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 Towards a Biblical Philosophy for Christians

Book Outline – Draft #2

Introduction: The following is an outline for both a quick overview of the principles for this website and the beginnings of a book.  Initially, explanations may be brief, but gradually more complete discussions will appear here until the book is complete.  Those will come throughout other articles on this site and eventually in the book itself.

The first thing that one has to do relative to philosophy is ask himself, “Why do I want to study philosophy?  Do I want just to be familiar with what it is so that I am not entirely ignorant of it?  Do I want to make its study a life career?  Or, do I want something between these objectives?”  The other question which must be asked is, “What is philosophy?”  Indeed, one of the most important lessons to be learned from philosophy is the importance of definitions.  That importance certainly included the definition of philosophy itself. 

My goal in this book outline and on this site is to discern the fundamentals for a truly Biblical philosophy.  Within this position the Bible must be the controlling factor in all investigations and understandings.  The Bible cannot be integrated with knowledge from any other source.  While other sources of knowledge may illuminate and explain Biblical truth, the latter must always be the controlling authority on what is truth.  (See the discussion of “All truth is God’s truth” in Chapter 7.)  The importance of philosophy is that it teaches people to think with more discernment.  Then, that discernment should be used better to understand the Bible, applying it to one’s life and culture.

Philosophy will be defined differently for the Bible-believing Christian and the non-Bible believer.  For the pagan, philosophy is the effort to use the tools of language to understand ultimate origins and foundations for truth, from which one’s right and wrongs can be determined.  For the Christian, philosophy is the effort to use the tools of language to understand the Bible as God’s revelation to man of His ultimate origins, His truths, and how we are to righteous in His sight.  John Frame discusses this latter definition relative to theology.

It is difficult for me to draw any sharp distinction between a Christian theology and a Christian philosophy. Philosophy generally is understood as an attempt to understand the world in it broadest, most general features. It includes metaphysics, or ontology (the study of being, of what “is”), epistemology (the study of knowing), and the theory of values (ethics, esthetics, etc.). (Ed: Frame left out logic.) If one seeks to develop a truly Christian philosophy, he will certainly be doing so under the authority of Scripture and thus will be applying Scripture to philosophical questions. As such, he would be doing theology, according to our definition. Christian philosophy, then, is a subdivision of theology. Furthermore, since philosophy is concerned with reality in a broad, comprehensive sense, it may well take it as its task to ‘apply the Word of God to all areas of life.’ That definition makes the subject matter of  philosophy identical with, not a subdivision of, theology.

If there are any differences between the Christian theologian and the Christian philosopher, they would probably be (1) that the Christian philosopher spends more time studying natural revelation than the theologian, and the theologian spends more time studying Scripture, and (2) that the theologian seeks a formulation that is an application of Scripture and thus absolutely authoritative. His goal is a formulation before which he can utter, “Thus saith the Lord.” A Christian philosopher, however, may have a more modest goal--a wise human judgment that accords with what Scripture teaches, though it is not necessarily warranted by Scripture.

A Christian philosopher can be of great value in helping us to articulate in detail the biblical world view. We must beware, however, of “philosophical imperialism.” The comprehensiveness of philosophy has often led philosophers to seek to rule over all other disciplines, even over theology, over God’s Word. Even philosophers attempting to construct a Christian philosophy have been guilt of this, and some have even insisted that Scripture itself cannot be understood properly unless it is read in a way prescribed by the philosopher! Certainly, philosophy can help us to interpret Scripture; philosophers often have interesting insights about language, for example. But the line must be drawn: where a philosophical scheme contradicts Scripture or where it seeks to inhibit the freedom of exegesis without Scriptural warrant, it must be rejected. (Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 85-86)

A truly Biblical philosophy will either posit as its first principle, Biblical revelation (the 66 books of the Protestant Bible) or posit it at some later point (when it will then become the first principle).  This revelation is true (truth) and the basis by which all other truth-claims are measured (“canon” means “measuring stick”).  First principles require no proof which is a faith-position upon which all philosophies are based.  I will develop this argument in Chapter 2.

While different philosopher will have their own list of the various branches of philosophy, the traditional compilatoin has been metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic (Titus et al).  Now, with these an interesting development takes place from the Biblical position.  All ultimate questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics are answered with the Bible as one’s first principle!  One’s metaphysics is grounded in the cosmology of God and His creation  of the universe.  The question of epistemology, that is, how does one know with certainty, is answered.  How much more certain can one be than to believe in the very words of God!  Also, the Word of God provides man with answers for “every good work,” giving us a comprehensive source of ethics.  (See Chapter 3.)

“Well,” one might ask, “What task does that leave for philosophy, if three of the four areas are answered by Biblical revelation?”  What is left is extremely important, apologetics and the methods of logic, language, and systematic study.  And, if one concludes, then, that philosophy has become theology, he will be correct!  (See comments by Frame above.)  If one wishes to read more at length on the influence of definitions and one’s philosophy (epistemology), one of the best books on the subject is by Gordon Clark’s The Incarnation (available from www.trinityfoundation.org ).

This idea is not new, as 12th century theologians considered philosophy to be the handmaid of theology and “science” was applied to any area of study, including theology.  Thus, theology was called “the queen of the sciences.”  While the Scholastics made several errors, these descriptions of the relationship of revelation to other areas of knowledge was and is correct.

One could posit that Biblical revelation is the philosopher’s dream come true.  What every philosopher has wanted is certainty of knowledge and truth.  The search has been the lifelong effort of many philosophers.  They have meandered and reasoned in their thoughts to find these keys (ancient designation for knowledge) to the universe and the meaning of life.  Their search is over in God’s revelation, if they could only accept it. 

Herein, one’s theology enters in.  Arminians and Thomist  would say that such philosophers can reason their way to God and His revelation.  Calvinists would say that God would have to effectually call and regenerate their souls (minds, spirits).   This difference would be one example of how philosophy becomes theology when Biblical revelation is posited.  (See the chapter below on free will, regeneration, etc.)

There are further arguments for this position.  (1) Jesus Christ is the Logos of God.  Among evangelical Christians, this idea may be the most ignored attribute of the 2nd member of the Trinity.  The Greek word logos can be translated as word, speech, logic, computation, accounts, measure, esteem, consideration, value, ratio, proportion, pretext, purpose, theory, argument, proposition, principle, law, rule, thesis, hypothesis, reason, formula, debate, and narrative, but this list is only the beginning!  (2) Further, He is the “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9) to the extent that all are without excuse (Romans 1:18ff).  That is, every man is born with the ability to think and certain innate knowledge.  (3) Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.”  Applying the law of noncontradiction, Jesus thereby forced the issue of His truth vs. all other religions and philosophies. Either the Scriptures are true and all other claims to truth are false, or the Scriptures are false and truth exists somewhere else.  There are no other possibilities.  Any pluralistic notions that Christians might have are devastated by this law.

 “Christian.”  There is a serious problem with the word, “Christian,” when used as an adjective as in Society of Christian Philosophers.  While members of many mainline denominations would call themselves, “Christians,” they and their churches would deny Biblical inerrancy (as defined by the Evangelical Theological Society[1]), a position that is incompatible with being truly Christian and consistent with the historic creeds of Christendom.  There is an impenetrable philosophical gulf between the Christian who does not believe in inerrancy and the absolute authority of Scripture, and the Christian who believes that the Bible is one authority among many.  Real communication cannot even take place between individuals in the two groups.  For more, see "Christian" and the chapter below on free will, regeneration, etc.

 

Chapter 1.  You already know a lot.  Philosophy often pushes certainty and language too far.  God communicates with you on a level of certainty and faith that He has determined for this fallen world.

How old are you?  Likely, you are beyond your second decade of life.  You have managed your life without a serious study of philosophy.  Wow!  So, philosophy has not been necessary to your life.

You have been able to communicate by conversation, maybe even giving or listening to lectures.  By this ability, you have understood words, language, and even logic.  And, as a Christian, you have a sense of purpose in the universe and in the meaning of life.

Now, some philosophers, even Christian philosophers, would push you hard in epistemology to know all the reasonings of Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Spinoza, Hegel, Dewey, and Wittgenstein, to name a few.  They may also want you to learn their extensive writings.  They would push you to the point that you begin to wonder if you can know anything truly and finally.  Pushing metaphysics and epistemology in this way is neither Biblical nor necessary.

I do not want to underestimate the value of philosophy as logic, language study, and system.  Many, many of the differences among denominations and Christians could be eliminated by more study and application in these two areas.  But it is neither Biblical nor necessary to push detailed philosophical positions for Christians.  For example, there is no conflict between faith and reason (rationalism).  I will demonstrate that, evidentialism to the contrary, once the Bible is posited as one’s first principle, then the goal of a Christian should be to develop a rational system that meets all the tests of truth.  The formal rules of hermeneutics is simply rationalism and all the tools of philosophy applied to Biblical interpretation.  (See Hermeneutics.)

What saving faith requires is accepting God at His Word and acting on these directions.  Faith is acting on the knowledge that God has provided with all the certainty that He is truth and that He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  God does not require that His children know and understand everything.  In a real sense, God communicates with you on your level of understanding.  Theologians can parse an infinite number of theological issues while the “average” person can understand God sufficiently to bask in His plan of salvation and eternal purposes.

And, God’s communication to people at their level of understanding answers the so-called problem of God’s being comprehensible or incomprehensible.  If we cannot understand God’s truth, then we are as much in the dark as the native in the deepest jungle.  God is comprehensible.  In fact, I posit that we should focus more on the comprehensibility of God, than His incomprehensibility.  He has revealed Himself and His great cosmological plan.  He is incomprehensible in that His knowledge is infinite and He has not revealed everything about Himself (Deuteronomy 29:29). 

But He does require that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” and that you can only be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  This requirement of faith is first an increasing knowledge of the Scriptures, and second, one’s obedience to the actions that are directed by that knowledge (the Two Great Commandments).

(My position here is not to endorse common sense philosophy, as it is fraught with many problems, even that of definition.)

Discuss the arbitrary nature of justified belief or epistemic justification.  “By what standard.”

Philosophy is a seductive mistress.  One gets the idea that he is pursuing truth at the frontiers of language and thought because of the intricacy of the language, and yes, the elitism of the scholarly endeavor.  Remember that God chose to communicate the most important truths that he wanted man to understand through the common language of the people.  Yes, that language has provided libraries of theological study that are only a beginning in mining the gold of its knowledge.  But much of that language may also be understood by the simple-minded and common man.  “David was the King of Israel” can be understood in children’s Sunday School, while Jesus Christ befuddled the intelligentsia of His day with the fact that David could call his “Son” (the Messiah) my Lord!”  (Matthew 22:41-46)    

 

Chaper 2.  The Great Debate: Faith and Reason (Rationalism); Liberty of Conscience

There is no greater misunderstanding in philosophy that that between faith and reason.  The Greeks did not know particulars about God, not having Special Revelation available to them.  They started with man’s reason.  Augustine of Hippo had the Bible, and he reasoned that faith was prior to reason.  “I believe in order to understand.”  Anselm and Thomas Aquinas had Revelation, but tried to prove God from reason alone with their ontological and cosmological arguments with good motives.  But by so doing, they launched mankind into ages that are darker than those of the Dark Ages in their divorce of faith and reason.

Inescapably in philosophy or any reasoning process, there must be a starting point, first philosophy or first principle.  This position requires no proof because it is first.*  For Descartes, it was “I think; therefore I am.”  This position is assumed, as axioms are in geometry.  Because it is first and because it requires no proof, this axiom is a position of faith.  Because all philosophies and all religions have their starting point(s), they are all positions of faith.  Thus, all peoples are peoples of faith, not just those with religious beliefs.  Limiting some systems to positions of faith, while claiming that others are based upon reason is the biggest lie that philosophy has every perpetrated in human discussions at either a personal, social, or political level.  And most Christians, starting with Anselm and Aquinas, have bought into this lie. 

Christians who are evidentialists have bought this lie.  Arminians have bought this lie, claiming that people can become Christians by reasoning their way to God (then, God does something in them, not before).  The modern “peoples of faith” initiatives have bought this lie, giving irrational credence to secular humanism.  Faith is one’s starting point or presupposition, pure and simple.

Into this line of reasoning comes the issue of truth.  Belief is prior to one’s truth claims, but it does not determine truth.  Probably one of the most agreed upon definitions in philosophy is that truth is reality or truth is “what is.”  But belief determines what one is willing to accept as true.  Correspondence, coherence, and pragmatism are tests of truth.  How these three tests are used is beyond my preliminary approach here.  Suffice it for now, that what is acceptable as truth is determined by one’s prior belief(s) and then reasoning based upon the tests of truth.  The Bible, as a system, meets these three tests of truth perfectly.

* The lack of a requirement of proof does not mean that a position does not need to be justified.  The tests of truth, justification, and system have to be applied to one’s position to determine whether it is reasonable or not.  However, this idea of “reasonable” is not proof in the formal sense of what that means.  It only demonstrates that one’s first principle has some coherence within some parameters that many philosophers find valid.  It is difficult here to even structure sentences because one “wise” philosopher might consider one first principle as valid as is possible in human reasoning while another thinks that same first principle to be “foolish.”  You see, all reasonings must be submitted to some standard, but who chooses that standard?  There is really only one choice: to submit to the arbitrary standard of the individual. 

“Whoa!” you might say.  A decision could be submitted to a majority vote.  But, that will not work either.  For an individual to submit to an majority vote is an “arbitrary standard of that individual.”  A majority may vote, but that individual must be willing to submit to that majority vote.  Force of arms may cause him to submit outwardly, as was often done by the Inquisition and victorious armies, but only the individual can cause his own conscience to submit.  This reasoning is one beautiful principle of the Reformation: the individual conscience as the final arbiter of religious (Christian) faith.  This view is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20, Section 2.

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

(The other three sections of that same chapter fill out this concept even more fully.)

 

Chapter 3: Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Ethics: An Inescapable Interdependency; Certainty vs. Skepticism

The interdependency of these three branches of philosophy seems mostly to be missing from philosophic discussions.  Henry Stob is helpful here with his definition of ethics.  He links “good or bad (behavior) to a single, inclusive, and determinative principle of moral value grounded in and validated by ultimate reality” (Ethical Reflections, page 24).  “Ultimate reality” is certainly a question of metaphysics.  But as one considers cosmological possibilities, the question, “How can I know for sure” (epistemology) arises.  There is an unavoidable interdependency among these three branches that is inescapable. 

Whether one considers the four possible sources of knowledge: innate (intuitive), experience, reason, or faith, there is always an interaction with reality (correspondence theory of truth) that challenges particulars of each position.  What is most needed, but rarely achieved by either Christians or non-Christians, is a coherent system.  With the use of the tools of philosophy (logic, language, and system), a beautifully integrated system can be worked out that has no conflict in epistemology, metaphysics, or ethics.  I have worked out much of this ethical system on my worldview site, www.biblicalworldview21.org.

Perhaps this is the time to bring in the notion of certainty.  In a Biblical epistemology, man lost complete certainty when he fell in the Garden.  Adam communed with God directly.  There was no miscommunication.  Adam had absolute certainty.  All knowledge that he had was true.  With the Fall, all subsequent men lost certainty.  They had to rely on indirect communication with God and their own accumulated knowledge and study.  But God gave man the gift of being able to act on reasonable certainty, that is, to act by faith (in the generic sense, not saving faith).

So, the question is, “How much certainty does man now need?  How much can he achieve?”  Apart from Biblical revelation, man has the certainty of everyday events.  The sun rises.  Electricity works.  He is not likely to have an automobile accident.  There are varying degrees of certainty with every thought and action every day of one’s life.  But the certainty that he needs is the certainty to act.  We are able to do that, hundreds of times a day.

With Biblical revelation, certainty becomes absolute!  God has spoken.  God is truth.  “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-29).  So, while particulars may not be certain: some days are cloudy; some days the electricity goes out; sometimes an auto accident occurs.  God’s promise is that we will benefit from everything that happens to us in some way, absolutely.

Now, these conclusions are slightly overstated.  Scripture requires faith.  Faith, by definition, always has some element of that which “hoped for” and “things unseen.”  Absolute certainty requires omniscience.  Even apart from his sinful state, man is finite.  Had Adam not sinned, everything that he would have known would have been true.  But for the finite and sinful man, even Biblical interpretation has some element of doubt because no two Christians agree on every item of theology.  Even so, the most certain knowledge available to mankind is God’s revelation in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.  While neither individual nor corporate understanding may be absolute, it is sufficient for all that God has wanted us to know and with the certainty that He desired for us to have.

 

Chapter 4: Philosophy Is Religion. The Cultural Mandate and The Great Commission.

Likely, the reader will have surmised by that philosophy and religion do not differ in their purposes: to understand origins and purposes for mankind.  The only difference might be that some religions include supernatural elements.  But as we saw above, all epistemologies start with one or more first principles, a position of belief.  So, all philosophies and religions have basic beliefs (first principles, presuppositions, axioms, fundamentals, etc.), a position known as foundationalism.

I have come to consider that the Cultural (Creation, Dominion) Mandate, The Great Commission, Biblical Ethics, Biblical Worldview, and Biblical Philosophy are all the same comprehensive plan with possibly differing emphases.  All Biblical Christians agree that God has a plan to redeem people.  But what do they do after redemption while they are waiting on Heaven?  They apply God’s ethics (a branch of philosophy), that is, his directives to all areas of life.  Since all civil law is based upon ethics, they are to fashion ethics into law where they have opportunity, implementing God’s justice.  Again, what else is there for God’s people to do: evangelize all their waking moments?  Ponder Heaven?  If the Second Advent does not occur, within a few years we will have presented the Gospel to every nation on earth.  Then, what will we do?

Vocation.  Finding your place in God’s Kingdom.

Chapter 5:  Idealism and Realism

Another great division of philosophy is idealism and realism.  Idealism is the belief that all reality is in the mind of man and/or the mind of God.  Physical objects do not really exist except as they are in the mind.  Realism is the belief that everything that is real has a physical quality.  The brain is the physical entity where all thinking occurs.  Sometimes, philosophers combine these two divisions into a combination of reality in the mind and in the physical world called dualism.  Realism today has mostly taken the form of scientific realism, that “science progressively secures true, or approximately true, theories about the real, theory-independent world ‘out-there’ and does so in a rationally justifiable way” (Moreland, Philosophical Foundations, page 326-327).  Scientism is its most aggressive position in that nothing outside the realism of science is worth knowing and that all decisions should be based upon science alone.

 The Bible posits a dualism of mind and matter.  God is pure mind, that is, He is Spirit (John 4:23-24, 14:17, 15:26, 16:13; I John 4:6, 5:6).  And, God created the universe before He created man.  Thus, there existed a physical universe independent of man’s mind.  It is possible that the universe exists only in God’s mind with a correspondence in man’s mind, but even that position would make the existence of the universe external to man’s mind.

 

Chapter 6: The Tools of Philosophy: Logic, Language, Systematics, and Synonyms

In the Introduction, we saw how accepting the Bible as our first principle, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics becomes a matter of understanding the Bible (theology).  Since that position eliminates three of the four branches of philosophy, only logic is left.  Logic includes the law of noncontradiction, excluded middle, and identity.  It also includes informal fallacies, such as, asserting the consequent, ad hominem arguments, and composition.  The core of logic is the formal syllogism or deduction.  From true propositions a valid argument will result in a proposition is also true.  Then, there is induction, working from particulars to universals.  While induction may derive a pragmatic principle, the process never arrives as true because it is impossible to examine every relevant thing in the universe.  (On the law of noncontradiction, see page vii-viii in Clark’s Logic.) 

Words are symbols of the thing associated with them.  For example, “tree” brings to mind a variety of living things that would be called by that name.  But “tree” conforms to language convention.  The symbol for “tree” varies from language to language, but a designated, particular tree remains the same entity, regardless of its symbol.  In some languages, there can be dozens of names that would be translated “tree,” according to the kind of tree, its size, and other characteristics. For his Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien actually wrote a language for Middle Earth.

Those who would deprecate language fail to grasp its significance as the communication of the omniscient God to His people.  This communication underscores the adequacy of language.  If words can communicate what God would have us know of Him and our great salvation, language is wonderful indeed!

The earliest and most primitive languages are highly complex.  The humanistic anthropology that developed out of the Renaissance at one time took the strident position that these languages were simple.  Cave men beginning with just grunts and other crude gestures.  But the earliest civilizations have been found to have highly complex languages.  Some jungle cultures have languages more complex than those of “civilized” peoples, even though they have not written form. 

A proposition is simply a declarative sentence.  Another form of statement is that of  predicate nouns or  adjectives.  One must remember, however, that “is” is not an equals sign. To assume that such is true can be a disastrous mistake.  For example, God is love ignores the other great attributes (truth, justice, righteousness, eternally unchanging, etc.) of God.  God must first of all be truth or “God is love” could not be known to be true.  Definitions are important as words have no meaning without them.  Definitions may be denotative or connotative, having formal or colloquial meanings.  Definitions are crucial, and without which philosophy, theology, and any form of communication could not exist. 

A belief in the Bible requires that Biblical definitions be discerned and applied.  Many philosophical terms have different definitions in the Bible. For example, ??

Synonyms.  An area that I have not found discussed at all is the similarity of meanings in philosophy.  While these might not quite be synonyms, to begin to organize these together would take a lot of the confusion out of philosophy.  For example, naturalism includes materialism, logical positivism, physicalism, realism, naturalistic philosophy, empiricism, and scientism.  A first principle would include axiom, presupposition, assumption, bias, prejudice, cosmology, metaphysics, basic beliefs, a priori, basic worldview, first philosophy, and ultimate reality.  Again, these are not precise synonyms, but they are sufficiently similar to narrow the scope of philosophy, avoiding unnecessary complexity and confusion.

Thus, philosophy becomes a reasoning process and an understanding of language.  Since the subject matter is now the Bible, philosophy becomes theology.  Or, theology is the philosophical study of the Bible.  (Link. See John Frame’s comments under Survey of Philosophy on this site.)

 A major problem with reason and logic is both the colloquial and professional use of the words reason, reasonable, rational, irrational, rationale, rationalization, logic, and logical.  “Irrational” is considered a basis to categorize a person as “mentally ill.”  These words have the appearance of precision in their usage, especially professionally, but they range far from any fixed standard.  It is “reasonable” for a woman to spend a considerable amount to buy a dress for one event, while her husband may consider the purchase as “irrational” or “unreasonable.”  The reader may think this example trite, but it is no more so than the way it is often used professionally.  A world renowned psychiatrist may consider a belief in Biblical Christianity as “irrational,” but a regenerate Christian with equivalent degrees would consider his belief the height of rationality.

This argument actually takes us back to faith and reason. 

Perhaps the focus should be on rational and logical with the other words being compared and contrasted to these. 

Chapter 7:  Naturalism, Empiricism, Functionality, and Modern Science

Naturalism is a form of realism, perhaps, best represented as materialism.  That is, all the objects in the universe are material objects, and they are the only reality.  Anything non-material (spirit, soul, mind, God, etc.) does not exist (“mind” as an epiphenomenon).  Another form of this position is scientism by which the world can only be known through scientific means.  Empiricism which posits that the five senses of man are the only means by which to know reality then is the mechanism of naturalism and its synonyms of physical reality. 

The natural sciences (that is modern science), then, becomes the “king” of knowledge.  It can eliminate any concept of the supernatural simply by definition.  The great problem is, however, that modern science cannot determine its own destiny.  Other forces, primarily ethics and funding (value), determine what science will do and to what extent.  Also, science can never produce a universal truth because its subject matter is limited to an almost infinitesimal portion of the universe that it studies.  The so-called scientific method does not exist.  (See Moreland… Philosophical Foundations…Chapters on Science.)

The pretense of science as truth comes from its functionality.  The modern marvels of science are almost limitless in their extraordinary function: computer chips in every device, spacecraft going to distant planets and solar systems, the Internet with its instant communication around the world and a universe of knowledge at one’s fingertips, and certain medical achievements, to name only a few.  But technological achievement and truth are two different areas totally.  While technology does influence behavior (Postman, Technopoly), what technology and how to use it (value, ethics) are determined by disciplines other than science.  For example, dynamite can be used to move mountains for construction or blow human beings to bits. 

 

Chapter 8: Free Will, Determinism, Responsibility, and Regeneration

I find the issue of free will to be an exercise that is futile.  The determinism of individual men is inescapable.  Here is the reasoning process.  Regardless of one’s first principles, an individual man can only be what is his innate composition (genes and/or spirit), and how these are molded by education (experience and formal instruction, i.e., nurture) at early ages.  By any age that may be chosen as an age of accountability (many beliefs choose age 12, as in a Jewish bar mitzvah), a person has only limited knowledge and can only make choices within what he knows.  In addition, to be truly free he must be omniscient, that is, know everything in the universe in order to know every option possible.  At best, in any one person, his freedom to choose is severely limited by nature, nurture, and education to that point in time.

But I can hear the counter claim, “How can man be responsible, if he is ‘programmed.’”  If the Supreme Being in the universe, above which there is no other being or authority, says that man is responsible, man is responsible.  If God requires of us what we cannot do, we are still responsible!  You say, “Well, that is unfair!”  Oh?  To whom are you appealing?  Fairness has a inescapable prerequisite of a standard (authority) by which to judge.  Again, there is no judge above God to whom to appeal.

One thing about that is fascinating about man’s lack of free will and his responsibility is that properly understood, they become one and the same.  Man’s freedom is to become the most responsible (mature) person within the nature and nurture that God has given him. 

Of course, the theology of regeneration is central here.  By any reasonable consideration of man’s limited ability, He cannot choose God (Isaiah 64:6, John 6:44, Romans 3:10, Ephesians 2:1).  Arminianism, then, is not only wrong Biblically, it is wrong logically.  A Biblical system and a logical position must cohere.

If any being were to have absolute freedom to choose from any number of options, he would not be able to choose because all options would be of equal value.  Even if he were to choose by lot (flipping a coin, using a dart board, or rolling dice), this random method would by his highest value because he would allow it to make his choices for him.  How wonderful are God’s Scriptures that tell us what is valuable and what is not.  How infinitely better than true freedom which would only end in frustration and chaos.

Even God does not have free will in the sense that most philosophers use it.  The Trinity is the same, “yesterday, today, and forever.”  He is “working all things after the counsel of His own will.”  Thus, His knowledge which is omniscient is limited by ideas that he values above all others.  This world and His Providence of it is not only “the best of all possible worlds,” it is the only possible world!

Chapter 9  Theodicy, the Problem of Good Is As Difficult as the Problem of Evil

Theodicy is the apparent paradox of a good, omnipotent God and the existence of evil.  That is, if God is all powerful, how can He allow the evils of Hitler, the devastation of a tsunami, the massive deaths in a Black Plague, or simply the single death of a child at the hands of a drunk driver? 

As we have seen, definitions are central and crucial to philosophy, and thus the definition of “good” here.  What is good from a Biblical perspective exists at two levels and has to do with the character of God.  There is God’s moral will which consists of the Ten Commandments, all the other 613 commands of the Old Testament, and all those of the New Testament.  God’s moral will is man’s responsibility.  At another level is God’s decretive will.   God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), and “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).  God’s Providence is His plan of every small and large event in the history of the world.

Also, “omnipotence” does not mean that God can do anything that He wants.  He can only do that which is His (decretive) will.  The universe and history of which we experience is the best of all possible worlds.  Also, God could not do everything because opposite actions would just cancel each other.  For example, God could not both squeeze toothpaste from a tube and put it back in!  He could not both create Adam and not create Adam.  But God does not choose as man does because He knows everything at once and his “choices” are only what He does.  He does not choose, he just does (His declarative will).

Simply, then, God causes all things to happen according to the counsel of His own will.  Since, He is not the one (“the author”) who actually perpetrates evil under this proposition, He cannot be accused of being the “author of sin.”  This statement may be stunning to some readers and will be fleshed out here in time.  Meanwhile, see A Biblical Theodicy.

Chapter 10  The Problem of Integration.  “All Truth Is God’s Truth.”

I have yet to find a Christian who states that “all truth is God’s truth” and manages that statement Biblically or logically.  The Bible is God’s revelation; it is God’s infinite and perfect mind revealed; it carries the authority of God.  It cannot be integrated with the mind of finite and fallen man.  To attempt such is folly. 

The mistake that psychologists (the most common professionals who use this term) and others make is three-fold.  (1) As above, the authority of Scripture is infinite and perfectly righteous, while man’s knowledge is finite and deranged by sin.  (2) These scholars never do the hard work to define and develop the “truth” that they propose to “integrate” with Scripture.  For sure, there is a language difficulty in working out nuances between man’s knowledge and language and those of Scripture.  For example, there is great difficulty in knowing how scientific terms apply to Genesis 1-11 and in knowing and understanding even the Biblical language.  But authority must always be given to Scripture where there is the slightest doubt or discrepancy.  (3) Scripture says more, and says it more clearly, than is sometimes acknowledged.  For example, the Bible is sometimes said not to be a textbook on psychology and economics.  But it is!  There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about money and its use.  Psychology is literally a “science of the soul or mind and the behavior of the individual.  The Bible surely is a textbook on that subject!

 

Chapter 11  Apologetics and Evangelism

Apologetics is the defense of the Biblical faith.  Christian philosophers have perhaps their most important role here.  They can demonstrate that all other philosophies and religions are neither justifiable, coherent, corresponding and consistent with the laws of logic.  They can drive an clear-thinking philosopher at least to a stalemate (first principles do not have to be proved).  In the process, perhaps, the Holy Spirit will regenerate the opposing philosopher, as he faces this truth.

All philosophies and religions have one or more first principles, which is a position of faith.  Perhaps the most central theme of this book is that all reasoning is based upon positions of faith.  A person always starts with one or more presuppositions.  (List synonyms of first principle here.)  First principles require no proof, but the system that is developed must meet the criteria for truth, especially coherency and correspondence. 

Evangelism is incidental to God’s plan in His Creation Mandates.  The God of the Bible is omniscient, knowing the beginning and the end all at once.  Thus, when He gave the Creation Mandates (reference Murray, Principles of Conduct), He was completely aware that very shortly, Adam would sin.  God knew full well that Adam and his posterity would fail immediately, yet He gave these directives anyway.  These preceded the Fall, so they are prior to God’s plan of redemption.  It seems reasonable to conclude, the, that redemption (regeneration) was the means by which to enable man to accomplish God’s prior Creation Mandates.  In a real sense, evangelism becomes incidental to fulfillment of these mandates!

Chapter 12  Distinctives of A Biblical Philosophy

Can these be arranged in some priority order? 

__.  The laws of noncontradiction, excluded middle, and identity are consistent with Biblical revelation.

1.  The regenerate and unregenerate are the most basic divisions of humans on planet earth.  Each will start with a different first principle.  The first principle for the regenerate person must be the inerrant or infallible Bible, the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.

2.  The questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics are answered finally and fully by Biblical revelation.

3.  Truth is defined in a Person and in a Book.  This Truth answers tests of coherence, correspondence, and pragmatism perfectly.

4.  Biblical ethics are the only system in which there are no conflicts between the one and the many.

5.  Unless man can comprehend God, he knows no truth.  But he cannot know God exhaustively, hence His incomprehensibility.

6.  The Bible posits man as depraved and an enemy of God.  The only limitation of man’s evil is the Providence and common grace of God.  The idea of a “noble savage” is a myth. 

7.  What man needs most is regeneration by the Holy Spirit and obedience to the laws of God.

8.  The watershed issue for all who claim to be “Christians” is the inerrancy of Scripture, as defined by the Evangelical Theology Society.  By this standard, the truth and ethics that Protestants and Roman Catholics would understand are incompatible.  While the right of individual conscience is inviolate, it may not be true.

The Scriptures must also be the controlling authority to every area to which it speaks.  Further, “every area” must be as fully and widely applied as sound hermeneutics and systematic consistency demands.

9.  Biblical philosophy and theology do not differ except in application to apologetics.

10.  Abraham Kuyper has a conception of the collective mind of virtually all regenerate Christians, based upon Scripture, and that of the secular mind of all unregenerate persons.

11.  “All truth is God’s truth,” but (a) empirical science can never determine truth because induction is never universal, (b) there is never conflict between the truth of the Bible and truth found elsewhere, when both are properly understood, ... others?

12.  “A theologian’s epistemology controls his interpretation of the Bible” (Clark, Incarnation, page 46).  Thus, a Christian, especially one who speaks, preaches, or writes, must understand epistemology, define his own, and be certain that it is Biblically logical and consistent throughout.

13.  Gordon Clark’s books must be read.  He is the most precise thinker and write of our time!

 

This is a first proposal for a book on Biblical philosophy.  Over time, this will be revised until the book is actually written.  What has been discussed is my first summary introduction to philosophy. 



[1] The doctrinal basis of this society is “"The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

 

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