Philosophy Matters

I was reminded of this some time ago when reading of people’s reactions to some circumstances.  There was no logic in their response to the situation, their words expressed opinion but not fact, and their thrust was emotion alone.  When I say “there was no logic” I mean quite simply, no logic. This is not to slander, it is true that no logic was used in forming their written responses.  They spoke “definitively” and “authoritatively” when they were only expressing their angst. I was saddened by the way these “Christians” were vehemently voicing their unScriptural opinions as “the Christian view.”  They had followed the trend to re-define “love” and use their new definition to support their views. Jesus is not honored when we change in this fashion; God is love, who are we to try to redefine His terms? But I remembered that I too was once so ignorantly vocal.  I too was untrained in how to think or reason. Fast forward too many years…and I am disheartened by the knowledge that people used to be educated in these fine arts, in the art and science of how to learn, how to use logic, how to reason, how to converse and articulate your thoughts respectfully with people from differing backgrounds.  Young people were trained in this before Dewey’s philosophy of education took over–educating Americans to be good worker bees rather than robust thinkers.

Philosophy helps as we seek answers to life’s questions, to be good citizens and neighbors, to love God with all our hearts-minds-strength.  Without learning how to order our thoughts, or how to process through circumstances, our emotions alone will control our beliefs and reactions, and we may begin to believe things without proper warrant (yes, I am a fan of Alvin Plantinga).  I may wonder how Germans so easily believed the National Socialist propaganda; but some in this generation do not wonder, rather they question whether the Holocaust happened and then happily feed on media and propaganda. Statistics show most adults have not read a non-fiction book since graduating high school, and only a slim portion of society has read a non-fiction book since graduating college.  There is no wonder we do not recognize logical fallacies as they are spoon fed to us through the ‘news’.

Does philosophy really matter to Christians?  Should it matter to non-professionals?

YES!!!  All human beings think; the question is whether you will think in ignorance, or order your thoughts and seek out opportunities to think in accordance with reality. Philosophical training will foster a mind that glorifies God, as you let the thoughts of your heart and words of your mouth to be pleasing to Him. (see Psalm 19)

Until the early 1900’s, logic and an introduction to philosophy was part of education.   We have several generations of Americans who never encounter training in logic unless attending a Liberal Arts college, or unless they are educated at home using a curriculum that values it.  If you should study the history of education, you would notice that for thousands of years, logic was important. Thousands.     

To make a start, adults need to aquire the desire to be life-long learners.  It is not too late to pick up a book, one that is not fiction. (My next post will be a review of helpful books!  We are starting with Lewis of course! Stay tuned.)  

Does Scripture seem to teach that it matters?  Yes, but there is not space enough here–there are entire books dedicated to this.  For now, I ask that you consider some passages:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD…  Isaiah 1:18  

The Author of all life, who created us in His image, created us to reason, to use our minds purposefully. Our minds are capable of growing in knowledge, wisdom, understanding; and communicating.

“…Contend earnestly for the faith [doctrine] which was once for all handed down to the saints.”  Jude 3 *NOTE, this does not mean to be contentious, but to be able to know, understand, teach, defend against error, and otherwise protect the purity of the doctrines as you keep them and hand them down to the next generation.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  Colossians 2:8  This warning exists because rhetoricians use their skills against ignorant minds; propaganda works; deep thinking will be thwarted in a ‘twitter’ culture.  So many have their thoughts determined for them by a sound byte, a meme, a mis-quote, an emoji, or a snarky celebrity.

Psalm 119, and many others, teach us to think, study, ponder, and muse.  Proverbs reminds us that “with his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.”

We avoid many errors through knowledge, we decipher whether what we hear is true through training our brains in philosophy, in logic.  We must be wary of our own knee-jerk reactions, prepare our minds, and speak the truth in love (not in self righteousness, ill logic, or otherwise emotionally emitting nonsense.). We need to care about whether what we believe is true, or mere opinion. As Christians, what we believe must align with Him, who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Examples of when philosophy can help in “everyday life” and beyond:

  • Deciding what type of schooling was best for my children.  Philosophy of Education (and in case you are wondering, Dewey is the main philosopher behind the shaping of the Public School Systems).  
  • Deciding whether to believe particular competing truth claims:  Philosophy of History, Logic, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology…
  • Aesthetics and Poetics, or Philosophy of Literature, of Art, of Music (yes, there are forms of bad music, bad art, bad literature, poor ways of expressing yourself. Not everything is actually beautiful or worthwhile.)
  • Reasoning through financial decisions
  • Reasoning through whether to get married, what the purpose of marriage is, how to begin well, etc.
  • Reasoning through how to meal plan (YES! Even this!  Do I cater to picky eaters? Do I repeat merely what I’ve known? Does nutrition really matter?  How do I avoid fad diets? Does God care how I eat?
  • Ethics, morality, and knowing whether there is a “right and wrong.”
  • Virtue
  • Eugenics, Gender debates, Abortion, Politics, Free Speech, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Freedom “of” verses freedom “for”…
  • Conversing with those who claim that things change, or nothing is timeless, like truth, virtue, etc.

Next week, I’ll discuss a few books worth reading. This mini-series on philosophy will end with a discussion of logical fallacies.

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