Philosophy has a bitter taste in the mouths of many Christians who fear their faith would suffer if they subjected it to philosophy’s withering skepticism. When Christians think of philosophy, they are quick to associate it with Voltaire or Nietzsche who wasted no chance to lambaste religion. But this should not be the case. Philosophers have been allies and enemies of Christianity, but at the end of the day “philosophy and religion deal with the same basic questions.” At least, that is the opinion of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a distinguished Christian scholar from the 20th century, in his work He Is There and He is Not Silent.
Dr. Schaeffer notes that in the sense that all men have their own philosophies on life, all men are philosophers. Since all men are philosophers who create their own philosophies on life, it is the business of Christianity to be concerned with such philosophies which will include views on what exists and how it came to exist, what is morally right or wrong, and how we know any of these things (or how we know that we know them).
Dr. Schaeffer observes that even though these questions are daunting and the philosophical literature on the most trivial details concerning any one of these issues could fill countless volumes, the reality is that the general options available to us are quite few and fairly easy to understand. When we answer any philosophical question concerning what exists, how it came to exist, what is good for that thing, and how we know it, there are three broad answers. Either we account for things by appealing to chaos and confusion in which case we simply say that there is no answer, we provide an answer involving an impersonal cause for our existence (such as naturalism or eastern mysticism), or we provide a personal cause for our existence (personal in the sense that we are caused by a person — a god).
Given these three options, even the Christian who has had little philosophical training should feel emboldened. Only a personal cause, God, could account for things like ourselves who seem strangely different from the rest of nature in our person-hood. Only a personal cause could account for moral standards since impersonal causes (things that are not persons) are not capable of imparting standards of how things should be on other things. If we take away a personal cause for our existence, then we take away things that we observe around us (like our person-hood or morality) which could only come from a personal cause or we must reduce the issue to absurdity altogether.
Given the undiminishing battle that rages on in the world of philosophy, it should be no surprise to any reader that such issues can grow immensely complex. But, at the outset, there are only three options, and with a little bit of studying anybody is capable of laying them out and explaining their consequences. There is either absurdity, an impersonal cause for our existence, or a personal cause for our existence. There is no need for Christians to be intellectually intimidated. We hold the only worldview which is intellectually satisfying in its ability to account for the fullness of our experience.
There is not sufficient space in a single blog post to adequately defend that statment. That is not even my intention here. I simply want to remind Christians that they have the intellectual high ground. Neither naturalism nor mysticism can account for our existence in the way Christianity can, therefore we should approach the intellectual world around us with intrepid resolve rather than the timid dismissiveness I am so used to seeing in pulpits and pews at the mere mention of “philosophy.”
For the Christian who is just starting out in this stuff but desires to further arm their philosophical arsenal I suggest beginning with works such as The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias or On Guard by William Lane Craig.
Latest posts by Kyle Huitt (see all)
- When Talking Heads Become the Minds of a Civilization - October 23, 2017
- What Everyday Christians Need to Know About Apologetics When Their Beliefs are Under Fire - October 17, 2017
- Can We Please Stop Calling Intellectual Rejects “Woke?” - October 4, 2017