Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why The Christian should be aware of Philosophy

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Quick Review
As we saw from my wife's guest blog a couple of days ago,  a worldview is defined as: "how we perceive, interpret, and respond to the world surrounding us." Also too, we saw yesterday that if the Christian is to develop an effective Christian Worldview, consideration of Genesis 1-12 must be considered. 

What to do with Philosophy?
One of the subjects frequently encountered in worldview studies is whether or not philosophy has a purpose or place in the Christian worldview.  This is a very important question, since how we define philosophy's role, or lack thereof, will determine how we treat other subjects such as science, technology and the arts.  The umbrella goal of developing a Christian worldview is, as my wife said, "perceive, interpret and respond to the world surrounding us."  As we'll be contending over the next few days, scripture must be the Christian's grid and guide in discerning these matters. 

Equipping our young people going back to school
To be completely ignorant of what philosophy is saying ignores how much of our culture is shaped by it. Most T.V shows are shaped by various philosophies that run counter to scripture. If we can discern what those are, we can offer a more informed biblical response.  If you and I can pick up on questions being asked in the Bible, and find those similar questions being raised in the culture, we can draw a connecting point and hopefully share Christ with those who don't believe in Him.   

My aim on this blog site is to equip Christians with the tools they need to affect a wider sphere of people for Jesus Christ. School will be starting up soon, and more than ever, we need our Christian young people - from the elementary to the college/university levels to know how to give an answer for the hope that is within them. (1 Peter 3:15)

The chief aim of man is to know God
When you survey the whole of scripture, time and again the number one concern is knowing God.  God has made Himself known by revelation in creation, the Person and work of Jesus Christ and the words of the Bible.  One cannot say they have truly known God unless they have experienced the New Birth in conversion, that is, salvation in Jesus Christ by grace through faith alone (John 3:16; 17:3). Flowing from saving faith is sanctification, the "faith-life", wherein the believer has a faith-walk of obedience and desire for God (Philippians 2:12-13).  The faith-walk of the Christian should have an outlook that is governed by a desire to glorify Christ in all things. (Romans 11:33-36; Hebrews 12:1-2).

The Biblical emphasis on Wisdom
When we speak of bridging the gap between the Christian mind and Christian action, we look to what the Bible calls wisdom.  Wisdom in the biblical sense deals with excellence in applying Biblical principles for the glory of God.  To be a lover of wisdom, in the Biblical sense, means my aim is to know God, and by knowing God I know myself well enough to live out the claims of scripture. 

What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is a word that comes from two Greek words: "Philos" meaning "love" and "sophia" meaning "wisdom".  In the formal discipline of philosophy, from the days of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato in ancient Greece to current times, four branches have been identified to describe the task and activity of philosophy.

1. Epistemology - This branch of philosophy deals with how one knows what they know.  For instance, how do I know that there is anything outside my mind? This is usually the first area one looks at when studying philosophy. Epistemology comes from a Greek word that gives the idea of "standing in front of" something and determining how to know it.  It is normally in this branch of Philosophy that questions such as "meaning" come into view.

2. Metaphysics - This second branch of philosophy has to due with the natural of reality itself.  Is reality composed of a supernatural and natural realm? Is God real? Is the world only that which can be seen, or is it more than that?  Questions such as these compose the branch of philsophy we call metaphysics.  Metaphysics comes from two Greek words: "meta" meaning "after or beyond" and "phusis" meaning "the nature of something, or the stuff of things".

3. Logic - The third major branch of the formal study of Philosophy is that of logic.  Logic delves into how we use our minds, and how we can evaluate the sense of things.  You have no doubt heard of terms like "logical", "illogical" to describe arguments, belief systems or statements that have know coherence or consistency.  Logic comes from the Greek word "Logos", which literally refers to that quality that brings order and stability to the world.

4. Ethics - This fourth major branch of philsophy is what many would consider to be the most "practical" branch of philosophy.  You will often hear people refer to "morality" and "ethics", often interchanging the words.  The two terms are, in their historic use, quite different.  Ethics was originally used to describe principles that told people how they "ought to live".  Morals on the other hand, coming from a word "mo-ray", described how a given people or culture actually lived. 

If we were to summarize the four branches of philosophy in terms of questions, they would be these: "How do I know?" (epistemology); "What is there to know" (metaphysics); "What makes the most sense?" (logic) and "How ought we to live?" (ethics).  Philosophy's basic questions can sometimes be useful in communicating the Gospel to unbelieving culture - providing we screen such questions through scripture.

The Bible believing church has held to belief in the principle of scripture's unique authority above all other secondary forms called the principle of sola scriptura (scriptures alone).  This simply means that we don't exclude the use of other authorities, providing we use them according to their appropriate design and function.  However whether it be science, tradition, disciplines such as philosophy, reason - all those authorities play second fiddle to the Bible's unique authority as obligating human beings to its words and being used by the Holy Spirit to convert sinners unto salvation. (Psalm 19:7; 1 Peter 1:23).  The Bible Alone gives us the categories by which we perceive, understand and interpret the world around us.  May we keep those things in mind as we develop our Christian Worldview. 

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