In the early years of the Church, Tertullian posed the rhetorical question, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?” This question highlighted what Tertullian perceived to be a problem in the early Church, namely the mingling of philosophy (i.e. Athens) with the Scriptures (i.e. Jerusalem). Tuesday night, that question was posed to me, not by a person, but by two hours of the literal wrenching of my gut by my conscience in my Christian Philosophy class. It is not as though the question has not been posed to me before then, but it has never impacted me with such an incapacitating force. The question had my eyes flooding with tears of conviction and confusion as I drove home from class, and it presently has me sitting up typing this instead of sleeping as I would like to do.
I am sure you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Who cares about how Christianity and Philosophy coincide?” To be honest, I would have probably asked those same questions to myself a few months ago or would have at least had a certain apathy toward them, but I believe that our Bible study on Romans 9 has had a much more monumental effect on my convictions than I would have ever dreamed. To give you a taste, I wrote a post that almost directly addresses my present issue with my Christian Philosophy class entitled, “Bounding Our Pursuit of the Knowledge of God.” In it I argued that the sum of our knowledge about God and his ways is to be found in Scripture alone, and to delve outside of Scripture is to delve into wickedness and vanity.
My problem with Christian philosophy is that its base goal is to do just that—to look for answers about God and his Creation that he does not reveal to us in his Word. Most people who pursue it, I believe, are sincere in their efforts and believe that they are glorifying God (which they may be—the jury of my conscience is still debating on the matter), but I do not think that they ask themselves the right questions before that flippantly dive into the mysteries of God with their feeble and corrupt minds.
For the sake of my conscience, I would like to pose some questions that I would like some answers to on this concept of Christian Philosophy:
1. What is the point of Christian Philosophy?1
It seems that among Christian Philosophy’s goals, the most amiable is evangelistic in nature. It was rhetorically asked by one, “Does not God love the heathen and atheist too?” Which implies that Christian Philosophy is the method by which you reach a certain type of people with the Gospel. Which brings me to my next question:
2. Is Christian Philosophy the proper means to evangelize the atheists, etc.?
There seem to be two proof texts that Christian Philosophers use to defend or even demand that their practice be done—one is Paul’s address to the Areopagus in Acts 17:22, and the other is 1 Peter 3:15. In Acts 17, Paul kicks off his preaching of the Gospel to the Areopagus with a reference to the “unknown god” that they worshipped. For this reason, advocates of Christian philosophy claim that Paul knew the culture well before he preached the Gospel, and it was the proper means to present the Gospel to them. Funny thing is, Scripture says, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship…” (Acts 17:23). Paul must have been a fast learner of culture.
The second is a quotation from 1 Peter 3:15 that says, “Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” I am not fully convinced that Peter had Christian philosophy in mind here, but I will grant that for the time being.
3. What is the effect of Christian Philosophy on the atheists, etc.?
Supposing for argument’s sake that a Christian Philosopher discovered a means by which he could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the God of the Bible is the true God and that Jesus Christ is his Son whom he sent to atone for sin and thereby proved that all other world views are wrong, what effect would that have? Would the whole world then become Christian, i.e. regenerated? Of course not, for we know that the Gospel is foolishness to natural men, and natural men will never believe the Gospel apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, this is Christian Philosophy’s greatest dilemma, viz. to make what natural men regard as foolishness become wisdom to natural men apart from the Holy Spirit. Christian Philosophers will deny this of course and say that they depend upon the work of the Spirit, but Spirit does not work apart from or beyond the proclamation of Christ crucified for sinners. It is the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation, not the concocted wisdom and arguments of Christians (cf. Rom. 1:16).
4. Why does our reason, which could not bring us to the right knowledge of God apart from Scripture, now have the ability to bring us to unrevealed truths?
5. Why do Evangelicals need to be esteemed by the Academy?
This seems to be great concern of Christian Philosophers, but I challenge them to give one biblical reason why we should give a rip about what the Academy thinks about Christianity. I think that the moment that Christianity begins to be esteemed by the Academy will be the moment that we throw out the Gospel.
6. Why do we need Christian Philosophy to reach across cultures?
Is not the Gospel universal? Did God do a such a poor job of revealing himself in Scripture that we must pick up his lack with Christian Philosophy?
7. Are the rhetorical questions posited by the Apostle in Romans 9, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” fair game for Christian Philosophy?
I asked my professor, “Should there be boundaries to the knowledge we pursue?” To which he replied, “Why should there be?”
Dabbling in the subject of Christian Philosophy seems to be dangerous territory to me, for it essentially says, “God’s Word is not enough.” There might be some realms in which Christian Philosophy might have some God honoring benefit, but I think that it is more likely to make arrogant Christians that preach the Gospel as a last resort than it is to have much benefit. I believe that the student of God’s Word would be much better off to search for his answers in the confines of Holy Scriptures and be content with its declarations.
1- I did in fact pose some questions to my professor which he kindly answered, and I will likely incorporate those answers from time to time.