Over the next few posts, I want to share some brief elementary thoughts and philosophy and theology. In this post, I just want to flesh out a basic worldview I have concerning philosophies and how they fit into a Christian perspective. All posts in this series will then be various applications of these ideas. Looking at things this way has certainly helped me wade through the waters of philosophies that all seem to be right in some respect and the confusion that follows. I hope this helps others out there.
My basic thought is this: as humans made in the image of God, the true parts of any “worldview” or “philosophy” will resonate with us. We are made to resonate with the truth of the Gospel, therefore any worldview we construct tat is appealing to us in any way must touch on some thing we know to be true and long for. I just don’t think that humans are able to come up with a worldview that in some point isn’t actually true. We can only work with what there actually is in the world. Sure we can pervert and distort true things, but they will still be based on true things.
Anyway, what this means is that any particular philosophy can help us recast the Gospel and talk of it in different terms that may increase our worship. For example, with existentialism (where the big question is what comes first, essence or existence?), when Moses is talking to God at the burning bush, Moses pretty much asks Him “what’s your essence?” God answers “I exist” (“I AM”). Existentialism can give us new categories to plum even more depths within this one encounter and ultimately lead to more worship of God. The Bible helps answer the questions of philosophy and philosophy can help us see greater truths in Scripture.
[More on existentialism in an upcoming post . . .]
Orthodox Christianity does not hold (and never has) that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge about God. It says that the Bible is the ultimate and authoritative source of knowledge about God under which all other sources are submitted. The brief example above (hopefully) showed a benefit of bringing existentialism under the authority and clarity of the Bible in order to help us answer (or better understand) questions that the Bible is silent about. Problems in this area arise when people try to submit the Bible to existentialism. It just doesn’t work. The Bible just isn’t the Bible apart from it being the authority and rule of faith in all theology.
I have found the study of secular philosophy very helpful to birthing in me greater worship of our God. But (going back to my first point), though that is the case, I don’t think any one philosophy has the market cornered on theology. All philosophies (from Platonism to Aristotelianism to Humanism to Atheism) have some bit of truth in them. Lower things really are corrupt versions of purer forms; we really do understand history by looking at its final purpose; God really does love humans such that he acts for their benefit; and there really is a freedom and autonomy that man enjoys when they give way fully to their innate rebellion and deny the very existence of God. That’s why I don’t find it helpful (or biblical) to say that “I’m a Christian _________” (fill in the blank with whatever philosophy or worldview you like). To me it’s like saying “I’m a Christian chocolate cake eater”. Uh, okay. I just don’t think that says much and it forces me to ask “Really? That’s how you ultimately define your worldview?” Don’t get me wrong, a good chocolate cake can make me worship God (in all seriousness), but that’s not a useful designation.
In summary: Philosophy is the study of all that is most fundamental about us. Therefore, those that have been thought to have great wisdom in this area should be studied and read because they may in fact be whispering insights to us from within the mind of God that is in seed form within His image in us. C.S. Lewis once said that it is impossible to contemplate and enjoy at the same time. We go first the the Bible to get the material for our contemplation. But then we must look up from the text to the world and reality around us and enjoy the God that has revealed Himself in those Scriptures. A fruitful place I have experienced this is in my brief, elementary study of Philosophy. Hopefully you can see it as well. Enjoy the ride.