Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Evangelistic Motives for knowing about Philosophy

Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Today's blog will close out this week's introduction to Worldview studies.  I hope in future blogs to write more on this important subject.  In future blogs we may explore Biblical Christianity's historic interractions with other areas such as science, logic, mathematics, medical ethics, psychology and other issues.
Theology, the Queen of the Sciences, and Philosophy the hand-maiden
In the middle ages (800 A.D - 1500 A.D), the highlighted phrase above was used to distinguish between the discipline of studying philosophy from that of theology.  The Bible and the language used by Bible teachers to articulate scripture's contents (Theology) was viewed as supreme over all other forms of knowledge, whether they be science, philosophy, mathematics or logic.  In a very general way, all of those other avenues of understanding were placed under the greater umbrella of theology.  I

A brief history on how theology got separated from other academic disciplines
If you would had been studying in a European University in the middle ages, you would had studied theology along side other subjects. Most thinkers believed that any knowledge gained was as a result of God's general revelation in nature. Whole movements (such a schollasticism) developed that attempted to construct a "natural theology", which in short tried to develop assumptions about God and his relationship to the world into a working theological system based off of the "General Revelation" of God through creation. (Romans 1:18-20, 2:15) 

The wars that would ensue between Protestants and Catholics following the wake of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-reformations of the sixteenth century led many European thinkers to be dissillusioned with the authority of scripture. Men such as Rene Decartes and Immanuel Kant attempted to construct an understanding of the world based more on human reason rather than revelation.  The movement of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, wherein Reason was enthroned above revelation and individual opinion was elevated above external authority, separated theology from the other disciplines in the major European universities. 

Why Christians must better understand the relationship and history between biblical authority and philosophy
As settlers from Europe came over to this country, an attempt was made by Christian thinkers to once again unite all known knowledge under the banner of scripture and theology.  Universities such as Harvard, Brown, Yale and Princeton were conceived to train pastors who were knowledgeable of what was going on in other lines of thought. 

The revival of the 18th century known as the First Great Awakening was led by the greatest theologian/philosopher ever born on American soil - Jonathan Edwards.  His famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" launched a movement of revival that would be responsible for re-igniting spiritual and intellectual movements for the glory of God.  Sadly, as the eighteenth century closed out, and the nineteenth century came into view, American universities and many of the larger urban churches were giving themselves over to liberalism coming from Europe and their own pre-occupation with heresies that were being born on American soil.

Sadly by the nineteenth century, those universities lost their moorings and became secularized, shaping their beliefs around the disciplines of science, philosophy and logic rather than building those disciplines around an informed understanding coming from scripture.
Soon Universities in this country dropped the study of theology in favor of "religious studies", which aimed to understand the religious nature of human beings, rather than the revelation of God through scripture and Jesus Christ. 

Biblical reasons why Christians should know the questions being raised by philosophy, and be ready to supply biblical answers
As we saw earlier in Ecclesiastes 12:12-13, Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was summarizing the meaning of life.  All of life's purpose and meaning derives from and is aimed towards God Himself.  Revelation tells us that desiring to know life's meaning is what it means to be human.  General revelation in nature and the conscience furnishes all men with a knowledge about God, and only God's special revelation through the scripture in Jesus Christ enables men by grace through faith to know God personally.  Only in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can such a meaning be understood. 

Philosophy too aims to understand meaning - meaning of right and wrong (ethics), meaning in thought (logic), meaning in knowledge (epistemology) and meaning in reality (metaphysics).  Philosophy's weakness lies in it approaching such questions apart from the revelation of scripture.  With that said, our job as Christians is to be ready to give an answer to those who ask us about the hope within us. (1 Peter 3:15)  We are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ that attempts to raise itself up against His authority. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) 

By knowing what questions are being raised in the culture by disciplines such as philosophy, we can supply answers from scripture.  Men like Jonathan Edwards evangelized the culture with solid biblical truths, knowing the questions being raised by the culture.  Any reading of Edward's works will demonstrate his unflagging commitment to biblical truth and deep familiarity with the philosophical questions of his day.  They did so without compromising scripture nor watering down the message.  To be able to show people how the Bible raised similar questions, and to communicate the answers God supplies through Jesus Christ, we can be more effective in reaching out to others for Jesus sake.