I take it to be a widely accepted belief among Christians, including those who advocate natural theology in the Aristotelian vein, that from even before birth (Luke 1: 41), John the Baptist knew God in Christ (and therefore God Himself) better than did Aristotle. If so, then the point to remember is that John the Baptist did not know Him. We have John’s own word on it, twice. The sinful human darkness into which we all are plunged is so deep and so all-engrossing that even John the Baptist himself did not know God when confronted by Him face-to-face (John 1: 31, 33).
We understate the case merely to say that John the Baptist was not the light (John 1: 8, 21). It’s worse than that: Even with his impressive devotion to God, even with his prophetic insight, even with his undaunted boldness, and even with his compelling articulation of the message of repentance -- all of which combined to make him famous -- John the Baptist himself did not know the Light (John 1: 31, 33) until it had been divinely pointed out to Him by a miraculous, historical revelation, whereby he actually saw with his own eyes the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ like a dove and (presumably) heard with his own ears the heavenly voice uttering its Divine attestation. John himself twice admits (John 1: 31, 33) that, before witnessing that divine sign, he did not know Him, and did not recognize the only One who has seen the Father and made Him known. But because of that divine sign, that descending Dove, which replaced John’s ignorance with knowledge, John knew and John testified (John 1: 34). Without that miraculous sign, John the Baptist was no better off than the Pharisees, who did not know, and did not recognize, God Himself when He stood directly before them (John 1: 26). They did not know Him Who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14: 6). They were human beings, and, on their own, they could not know Him. Indeed, even with God Himself plainly and directly before their eyes, they did not know Him. Apart from His saving grace, no one does or can. In their depraved and debilitating solidarity, they were stuck on the wrong side of the canyon of impossibility. They could not know God by their own devices (John 1: 18). If, despite all their great revelational advantages, both John the Baptist and the Pharisees were blind and could not know God, how then, one wonders, without all those advantages, but with all their debilitations, could Aristotle, the pagan?
Though he was not the light, John the Baptist was a witness to it. But he was a witness to it only as a result of Divine intervention, only as a result of miracle. To move from his natural condition of ignorance, even the privileged condition of an ancient Jew, to the position of witness required the action of God, an action obviously not available to all persons generally, but to those who, under the providence of God, saw the divine attestation that marked out Christ. God made the Son known, and the Son, in turn, makes known the Father. John had to witness the Holy Spirit descending in visible form upon the Son before he knew God, the very One Who confronted him there. Short of that miracle, even John the Baptist did not know, and could not know, what we all need to know: God, Who is revealed only in Christ (Matt. 11: 27).
Please remember for whom this impossibility loomed so large. Please remember what sort of person was stranded on the island of impossibility. It was not simply some typological everyman; it was the best and highest of us all: not just a prophet, but one whom Jesus said was “more than a prophet” (Matt. 11: 9). We have it on the Highest Authority that John the Baptist was simply the greatest of us all (Matt. 11: 11). Yet, even the greatest among us is less than the lowest member of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 11: 11). The momentous God-caused shift from John the Baptist’s (and our) natural condition to knowledge of God indicates that only by means of God’s doing, not ours, do we desperate sinners get placed above the highest of human beings. Only then do we get to know God.
Amazingly, even then, even after that Divine intervention on his behalf, John the Baptist entertained the most severe doubts. Even then his knowledge was shaky and required additional divine demonstration, which God in Christ supplied: “the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up,” both literally and metaphorically (Matt. 11: 5). If the greatest among us required such remarkable divine doings both in the beginning and the sustaining of his knowing God, how much more does Aristotle need it, and how much greater is Aristotle’s darkness because he had neither? Yet, despite that darkness, so many Christians turn to him for theological methods, rubric, support, insight and apologetics. Jesus is no Aristotelian. Neither is Paul. Nor should you be.
From the highest to the lowest, each one of us finds himself or herself in the position of Jacob and his ignorance: “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it” (Gen. 28: 16). For this ignorance, Aristotle’s machinations are no cure; they are one more form of its many symptoms.