October 27 – Philosophy: what’s the use?

October 27, 2021 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).

 Christian philosopher William Lane Craig describes philosophy as “intellectual maintenance” What can that possibly mean?

Craig moves quickly to talk about epistemology – a $50 word, the discipline of which simply explores how we think: how we know what we know; why we think what we think.

Gary Gutting, in his article Philosophy: What’s the use? explains the simple act of posing that question from his article’s title is in itself, philosophical.

Gutting – a philosopher at Notre Dame, an esteemed Roman Catholic university in Indiana – explains that that philosophical inquiry seeks to make careful, conceptual distinctions to help us understand what we think and believe.

And for the Christian thinker, these distinctions are key.

For example: what is faith? how do we determine justice? what constitutes love? what is sin? how is absolute, eternal salvation defined?

Essentially, Gutting is addressing what we might call a worldview.

I’ve noted before that worldviews are like belly-buttons; everybody has one.

Many (most?) people cannot articulate their worldview; but their values and life-principles are demonstrated by how they live their lives, what they value and invest in, how they determine right from wrong, and in their reaction to significant loss.

In contrast, Christ-followers should understand, be able to explain their worldview and demonstrate how it is founded on Scripture.

That requires some thinking. That’s where conceptual distinctions come in and idea definitions become helpful.

That in a word, is philosophy.

And so a worldview – a type of intellectual maintenance assisting us in making careful, conceptual distinctions to help us understand what we think and believe – is something that everyone who embraces the Gospel must be concerned with.

In a simple form, worldview addresses issues of origin, destiny, meaning and purpose, and morality and ethics.

Bible teacher Albert Mohler defines a worldview as answering 4 questions.

1) why is there something rather than nothing? (origin)

2) what’s gone wrong? (morality & ethics)

3) where is the rescue; where is the hope? (meaning & purpose)

4) where is history headed? (destiny)

The late R.C. Sproul (died 2017) defined a worldview as a framework for thinking, for determining how we know what is true. How can we differentiate truth from error? Truth-tellers from those peddling lies? Whom do you trust? Why? How do we know, what we know?

Sproul boiled a worldview framework down to 4 epistemological questions:

1) what is truth??? That is metaphysical.

2) Who is truth??? That is theological.

3) how does the truth relate to me, define me?? That is anthropological.

4) how does truth command me, direct me, instruct me?? That is ethical.

Sproul’s conclusive warning was this: ignore only one of these and you’ll have a distorted view of world and life.

And yet a Christian worldview – based on the teaching, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – seems archaic, simplistic, unnecessarily exclusivistic and foolish to many 21st century observers.

After all, isn’t the God of the Bible better suited to another era?

Or has the rejection of Him and of His Christ – and an entire biblically-informed worldview – occasioned the nihilism, despondence, hopelessness and existential despair that characterizes much of our cultural experience?

Takeaway:  We do well to recognize that God’s values are not man’s values, and His ways are not our ways.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).

He is God. I am not.

~graphic by Sherrie Smith, freeimages.com