Why Christians Should Study Philosophy

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Some Christians are opposed to studying philosophy thinking it is opposed to biblical thinking. I am not sure they grasp what they think they are against when they oppose philosophy. Therefore, I would like to share some brief thoughts on the benefits for Christians to study philosophy.

First, what is philosophy? Oxford Dictionaries defined philosophy as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” In Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview, J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig offer a definition that philosophy is “the attempt to think rationally and critically about life’s most important questions in order to obtain knowledge and wisdom about them” (Kindle Locations 467-468). In my own (work in progress definition), philosophy is the study of ideas about knowledge and reality in order to help one think logically and critically about life’s ultimate questions.

Considering these definitions, philosophy is present somewhere in everyone’s life. Therefore, doing philosophy is important as its own discipline because whether one realizes it or not, all people do philosophy in their own lives. Daily decisions are made based on reason, knowledge, and the acceptance of one’s own reality in which to act on that reason and knowledge. Philosophy as its own discipline is important to help one think more clearly in order to make better decisions and better answer life’s difficult questions. More so, studying philosophy applies to all areas of life (e.g. jobs, marriage, morality, politics) in which decisions are made; and questions are asked and answered.

There is also philosophy of religion to consider. Studying philosophy of religion helps in doing theology and practical ministry in several ways. As noted above, philosophy should help one think more clearly about life’s big questions. Philosophy, applied to religion, should help one reason better and help more clearly justify beliefs. Philosophy helps Christians better explain theological concepts; defend the faith, and refute contrary worldviews.

For example, philosophy of religion helps explain that the Triune God can logically exist as three distinct persons while being of one essence. Philosophy can help Christians apply Scripture to moral issues not explicitly stated in Scripture, such as euthanasia, by reasoning from good and necessary consequence.

Philosophy also helps in practical ministry applications. Let me offer a personal example to explain how philosophy can help practically in ministry. As someone who came out of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), I had to face the differences in the theology I was taught from Joseph Smith’s teachings vs. those of Christianity. Two different philosophies of religion were in play – one true, one false. I had to reason my way through the tough comparison questions (with the Holy Spirit’s help, of course).

Finally, once I became a Christian, I was able to use those same reasoning skills to evangelize relatives who were also caught in the false RLDS doctrine. Philosophy helped defend the faith and explain the differences in the RLDS view of God and salvation vs. that of Christianity. In short, philosophy helped me share the gospel more clearly.

It seems best to think of the subject, as Dr. Oliphint put it, as philosophy in the service of theology.

Here I blog…

Mark

p.s. What’s your philosophy on Christians learning philosophy?

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