624 BC is said to be the birth of western philosophy. That year, in the city of Miletus a man named Thales was born and once Thales grew up he began to do what no one in western civilization had done before him – explain the origin of the world and all it contains by means of natural “phenomena” or stuff. This was new to most in his day because until Thales thinkers of the western world defined the origin of the world and all it contains by means of supernatural phenomena, or “god(s).”
Well Thales came along, and in his own wisdom he denied the traditions he had been taught as a child and began calling everything he had learned into question. His conclusion was that water, not a divine being, was the fundamental cause and substance of all things. Thales is famous for repeating one statement over and over, “All is water.” At first reflection we may think Thales was crazy to claim, “Everything is made of water and everything comes from water,” but he may not be as crazy as we think. All Greeks believed there were four basic elements in the world: earth, air, fire, and water. Thales made the observation that water, or “moist-ness,” is present in nearly all living things to some degree or another. At birth or in their sustained existence: the human body, the animal body, the earth, the seas, all plant life, all foods, etc.
Thus, what at first looks looney to us seems to be not so looney after all because Thales rightly noted that water is indeed a very big part of our world. What Thales sorely missed is the creation he had examined so carefully has it’s own Creator, God. As Thales grew older his ideas grew more and more out of vogue, and other Greeks and other philosophers rose up to add to or subtract from Thales’ ideas claiming life had a different origin and substance – Anaximander, Anaximenes, Parmenides said it was fire, earth, gas, spirit, etc…Ever since this moment in Western civilization, and really, ever since Genesis 3 you and I can see a pattern that is present in all humans – the desire to define wisdom, life, and all of reality apart from God.
This pursuit of worldly wisdom is exactly what God tells us to avoid.