Wednesday, December 10, 2014



 Mention the word ‘philosophy’ and people tend to think of Plato, Socrates and maybe Aristotle. My old professor, who had earned doctorates in theology and philosophy said, ‘There are two general fields of knowledge – theology, the study of God, and philosophy, the study of creation… Christian philosophy is man’s scientific study of God’s universe in nature and in culture as viewed through the spectacles of Scripture (Calvin).’ Francis Nigel Lee.

To ask whether or not one ought to use the Bible to interpret nature and culture is to ask a philosophical question. Related to this question is the ‘chicken and egg’ dichotomy of faith and reason. Which came first? Is it Thomas Aquinas’s ‘I know so that I can believe’ or is it Augustine’s ‘I believe so that I can know’? We believe that Augustine wins here. Faith comes before Reason. For, from Santa to Satan, who has never doubted what they first believed? First we believe (i.e., we have faith). Second we test those beliefs (i.e., we apply reason).

For the child a bite out of a cookie and wrapped presents on Christmas morning may be proof enough that Santa exists. However, as the Apostle puts it, ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11. The adult knows that the red-suited fat man is simply a cultural myth. But what happens when the adult looks at nature and culture and sees evil? Should he or she wax philosophical about theft, rape and murder and insist that these things are not evil because these kinds of things happen in the animal kingdom and human beings, after all, are just highly evolved animals? Or should he or she view these things through the spectacles of Scripture and see clearly that they are indeed evil? Well, it all depends on whether you believe the Bible to be God’s revelation to us or not. And whether or not you believe in the veracity of Scripture is based upon your presuppositions. A presupposition is a thing assumed beforehand.

Whereas Christian Philosophy scientifically studies God’s universe in nature and in culture through the Scriptures, non-Christian Philosophy does not. Why? It is presuppositional. The former has faith that the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. The latter has faith it is not. However, note that for both it is a matter of faith first and only secondly comes reasoning. But on what grounds does one accept or reject the Bible as God’s Word? Philosophical! And what is your philosophy based on? It starts with faith and then reasons from it.

Christian Philosophy begins with God, the Triune God, i.e., the Father, the Word/Son and the Spirit. Christian Philosophy sees the Godhead containing three Persons as the original One and the Many, Unity in Diversity, the General and the Particular, and sees His universe in nature and culture. These reflect the Creator. The character of God is the measure of all moral good, while evil is that which is defined by God in His Word. Thus, whether considering Santa or Satan, Christian Philosophy does so from the vantage point of God speaking in His Word by His Spirit. Therefore, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’ Colossians 2:8.   

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Neil. If I could add a short quote from Herman Dooyeweerd:
    'Our philosophy makes bold to accept the "stumbling block of the cross of Christ" as the corner stone of epistemology (cf. 1 Cor 1:23). And thus it also accepts the cross of scandal, neglect and dogmatic rejection. [...] The primary lie obfuscating the horizon of human experience is the rebellious thought that man could do without this knowledge of God and of himself in any field of knowledge, and could find the ultimate criterion of truth in 'autonomous', i.e. absolutized theoretical thought.' ("New Critique of Theoretical Thought" Vol II pp 561-563)