Tag Archives: philosophy
Joe Barnard in his forthcoming book The Way Forward: Clear Advice for Confused Men gives the following illustration from C.S. Lewis as Lewis powerfully describes his first encounter with the living presence of God in Surprised by Joy.
He says, “As the dry bones shook and came together in that dreadful Valley of Ezekiel’s, so now a philosophical theorem, cerebrally entertained, began to stir and heave and throw off its grave-clothes, and stood upright and became a living presence. I was allowed to play with philosophy no longer.”
We have been thinking through a few issues of an introductory nature that need to be discussed before we get into the specific subject areas of God, the Bible, Christ, the Holy Spirit, etc. [For those of you who like technical words, this area of study is called PROLEGOMENA, literally, “things you discuss first.”]
There are many of these preliminary matters to be considered. This morning we want to consider the issue of philosophy. “Philosophy” is the love of wisdom. How does philosophy relate to theology (the study of God and the things of God)?
The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:8- “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Philosophy can quite easily become theology’s enemy, especially if it elevates the thinking of fallen man above the infallible Word of God.
But notice that Paul warns against “hollow and deceptive” philosophy, not philosophy in general. If one’s philosophy is how one views life, everyone has one, and needs to have the best one possible!
We are not to put down good philosophy, but test it by the word of God. I love the quote from John Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Lyndon Baines Johnson: “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
A story is told of an argument over moral relativism that took place in a dorm room at the University of Vermont.
The student began to espouse… “What is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. If something works for you because you believe it, that’s great. But no one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative.”
“What’s wrong with you?” I queried. “Are you having problems with your eyes? I am leaving your room with your stereo.”
“You can’t do that,” he gushed.
“Well,” I replied, “since I lift weights and jog regularly, I think I can in fact do it without any help. But maybe you meant to say, ‘You ought not do that because you are stealing my stereo.’ Of course, I know from our previous conversation that this is not what you mean. I happen to think it is permissible to steal stereos if it will help a person’s religious devotions, and I myself could use a stereo to listen to Christian music in my morning devotions. Now I would never try to force you to accept my moral beliefs in this regard because, as you said, everything is relative and we shouldn’t force our ideas on others. But surely you aren’t going to force on me your belief that it is wrong to steal your stereo, are you? You know what I think? I think that you espouse relativism in areas of your life where it’s convenient, say in sexual morality, or in areas about which you do not care, but when it comes to someone stealing your stereo or criticizing your own moral hobbyhorses, I suspect you become a moral absolutist pretty quickly, don’t you?”
From J.P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 153.
6 So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
As we prepare our messages for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry Seminars” for February 6-7, we see Paul here in Acts 17 using his mind to reach his audience with the gospel. Our text is Acts 17:19-34. We’ve already noticed that he was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols.”
Please notice that he is skilled at reasoning with five groups: (1) the Jews; (2) the God-fearing Greeks; (3) the intellectual loiterers of the day; (4) the Epicurean philosophers; and (5) the Stoic philosophers. The Jews and the God-fearing Greeks were, no doubt, part of Paul’s own background. But what about the intellectual loiterers? Several questions occur to me in considering this third group:
1. Are we present in the “marketplace” to make connections with those kind of thinkers?
2. What about our “day by day”? Paul consistently was there.
3. “those who happened to be there” — God sovereignly allows people to be at places where believers can engage them with the gospel. We don’t need to set up formal appointments, but simply BE THERE!
Many of us know the great quote from missionary-martyr Jim Elliot. He said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” There’s another Jim Elliot quote I love: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Don’t you love how Gary Watterson slips in some philosophy with Calvin & Hobbes? Pragmatists! Idealists! Whimsicalists?
Perhaps a large portion of life is getting control of our WHIMS. Living by Einfall (the German word for impulse or whim) can’t be honoring to the God who has provided priority-altering principles in 66 separate books which make up God’s Word!
How ‘bout you? Living today by whims — or by biblical principles?
I preached this sermon last Sunday, friends, at our church. I began with the great quote from G.K. Chesterton who said, “”The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” We who follow Jesus certainly need to focus on the good things God has given us. But there are some negatives which we need to practice!
“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” (John Gardner)
1. We are told in the Bible not to beware of philosophy, but of “deceitful philosophy.” We read in the book of Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Col. 2:8). What are some advantages of good philosophy?
2. If philosophy is the love of wisdom, why is it that so many philosophers have rejected the Good News about Jesus? Your thoughts?