Zeno of Elea and understanding ultimate reality

Zeno of Elea was one of history’s first recorded philosophers, living about four hundred and fifty years before Christ. Zeno is remembered for creating paradoxes, such as his famous argument that it’s impossible to ever arrive at a destination. The difficulty, Zeno explained in what is called the “dichotomy paradox,” is that before one arrives at the destination, one must travel half the distance there. Yet, as soon as one arrives at that halfway mark, there’s a new halfway distance which must be traveled before you can get to the destination. And so on. Since any distance, even the very shortest, can be halved, there’s always a half-distance to travel before one can arrive at the destination. With an infinite number of halfway points to reach before the destination, it does seem as if logic demands the conclusion that you can never get there.

One suspects that Zeno may not have been popular in high school, but my point in bringing him up is not to complain about dead Italian philosophers, but to illustrate an unfortunate tendency that most of us have when thinking about theological uncertainties. As an example, consider the question of how God can justly punish us for our sins (thus implying we are guilty for them) despite the fact that human nature is fallen and therefore we cannot help sinning.

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