Unique and Special Emphases of Biblicalphilosophy.org
Is this site really different from other sites and other works in Christian philosophy? Yes! All the following are either unique to this site or receive special emphasis here that is not found elsewhere under the banner of Christian philosophy.
There are ranked in no particular order except for the first few discussed here. These are introductions and reviews, not substantive arguments. Where possible, I have referred the reader to articles that are more fully developed.
Biblical, not Christian, philosophy
Only two religions
The sufficiency of Scripture
Philosophy of religion is primarily Christianity
Biblical, theological definitions in the Glossary and elsewhere
Philosophical concept of “chance”
More complete explanation and integration of faith and reason
Interdependency of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics
The discipline of logic does not belong in philosophy
A Biblical anthropology must include The Fall and The Plan of Salvation
Philosophy and religion concern the same subject matter
A rejection of “justified true belief” as a basis of knowledge
Definition of knowledge: that which occupies the mind
“Reformed epistemology” is not consistently Reformed
The Westminster Confession is a truly Reformed epistemology
The “gods of the philosophers” is not the God of the Bible
Needed dialogue: Clarkians and Van Tillians
A standard definition of “religion” is needed
All truth is not God’s truth
Science is a philosophical “paper tiger”
The empirical method is dangerous in the “human sciences”
Philosophy must be used critically
Jesus Christ as Logos must be central to a Biblical philosophy
Biblical definitions are necessary in Christians in philosophy and theology
Is apologetics rightly defined and directed?
Solipsism is a great “defeater” for all other philosophies
The distinctives of Roman Catholicism and Protestant theology and philosophy cannot be minimized
This site is committed to the Reformed faith of the Westminster Confession
All persons and systems have some irrationality
This site and http://www.biblicalworldview21.org have a complete system of ethics
There is a certain immediacy to philosophy… impending death!
There are no answers in philosophy!
This site advocates and defends Biblical Christianity, as a whole, not idea or concept that carries the label “Christian.” The failure of most Christians in philosophy to advocate and defend Biblical Christianity, as a unity, is truly incredulous. They advocate and defend “classical theism”; they defend natural law and natural theology; they allow discussion of almost any theme that in any way is defensible as “Christian”; they lump Roman Catholicism with Protestant and Reformed Christianity, as though there were no significant differences; etc., etc. This stance is why I entered the realm of “Christian philosophy.” I continue to stand amazed at the limited, if not neglect, of Biblical revelation among Christians in philosophy. For more on the misleading use of “Christian,” see Explanation of “Christian.”
Only two religions: There are only two religions (and therefore philosophies): Biblical Christianity and all others. The former is a work of grace—free to the sinner, extremely costly to Jesus Christ—and all the latter are “works” based, an attempt to earn one’s salvation which is never possible.
This site is concerned with Biblical philosophy. “Christian” appears in the title because “Christian” ought to mean “Biblical.” (See above.) A Biblical philosophy posits the Bible as the very Word of God written, as its first principle (most basic belief, presupposition, foundation, starting point, axiom, and all the other synonyms of this concept). This position proposes a unique epistemology because “knowledge” comes from God Himself. It posits a metaphysics that God created everything, yet He is distinct from that creation (transcendent) while remaining active in its operation and teleology (immanent). And, all that the Bible says is the basis for right and wrong (ethics). These, then, are the three traditional divisions of philosophy: epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Within my aims, I offer Inescapable Truths and a list of Criteria by Which to Measure a Christian or Biblical Philosophy.
This site posits the Sufficiency of Scripture. Over the past several decades, Christians have often stated that “The Bible is true about everything to which it speaks.” The implication was that the Bible is true to the subjects about which it spoke (mostly history and theology), but that there were areas to which it did not speak, for example, science, psychology, sociology, physics, and biology. This concept was both limiting and seriously in error. The language of science may not be the language of Scripture, but what may and may not be done by science is surely in Scripture: prohibiting abortion, euthanasia, cloning, sexual promiscuity, and much more. In particular, there has been the “two kingdoms” view in which Biblical law does not apply to civil law and government. Biblical law governs individuals, families, and the church, but civil law must be derived from natural law. What this site states is that “The Bible is true about everything to which it speaks, and it speaks to everything”—including civil law and government. Jesus Christ rules the heavens and the earth. As Abraham Kuyper said, there is nothing about which He does not say, “Mine.” And, as Kuyper further said, we are to “mine” the “gold” of the Scriptures to apply to an entire world and life view.
Philosophy of religion is primarily and almost exclusively limited to Christianity in the West. The various terms used for philosophy of religion are natural philosophy, natural theology, natural law, philosophical theology, philosophical theism, theistic philosophy, and others. However, until the rise of Islam in the late 20th century, philosophy of religion in the West was Christianity! The use of these other terms obscures the dominance of Christianity in philosophy, history, sociology, art, and indeed, all the scholarly areas of discussion. Even Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, and others speak of “God” in the generic sense, apart from Biblical revelation, they are speaking of the God of Christianity (even though they may not be speaking of the God of the Bible, that is, a failure to be Biblically consistent with His attributes and His plan of salvation). I have to credit Scott Oliphint for first planting this idea in my mind in Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology, 13). However, I have made this concept more central to my writings than perhaps he or anyone else has.
Extensive Glossary. Without definitions philosophy cannot take place. In fact, no communication can take place. Virtually all philosophers, including Christians, have only brief or no glossaries in their books. Further, there are few specifically Christian dictionaries of philosophy—none that are truly Biblically based. Perhaps, if there were more focus on definitions, some issues might become clearer. At least the student could get a more precise grasp on what the author was saying.
Biblical, theological definitions. Some words that I have developed which very few others have are: love, faith (fideism, belief, believe), justice, truth, Biblical Christianity, Christian, chance, and many others.
Philosophical definition of “chance.” In all the discussions and debates about creation and evolution, I have never seen anyone define “chance” as “nothing plus nothing is always nothing.” See chance.
More discussion of faith than any other website. It is quite amazing that the word “faith” is discussed so obtusely by both professionals and laymen who are Christian leaders. On this site, one of my central concerns is faith—generic faith, religious faith, philosophical faith, and Christian faith. If we do not understand faith, simply and comprehensively, we cannot understand the Christian faith. I have written a book on faith. and I have much discussion of faith on this site. See the Table of Contents for this site under “Faith and Reason.”
More complete explanation and integration of reason and faith. I am not sure that more confusion in philosophy exists anywhere than in discussions of reason and faith. They are inseparable; they are inescapably interdependent. On the one hand, to make a statement of faith that is intelligible involves considerable reason in the choice of words, sentence structure, and order of words. On the other hand, the statements in a reasoning process begin with statements that cannot be proven—starting point, first principle, presuppositions, foundations, properly basic beliefs, axioms, etc. I find this situation quite amazing that philosophers who are supposed to be “lovers of wisdom” and logical thinkers make such incoherent, illogical, and irrational statements about both faith and reason. Likely, the separation of peoples into “faith-groups” and “non-faith groups” is based in this confusion. And, this placing of faith-groups into a ghetto has almost physically, geographically forced Christians into a literal ghetto. George Barna got it right on one occasion—all peoples are faith-based, even those most atheistic!
The place to start is to consider the idea of generic faith. Then, continue reading all discussion of faith in that area of the Glossary.
Then, these are some discussions of this issue that you might find helpful.
Reason is more complex and extensive than is usually discussed. Reason is not the simple exercise of logical syllogisms, logical fallacies, or rules of inference. It is much more complex and is interdependent with faith.
Interdependency of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Often, discussions of these branches of philosophy focus on each as though they were independent of each other. One may be chosen as the primary basis for the others. For example, “what we can really know” would seem to precede metaphysics. Or, what we are (metaphysics) determines what we can know. Either or both of these will determine what we think is right or wrong. And so on. But I contend that these are inseparably interdependent. Other terms that might apply include interconnectedness, interrelated, or coinherent, but they really “inter-depend” upon each other. For some idea of these connections, use the Search Feature on my site to search “interdependent” and “interdependency.”
The discipline of logic does not belong in philosophy. Logic is a discipline that applies to all areas of scholarship. By its location in philosophy, logic seems restricted only to philosophy. And, only those who study philosophy usually study logic. Logic needs to be taught possibly as early as 6th grade (American system), and certainly in high school and college with some breadth and depth. Of course, what is taught should be appropriate for age levels and could be made quite interesting with all the examples everyday in public discourse of faulty logic. I am amazed even in college, graduate school, and seminary at the amount of material taught, but how little is taught about how this knowledge can be examined for its coherency and rationality. Also, neglected is how to make decisions with this knowledge. What use is raw knowledge without the skills of thinking to determine whether it is true, useful, and consistent? (I have written no lengthy article on this subject.)
Biblical anthropology posits a concept that appears nowhere else in religion or philosophy: The Fall. There are many questions about man that simply are not addressed by most beliefs. Why does an individual man have strong tendencies to both good and evil? Why are some dominated by evil, even to the extent of mass murder by the millions? Why does the problem of theodicy even exist: a good God with absolute power in the face of extreme evil that is both natural and man-caused? If The Fall is not a major focus of any philosophy that claims to be Christian, it denies the essence of what it claims to be! And, in addition to posing the problem, the answer in Jesus (See definition of evil.)
Philosophy and religion are concerned with the same issues: metaphysics (origins, matter, being, reality), epistemology (how do we “know,” what is truth, language), and ethics (right and wrong). It is quite amazing that philosophy and religion are categorized as though they were separate entities. I venture this definition of philosophy: man seeking meaning to the just-stated issues apart from Special Revelation, or seeking what is “ultimate concern” apart from God having spoken inerrantly in the Bible.
A rejection of “justified true belief” as useful to epistemology. The problem here is a that a standard is needed by which to determine each word in the phrase. Who determines criteria of justification. “Self-evident” was refuted centuries ago; one can pursue an authority, but there is no authority in philosophy; and so on. Of greater consequence, who determines what is truth? Correspondence, coherence, pragmatic, other? And, there is really little agreement on what a belief is. Is it restricted to “religious” belief or all beliefs? Do faith and belief mean the same thing? Continuing this theme…
I offer a new definition of knowledge: that which occupies the mind. Truth and belief become separate issues and are most easily discussed without the complexity of a triple-term. For more see Knowledge: A New Look at an Old Subject.
“Reformed epistemology” is neither Reformed nor faithful to a Biblical epistemology. The Reformed faith has taken a backward step in there not being a greater outcry from the Reformed community over this term. It is not Reformed because it does not start with Scripture and with a Biblical definition of God, as its first principle. It is not faithful to a Biblical epistemology because the role of Special Revelation as the ultimate ground of knowledge is not central to its epistemology. I have several references that critique Reformed epistemology as a separate section in my Site Map.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) is perhaps the best philosophical-theological document. The WCF starts with the 66 books of the Bible as its first principle—its most basic belief. It establishes deduction over induction, “deduction by necessary consequence”—the law of non-contradiction (Chapter 1, Section 6). Then, it posits the God of the Bible—not some general theistic concept—in some detail. Chapter Three and Five establishes the meaning of individuals and history. Chapter Four concerns metaphysics, cosmology, and original anthropology. Chapter Six explains a disruption of that original anthropology and explains theodicy—the problem of good and evil—the only sensible explanation in the world of religions and philosophy to explain the extreme poles of man’s behavior. Ethics, a major division of philosophy, is discussed primarily in sections of the Larger and Shorter Catechism on the Ten Commandments. And, much more. While it is extremely doubtful that the founding father intended the WCF to correspond to philosophical concerns, its form fits those concerns, as well as creating a theological masterpiece.
The gods of the philosophers are not the God of the Bible! It is virtually beyond my comprehension that modern Christian philosophy discusses “god” and “theism” as though there were a generic variety who (or what) is the same for all persons. The god of Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard are neither the same god, nor the God of the Scriptures. “Classical theism,” commonly used by many Christian philosophers, is not Biblical theism. The god of Islam and of Judaism is not the God of Christianity. They are defined totally differently. For a Biblical definition of God, see Chapter Two of the Westminster Confession of Faith. For a contrast of the “gods of the philosophers,” see Gods of the Philosophers and Theologians. The laws of noncontradiction, identity, and excluded middle necessarily exclude that these “gods” are one and the same or that there can be such a thing as “classical theism” because (1) there are no two gods of any religion who are the same, and (2) there are no two “gods” of philosophers who are the same.
I call for dialogue, dampening of intensity, and a decrease in polemics among Clarkians and Van Tillians! This appeal is hidden among so much on this website, but Gordon Clark, Cornelius Van Til, and their disciples (used loosely—see below) are far and away beyond other Christians in philosophy for the past 100 years. Both camps have accused the other of principles and statements that would lead to liberalism and heresy—neither has happened. Clark and Van Til are united in heaven—their followers need to work on a unity on earth. They have the best systems for what ails mankind today. They need to war with the world, not with each other. For a discussion of these and other warring debates, see this landmark article by John Frame: Machen’s Warrior Children.
I call for a standard definition of religion. Again, it is amazing to me that “religion” is used as broadly as it is. If a word means anything or everything, then it means nothing. “Religion” is that word. If one looks at all the characteristics of all the beliefs and activities that come under the label religion, one will find that many are contradictory. Islam posits monotheism, while Hinduism and Animism posit a infinite number of metaphysical entities. Christianity posits an afterlife in heaven or hell, while many other “religions” posit nothingness or a blend into the universe. Existentialism’s subjectivity opposes the objectivity of the Christian Scriptures. And on and on. What most clearly must be faced is that Jesus posited “the (only) way, truth, and the life.” Either Christianity is true and all other “religions” are false or the law of contradiction fails. That any “religion” other than Biblical Christianity has any semblance of truth is a denial of this “true religion.” The lack of any attempt to define “religion” is a denial of exacting philosophical scholarship and a characterization of the looseness in which philosophical concepts are managed by all those in these fields.
“All truth is not God’s truth—at least as it is usually presented.” Many Christian scholars like the phrase that “All truth is God’s truth.” But I have yet to find one who uses this phrase to outline a process that defines how truth, other than God’s Word, can be discerned. While there is not much that all philosophers agree upon, there is almost universal agreement among them that empiricism (induction—inferring from the specific to the general) determines truth. What it determines is probability, and often probability is only “possibility” or just preferred opinion. I have written a 25-page treatise on truth which has a detailed outline as a Preface from which one can choose certain topics. I have another substantive article on empiricism.
Science is a paper tiger, as far as its ability to attack, or offer substantive arguments against, Christianity. Many students at the high school and college level are intimidated by professors who challenge their faith with all the achievements of modern science. However, all arguments from secular scientists are easily refuted, if some basics of the scientific endeavor are known. (1) David Hume was a definitive agnostic, but even he stated that “what is” can never determine an “ought.” That is, no observation or empirical data can yield any ethics. Thus, man may be technologically “able” to go to the moon and back, but that ability in no way determines whether he “ought” to go to the moon. (2) The “scientific method” is surrounded by “faith” (subjective) decisions. Where does a theory to research come from? What parameters do I choose to consider or ignore? What instruments do I use for observations? Who pays for my work? Should this work be done? What conclusions can I draw from this work? Etc., etc. See What Is Science?
While the empirical method “works” great in the more objective sciences (e.g., physics and mathematics), but is considerably misapplied to the more subjective sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, and medicine). All “science” is not “science.” When “science” investigates areas that involve humans, it loses most of its determinacy. Why? Individuals make choices! They choose to obey or not to obey: God’s commandments, their parents, their teachers, policemen, their doctors, or their counselors. They have strong good and evil motives. They are unpredictable. Etc., etc. I have already commented that an “is” cannot determine an “ought.” That over 50 percent of marriages fail does not mean that they should fail. That most people cheat on their income tax does not make it right. That a person was abused by their parents does not allow them to abuse others. That a medical procedure “is” available does not mean they it “should” be used. Etc., etc.
This site is more critical of philosophy per se that is the majority of Christians in philosophy. I am more forthright about what philosophy is and is not. (1) Philosophy is almost entirely a secular enterprise. As such, it is basically anti-Christian and anti-Biblical. In a sense, it is understandable that Christians who receive their training in secular institutions tend to “integrate” their Christian beliefs with secular views. (2) Even those philosophers who seem “friendly” towards God, e.g., Berkeley, Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Tillich, discuss a god who is not the God of the Bible. See “gods of the philosophers above.” (3) Philosophy is virtually anything that anyone wants it to be. Like “religion” (see above), philosophy is so broad that it means almost nothing except perhaps what any unregenerate person believes. See Survey of Philosophy over Three Millennia.
Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is Logos: reason, language, light, logic, rational thought, wisdom, and many other attributes of knowledge. Some recent philosophers (Gordon Clark, Ronald Nash, Carl F. H. Henry, John Frame, and Vern Poythress, for example) have emphasized Christ as Logos, the Greek word usually translated “Word” (John 1:1). But this emphasis is less common today among Christian philosophers. However, this concept is central to epistemology because Christ is the creator of language itself, He “enlightens” every man (John 1:9), He is the focus of those who are “born-again” (John 3), and He has spoken in word form from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. A Christian epistemology that does not mention Logos as central to its development is not a truly Christian concept.
Biblical definitions are necessary. I find the situation amazing that Christians in philosophy and theology frequently do not have glossaries in their books nor do they give careful and detailed definitions of words that are common to the Christian faith: faith, belief (believe), love, truth, God, etc. For example, D. A. Carson wrote the book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God and never (as far as I could determine) defined love! Alvin Plantinga wrote his lengthy trilogy without a Glossary. I wrote my book on faith because I never found a helpful and Biblically accurate definition of faith. These scholars are supposed to be our teachers, but without basic definitions, discussions flounder and require hours of searching to try to find their definitions—if they have them! I would like especially to see definitions of faith, love, truth, knowledge, mind, spirit, soul, and heart which are basic to the Christian faith, but rarely are given concise, portable definitions for the laymen and professionals. This lack may be the greatest reason for confusion among Christians today! (See apologetics below.)
Apologetics … for whom? There seems to be an almost endless discussion of “apologetics.” The definition is not a problem: the defense of the faith. But almost all apologetics today is written to Christians! Apologetics written to Christians is education and edification, not apologetics. Who attends apologetics conferences? Christians! Thus, they are not apologetics conferences, but education conferences. Now, I do not necessarily object to these teachings, but those teachers should be more honest about what is being done. I wonder whether Christianity might be advanced to a greater extent, all this effort were truly apologetic—directed and engaged with unbelievers.
Recognition of the great defeater of solipsism. In the last few months, I have come to see solipsism as one of the greatest obstacles of philosophy. Solipsism is the question of how I can know that other minds exist, since no earthly person can do a “mind meld,” as the Spock of Star Trek fame is able to do. The only way to know with certainty that other minds exist is the testimony of a person who has actually “entered” other minds. As Christians, we know not only the One who knows all minds better than those minds themselves (Jeremiah 17:9-10), but Who created and predestined those minds (Acts 2:23)! By contrast, Plantinga only comes to a probability conclusion that other minds exist in his God and Other Minds.
Roman Catholicism and Protestant (at least Reformed) Christianity will be kept distinct. For sure, Christianity is ruled by pluralism when those who are Reformed teach at Catholic universities and those who are Catholic teach at Protestant universities. This pluralism may be the greatest indictment of the modern “Christian” philosophical enterprise that it fails to be precise in its definitions and delimitations. Clearly, Catholic and Protestant (at least Reformed) theology and philosophy are incompatible. The five solas of the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent form an unbridgeable gap between the two belief systems. In philosophy, the gap is not as great, but Catholicism is clearly dependent upon the Thomist system of philosophy (empiricism), as Protestant theology (at least historically) is not.
(I cannot help thinking in this context that a failure to teach and understand logic may explain the acceptance of Protestants and Catholics in philosophy by each other. Theology should only be deduction from Scripture—truth deducted from truth. Philosophy without Scripture is left with only personal opinion and its derived fallacies and induction—both a foundation of sand.)
This site is committed to the Reformed faith. Perhaps, I have attempted the impossible—a sort of generic approach to Biblical philosophy. I did not want this site to be overtly, quickly identifiable with Reformed Christianity by the initial visitor because the logical (coherent0 approach to Scripture can only arrive at the Reformed position best represented by the Westminster Confession of Faith. The word “Christian” in its title has been minimized everywhere here. It is used to attract visitors in the hope that I can get them thinking logically and Biblically before they realize my most basic beliefs! That intention could be conceived as dishonest. But I hope that it is more consistent with being “wise … and harmless” (Matthew 10:16). But, here at least and overtly, I am stating my position! My basic beliefs (first principles) would be (1) the inerrancy of the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible, (2) the theorems deducted from that Bible, and (3) the Westminster Confession of Faith as the best summary of those theorems. The philosopher in whom I hold the highest regard is Gordon H. Clark, but I value all the other philosophers for Reformed faith who heavily engage themselves with Scripture and logical deduction, such as Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Robert Reymond, and John Frame. The best website that reflects my Biblical and theological systems is that of The Trinity Foundation (although I distant myself from many of the conclusions and caustic attacks of the late John Robbins).
All persons and systems are irrational to some degree. Ah, who else has admitted this limitation? Only the Scriptures are fully, logically coherent, but even they must be interpreted. All humans are finite, and while I agree that valid reasoning from the true propositions of the Bible are as true as the words of Scripture itself, we all err frequently. The challenge is to challenge each other to greater consistency, but even that cannot be done, if we argue from different premises. My premises are stated above. I will only accept challenge on those premises. But I have here and openly stated that I will sometimes (often?) err.
This site along with www.biblicalworldview21.org includes a complete system of ethics. Not many Christian philosophers today have a relatively complete system of ethics in their writings, even though traditionally ethics is one the three major divisions of philosophy. In fact, the majority of my life’s work has been in ethics—medical or bioethics—and have only lately come to focus on philosophy itself.
There is a certain immediacy to philosophy… impending death! I have been on a college campus attending classes this past year (Spring 2010). There have been two deaths of from a population of about 5000. These were young people—intelligent, highly motivated, beginning careers, and the love of their parents. Dead; life over. On this campus were they confronted with answers about eternity? Was there an immediacy of concern in this “higher institution of learning?” No. Two points. (1) An institution that claims to be a “university” in all that term means which does not immediately teach its students that they are mortal, that mortality means that they will face eternity, and that a decision about that eternity is the most important one that they will ever make can never be a “university” in the highest sense of that meaning. (2) Any Christian, and this site is mostly directed to Christian philosophers, who does not have some immediacy in his writings, including a simple method by which his readers are forced to face the issues of mortality and eternity, is only discussing trivial issues. The Bible speaks clearly and simply here. There is a Heaven and Hell; there is salvation immediately available in Jesus Christ. It seems reasonable to hope that Christian philosophers would keep this immediacy prominent and simplistic in their meandering thoughts about complex issues that do not involve eternity.
There are no answers in philosophy! Both Peter Inwagen and Scott Oliphint have recognized that secular philosophy (there is really no other kind) has produced no answers in metaphysics or epistemology. And, certainly there is no agreement in ethics. So, why do Christian philosophers continue as though there are answers? (Reference to Inwagen and Oliphint is in Oliphint’s Reason for Faith, 37, 122-123.)