

  1. John W. Gray

    Wow. Never really thought of that quote from quite that angle but totally agreed. “He thought, therefore I am.” Is a slightly better way of phrasing it but most might not like that.

  2. Brian

    It’s imperative that we weigh everything against Scripture. Man’s philosophies are never sufficient for salvation.

  3. Anonymous

    “The importance of our own thoughts is more important to most people then what God says”—So true. Even Christians often rely on their own understanding to navigate relationships and difficulties. Scripture is clear we are to trust and submit to His perfect will.

  4. mano mathai

    I am not a philosopher. Therefore I am looking at this statement in a simple manner. “I think therefore I am” in the current environment can explain why some people think something of themselves and expect everyone else to address them by the pronoun that they think would fit what they think they are and feel justified for lashing out at anyone who cannot understand their thinking. In many ways what you think is what you are. That is why the Bible says “guard your thoughts because it is the wellspring of life”. Bible also says “do not think too highly of yourself but think with sober judgement”. Cult leaders know this very well. They brain wash their followers by controlling their thoughts.
    Philippians 4:8 “if anything is excellent and praiseworthy think about those things”.

  5. JACOB G MATHAI

    I could think of a Neil Diamond song:
    I am … I said
    I am … I cried.
    I always liked his songs. He is a great American entertainer. No judgement on his lyrics or song.
    Let me look into what different religions teach in their books.
    Hinduism: They believe in reincarnation. The goal is Moksha.
    The definition of moksha is the freedom from the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This is the ultimate goal of an individual who practices Hinduism. The next birth of a Hindu depends on his/her works (good or bad) in the current life. It is also his/her “Karma”.
    Buddhism:
    Buddhists believe that human life is a cycle of suffering and rebirth, but that if one achieves a state of enlightenment (nirvana), it is possible to escape this cycle forever. They do not believe in a creator/eternal god. They teah their folks to abstain from worldly desires.
    Islam:
    Their main books are Quran and Hadiths. Quran is what Allah revealed to Muhammad and Hadiths are basically the sayings, deeds, and actions of Muhammad. No consistent message about a believer’s conduct or after-life. They believe Muhammad descended from Ishmael which is difficult to prove using historic documents, including the Bible.

    Judaism and Christianity:
    “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:7–8, 13–14). Known to ancient Israel as the Lord Jehovah.
    6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
    The Father is God Jehovah. Jesus is God the Son. The third person in the Holy Trinity is God the Holy Spirit.
    Who am I?
    I am a child of God; my Heavenly Father loves me (see Ps. 82:6).
    “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
    (2 Corinthians 6:18)

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