Reflections on Biblical and
Christian Philosophy

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False ideas (being spoken in the public arena) are the greatest obstacles to the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there., if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.” (J. Gresham Machen quoted in Moreland’s Christianity and the Nature of Science, p. 11.)

Welcome to the website that is committed to the inerrancy of the Bible and its total sufficiency within a philosophical discussion of Christianity. “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Colossians 2:3). On the one hand, many Christians see philosophy (etymology, “love of wisdom”) as a discipline that attacks our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible, and His people. On the other hand, many Christian philosophers see philosophy as more important than the Scriptures.  So, what about a Christian philosophy or Biblical philosophy? Could either of these be consistent with Biblical teaching and with scholarly philosophy?

(If you want to continue to read about this website, continue with the next paragraph.  If you want to look at specific topics, look to your left or click here for more topics.)

I want to challenge you that knowing some simple basics of philosophy can enhance your understanding of Scripture, your Christian life, your witnessing, and the power of God in your life and in the Public Square. After all, Jesus Christ was the greatest philosopher that ever lived, and He has made the greatest impact on history of anyone who has ever lived. (See under History at my Biblical worldview website.) Perhaps, the centuries old debate between faith and reason is more easily solved than you might think.  I have a section on Faith and Reason.

My goals for this site are (1) to present simple, but profound principles towards a basic foundation for the thinking Christian and (2) to challenge some Christian philosophers on positions that are inconsistent with a truly Biblical philosophy.

 

“The philosopher does not differ from the common man, except in the degree of self-conscious reflection upon, and hard work given to, philosophical questions (that is, those which are … basic to all other thinking, but not settled by a specialized science).” (Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics, page 51)

 

Is this challenge an idle boast? Let us try an example of simplifying by a philosophical approach. Answer this question, “How many religions or belief systems are there in the world? Tens, hundreds, thousands?

Only two religions and belief systems exist in the world: Biblical Christianity and all others. Simple. Or, one could say that it is the only True Religion, and all others are counterfeit. As a Christian, you do not need to know other religions; you just need to know your own quite well and be able to defend it (apologetics).  (However, knowing other religions is one way to appreciate the coherence, correspondence, and great system that Christianity is.)

Further, answer this question, “How did Doubting Thomas conclude that Jesus was his “Lord and God” from seeing His wounds?” Thomas used a logical syllogismcan you construct it?

At this point, you may want to review some “quick hitters,” or what I am calling Ed’s Pensees. These short aphorisms will give you the flavor of what this website is about and some its content. Over time, I hope to discuss each Penseé in greater breadth and depth.

Those who work in Christian philosophy, or even Biblical philosophy, often make mountains out of molehills, the simple into the complex, and a few pages into a lengthy book! That is, they try to cover every point over which anyone could possibly differ with them. There is a place for that! However, to get the thinking Christian and the busy pastor interested in philosophy, and more importantly, to empower them with what philosophy has to offer, it needs to be made simple. What is interesting and fascinating is that so much of it can be simplified without compromising its validity! Actually, just the opposite can occur. Simplifying philosophy can make it more powerful!

One of the great divisions among Christians who work in philosophy, Biblical philosophy, or Christian apologetics is over presuppositionalism and evidentialism (see below). It will not take much reading on this site to know that I am a convinced presuppositionalist. Simply, one must assume something to have anywhere concrete to begin. René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Augustine of Hippo said, “I believe in order to understand.” Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Or, one can say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Or, you can choose your own place to start. I have reviewed what some of these starting points might be.

Thus, I prefer “Biblical philosophy,” rather than “Christian philosophy.” My most basic presupposition is that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, that it is the only source of truth that anyone will know in this earthly life, and that it is sufficient for everything that anyone needs to know.  "The Bible is true about everything to which it speaks, and it speaks to everything."

I posit that “Christian” as an adjective (for example, “Christian philosophy”) is misleading. To call anything “Christian” is to associate whatever Christians say or how they act with God Himself.  Many Christians, especially those of mainstream denominations, believe little, if anything of historic orthodoxy and Biblical ethics (worldview). Their “Christian” philosophy, as thinking and behavior, would be little or no different from atheists and humanists.

The question is, “What makes a philosophy specifically Christian?” Does one take a poll and state what the majority of Christians believe? Does one poll the majority of beliefs of the churches for 2000 years? Surely, you can see the problem here: What is Christian?

The basic presupposition of this website is that the great division of Christian philosophy from Biblical philosophy is a Christian’s or a church’s belief about the Bible. Logically, there can be no other division. There are only three possible sources of authority. (1) A vote of the majority of Christians in a church or denomination.  This authority is found in church councils where there is one or more dissenting minorities.  (2) The acceptance of one’s own or another person’s authority as final and totally authoritative. The Roman Catholic Church is an example of a total authority whose sources are the Bible, church tradition, the magisterium, and the Pope speaking ex cathedra. No member of the church is allowed to differ from the Church’s official dogma or they are declared "anathema."  A Protestant example would be those ministries centered around a person to the extent that everything produced by that ministry carries the label and approval of that person.  (3) The evangelical view is that of the Bible’s inerrancy and sufficiency or "sola Scriptura."  This website and all those committed to infallible and inerrant authority would fall into this category.

One of the principles that I will develop is that Christian philosophers have to decide to whom they are speaking or writing. If the presuppositions of their audiences do not differ, then why even call it Christian philosophy? If the Bible is not at least some authority that has special status for those doing Christian philosophy, then how do their efforts differ from secular, atheistic, or humanistic philosophy? Again, logically, by exclusion, the only source of division can be an absolute authority. Only the Bible meets that criterion. Hence, Biblical philosophy stands against Christian philosophy. There is also the issue of regeneration which separates everyone in the world

So you may challenge, “All Bible-believers do not agree on many, many interpretations!” I grant you that. But, they are all going to the one and same authoritythe 66 books of the Protestant Bible. We do not have to figure out our final and ultimate authority for those conclusions—we only have to interpret and apply its contents. Thus, while those who are doing Biblical philosophy may differ, they do not differ over the source of greatest authority.

What Is the Relationship between Biblical Apologetics and Biblical Philosophy

Biblical apologetics is the defense of Christianity (I Peter 3:15). As mentioned above, apologetics falls primarily into two categories: presuppositional and evidential. Presuppositionalism states that one cannot begin without first principles, and that these determine all reasoning that is determined thereafter. Evidentialism begins with “facts,” that is, what the eye can see, the ear can hear, or the touch can feel.  (Actually, this empirical position is itself a presupposition, a concept that I will develop on this website.)

But, even in both areas, philosophy is valuable to apologetics. Epistemology has rules about what is valid and invalid knowledge. Logic determines valid reasoning, even true conclusions that can be deduced from true propositions. Ethics is the outcome of these processes that determine what behavior is “good” and what is “bad.” These same ethics flow into politic, social action and all other areas of worldview.

Philosophy is the center of Christian apologetics because its basic issues determine how the mind and body relate to each other and to the universe in which a person finds himself. Is the universe totally mind without matter, as in idealism? Or, is the mind an epiphenomenon of the physical brain, as in philosophical materialism?

Similarly, philosophy speaks to the issue of faith and reason in apologetics. Is faith a leap into the unknown or is it a reasonable faith? (It is actually the most certain knowledge ever available to man!)  Is faith prior to reason?  And, does man have free will or is he predetermined to do all that he does? Is the sinner free to choose in evangelism, or is he predestined to either heaven or hell?

It could be argued that the tasks and methods of philosophy and Christian apologetics are the same, only the motives differ. Apologetics defends the faith against unbelievers by whatever method that they attack. Biblical or Christian philosophy assists the believer and theologian to think clearly, to be thorough in their work, and to be sound in their arguments and conclusions.  The tools of philosophy are valuable to both.

For questions, comments, or errors on this site, contact Ed Payne at epayne7@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

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