Col. 2:8-10: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. and you hove been given fullness in Christ, Who is the head over every power and authority."
Jer. 8:9: "Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?"
A. Christian Philosophy Vs. Non-Christian Philosophy
Christian-biblical philosophy is "to think God's thoughts after Him" and agrees that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7). Its starting point is God as Creator "of Whom. and through Whom, and to Whom are all things" (Rom. 1 1:36). Non-Christian philosophy, then, is "to think on one's own," and its starting paint is ultimately the self of each thinker. One may be a Bible-believing Christian and yet inconsistently hold to non-Christian thought. This applies especially to attempts by Christian thinkers to integrate the world view of Christianity with non-Christian philosophies. (An example is St.Thomas Aquinas' attempt to integrate the thought of Aristotle with Christianity. Another example is so-called "Christian" counseling based upon modern non-Christian psychologies (see Lesson 5).
Because there is no wisdom in those who have rejected the word of God (Jer. 8:9), Christian philosophy need not and must not receive anything from non-Christian philosophy. Would-be independent thought is in principle corrupt (Mk.7: 20-23,' Eph. 4.'17-18). Only God is good (Mt. 19:17). Bits and pieces of truth in their thought are due to God, to the remnant of His image in man, and only superficially agree with Christianity. Neutrality is impossible. We are not to "pull at the some yoke" with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).
B. Non-Christian Philosophy Uncertain About Its Beliefs
Christians must "test everything" and "hold an to the good" (I Thess. 5:21). Non-Christian philosophy can "test," but not "hold an to the good." It does "test," that is, doubt, everything except us own presupposed "independence" Furthermore, ii cannot "hold on to the good" because it cannot know absolutely what is "good"1 Only an omniscient being.- God - the Creator, Lard and Sustainer or the Bible, Himself is ultimately good (Matt. 19:17). and only He can show us what is good and has done so (Micah 6:8; John 14:6). Rejecting God, unbelieving would-be independent man has condemned himself to uncertainty because he will not come to God the Omniscient Lord to receive certain knowledge (Jer.8:9). (`)FOr a while the physical sciences were idolized as providing knowledge, but the discovery of Werner Heisenbera's "Indeterminacy Principle" (we cannot determine both the speed and the location of a sub-atomic particle at the same time; the observer affects that which is observed) put a stop to this error in 1927. (For more on science, see Lesson 7.)(~)
The belief in evolution which permeates modern non-Christian thought (though it was also part of the philosophies and pagan religions of antiquity) adds more uncertainty to non-Christian philosophy because evolution means continual change. The basis of thought itself is endangered by the evolutionist principle at continual change, tor if all things continually turn into things other than themselves, how can any certain statement be made about anything? Evolutionism, plus general relection of God, compels unbelievers to be"always learning but never [to be) able to acknowledge the truth" (2 Tim.3: 7). Scripture also tells us that these "men of depraved minds . . . will not get very far because . . their folly will be clear to everyone (2 Tim.3'.8, 9).
C. Non-Christian Philosophy's two categories (Some Overlap)
We do not have time or space to discuss non-Christian philosophy in depth, but a very brief sketch will help us see its main currents and concepts. There are two main "streams" of non-Christian philosophy, It is either rationalist-materialist and tends towards atheism ("no-god"), or "irrationolist" (man does not live by human reason alone) -idealist and tends towards pantheism ~`evervthing-is-god'~ The materialists tend to think that matter, moving according to impersonal "natural laws," is of greatest importance in the world, and really all that exists, The Bible never mentions and does not teach that the world works according to "natural laws," but rather that the world "consisis" or "holds together" in Christ Col'1'.17. This means that the world is personal, the personal creation of the Tri-Personal God and Creator, Who also sustains it moment by moment. (~) What came to be called "natural laws" are, in the words of the venerable Christian teacher A. W. Tozer, "the paths God's power and wisdom take through creation... Science observes how the power of God operates, discovers a regular pattern somewhere and fixes it as a 'law.'.. . The trustworthiness of God's behavior in His world is the foundation of all scientific truth." (The Knowledge of the Holy, p.66).(') The philosophical "idealists", as distinct from the "rationalist-materialists", think that "ideas" are of greatest importance and really all that exists. They also tend to see the world as impersonal. as do rationalists-materialists, because their concept of God is impersonal.
God is "the divine energy," the "force," the "center" or "ground of being" or simply "being" realizing or expressing itself in "nature" ('nature" as a self-regulating process is unbiblical). (*)Among the rationalists-materialists may be counted Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), Descartes (1596-1650). Voltaire (1694-1778), Kant (1724-1804), and of course Marx (1818-1883) and Engels (1820-1895). Among the "irrationalists"-idealists may be counted Plato (4277 -347 B.C), Spinoza (1632-1677), Rousseau, the father of the French Revolution and modern "child-centered" education (1712-1778), Hegel (1770-1831), Nietzsche (1844-1900), modern existentialist philosophers, and today's "New Age" thinkers.*') Both philosophical currents share relection of the God of the Bible even though they might profess Christianity. Both share an essential monism, that is, belief that the whole world is one. and that therefore no Creator-God exists outside and above this world. The difference between atheism ("there is no God') and pantheism ("everything is God") an closer examination turns out to be only a difference of words.
(*)Finally, both rationalism-materialism and irrationalism-idealism have in common the same irreconcilable enemy, biblical Christianity. Both beam with man himself as would-be supreme judge of what shall count as reality and truth. In eftect, both lead to the rule aver society by self-appointed elites, such as Plato's "philosopher kings," the Marxists' "vanguard of the proletariat." modern industrialists' "establishment," etc. Hence society tends towards impersonal, elite-managed totalitarianism in which individual men and women autside and below the ruling elite are despised and disposed at as the elite decides, supposedly tar "the good of the whole," The members of the elite live in luxury. Christians are to exercise dominion u~er God by service (Matthew 20:25-28)l(')
Because non-Christian philOSOphV is so uncertain and gives only contradictory advice, its study may by God's grace reduce a truth-seeking man to despair and then bring him to Christianity and the Creator-SaviorSustainer of the Bible for life, meaning and joy. Among converts to Christianity who came by this road were St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430). one of the mast influential Christian thinkers at all time; C. S. Lewis (1898-1063), a gifted defender of the faith in our own generation; and Russia's greatest twentieth-century writer, Aleksandr Salzhenitsyn (b.1918). (`)What it means to leave ever uncertain, ever proud, ever Corrupt and meaningless nan-Christian philosophy for the personal, sure and certain God of Jesus Christ has been unforgettably recorded by the French scientist-writer Boise Pascal (1623-1662) in the "Memorial" of his conversion;
God of Abraham
God of Isaac
God of Jacob
Not the God of phitosaphers and learned men
Certitude feeling joy peace
God of Jesus Christ
Forgetfulness of the world and of all save God
He is only to be found through the Gospel
Greatness of the human soul
Joy joy joy tears of joy
I have separated from Him
My God wilt Thou leave me
Let me not be separated from Him eternally
This is eternal life,
Knowing thee the only true God
and Him whom thou hast Sent Jesus Christ John 17:3
I have separated from Him I have run away from Him
I have denied Him
May I never be separated from Him
He is only to be kept through the Gospel
Total and sweet renunciation
Total surrender to Jesus Christ and to my director
For one single day of renunciation on earth.
This record of Pascal's meeting the Personal God ot the Bible the night ot November 23, 1654, from about 10:30 pm. to 12:30 am., was found sewn in a seam of his coat upon his death. Pursuant to this meeting Pascal worked on a defense ot the Christian faith, the world-famous Pensées (Thoughts), published after his death.(*)
As with non-Christian and Christian philosophy, so it is with non-Christian and Christian-biblical ethics. The one is man-centered and would be independent; the other is God-centered and consciously dependent upon and obedient to God. The one has no model otter which to act, for in principle every man can "do what is right in his own eyes" (judges 21:25). Non-Christian ethics is relativistic as there are no absolute ethical principles. It teeters between anarchy (no government or rulej and tyranny (allpowerful government, usually exercised by one chief, the tyrant. "leader," etc,). This relativistic "situation ethics" is usually utilitarian. claiming that whatever is "useful" is "good." Sometimes it will excuse even adultery. murder. etc. if carried out in "love" In practice such an "ethics" withdraws all protection trom the weak and sanctions a policy ot "might is n'ght" (Hegel's slogan). as under the Nazis and Communists, Christians must hold to Pomans 13:8-10 which teaches that love is the fulfilling of the law. namely. the Second Table of the Ten Commandments (See also Mt.7;12; John 15:10).
(*)Evoluiionism adds more uncertainty about what is right or wrong. because evolution means change. Literally every view from Nietzsche's "master morality" to Eastern mystic withdrawal trom the world. trom social cooperation to ruthless individualism has been detended on the grounds of evolution (See Lesson 3) (*)
Christian-biblical ethics. on the other hand, is God-centered and as changeless as God Himself (Heb. 13:8; James 1:17). It demands that society, through the individual men, women and children which belong to it, obey God's moral law. This moral law is absolute because it is the expression of the eternal. immutable, sovereign Creator (Mal.3:6). It applies absolutely and with total fitness to man. because man is the one unique creature created by God in His own image and likeness, Man disregards the moral law given him by his Creator as the onty one appropriate to his created identity at his own risk and harm. To disobey God is to hurt oneself and society as well.
Chnistian-biblical elhics has a model for the individual. Christ Himself in Whose likeness, God's own likeness--we are to be restored (2 Cor.3:17-18, Col.3:1O). Our model for society is the Trinity, that is, more than one person living in unity of spirit. Society is to be one body with many members who complement and care for each other, The Church exemplifies what God wants for all mankind (John 17:1; Cor.12; Eph. ~; etc.). God wants us to practice His justice and mercy without partiality towards the rich, the strong or the intelligent. The weak are to be comforted and loved (I Cor.12:22-25; I Thess.5' 14-15; I Peter S'S. etc.). How we treat the weakest rnembers ot our family. church and society shows best how Christlike we ore, and it is the "cu~ing edge" of a sodety's true humaneness. This is why the weakest members of societv "are indispensable" (I Cor.12:22). The more barbarian and godless a society. Ihe more negligent and even murderous it will be towards its weakest members. (`)Fxamples of increasing godless barbarism today ore abortion. euthanasia. abandonment of the homeless poor. indifference about the imprisonment. torture and moss murder of innocent people under Communism, elc. (see also Lesson 9).f~) In a Christian society, those who would rule are to be the servants of oIl (Maft. 20:25-281 Peter 5:1-43.
In all human social relations ordered according to God's law the human person is to be respected because made in God's own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-28; Gen.9:5-6). (`~his is especialty true for the most personal intimacy of courtship. marriage and family (see Lesson 10) Christian-biblical ethics is never impersonal. and people are never treated like masses or numbers. It never looks at man in categories. stereotypes or statistical aggregates. This is why Christian ethics alone con be truly lust. loving and merciful. as is God Himself. torgiving us our sins yet demanding that we "sin no more" as Christ told the woman caught in adullery. John 8:11 .(~) Chrishan ethics is not utilitarian; people need not justity their lives by their social utility or be discarded as "useless eaters" due to handicap or old age. Christian ethics alone bids us to "be holy, as God is holV' (I Peter 1:15). It alone points the way to life and weltare once and for all. aiming for our inward regeneration and transformation. not mere outward behavior change (Galatians. especially 2:19-20; 3:21-26; 5:16,24; 6:15; Pomans 12:2. etc.)
I Can Christians borrow from non-Christian philosophies? Why not?
2 Why is non-Christian philosophy condemned to uncertainty?
3. What do rationalist-matenalist and "irrational'-idealist philosophies have in common?
4. What is "monism"?
5. What effect does evolutionism have on philosophy and ethics?
6. What is the difference between godless "elites" and Christian rulers?
For Further Reading;
Ken Ham, The Lie: Evotution. Fl Cajon. CA: Master Books. 1987.
Rousas John Pushdoony. The One and the Many. Fairfax. VA: Thoburn Press. 1978 (or order from Chalcedon. P. OBox 158. Vallecito. CA 95251).
Francis A. Schaeffer. How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Westchester. IL: Crossway Books. 1976,1983.
The best available reference work on philosophy from antiquity to our time is the multi-volume History of Philosophy by Frederick A. Copleston, S.J.. published by Doubleday Image Books.
CoI.2:8-10: Jer. 8:9
A. Christian Philosophy vs, Non-Chrislian Philosophy
1. Christian/biblical "thinking God's thoughts after Him" -Prov.1:7 a. starting point God as Creator
2. Non-Chn'stian "thinkina on one's own" Judges 21:25 a. starting point the self
3. therefore Chn'stianlbiblical philosophy need not and must but not receive anything from non-Chrishan philosophy -Jer.4:tt:Mk.7:20-23; Eph.A:17-18 a. bits & pieces of truth in non-Christian philosophy, BUT due to God, to remnant of God's image in man. and superficial agreement b. neutrality is impossible 2 Cor.6:14
B. Non-Christian Phi losaphy Uncertain About Its Beliefs
1. Christians commanded to `Test everything-retain the good" -1 Thess.5:21
2. non-Christian philosopny "tests everything"except its own supposed independence
3. it cannot "hold on to the good" because it cannot know absolutely what is "good" ultimately, only God is good - Mafthew 19:17 - belief in evolution adds more uncertainty because evolution means continual change 2 Tim. 3:7-9
C. Non-Christian Philosophy's Two Categories (Some Overlap)
1. rattonalist-materialist (Aristotte; Descartes: Voltaire: Kant: Marx-Engels) -atheism
2. "irrationalist"-idealist (Plato: Spinoza; Hegel; Nietzsche: New Age) -pantheism
3. self-appointed elites Christianity different Mt.20:25-28
4. some men came to Christ out of philosophy, Augustine; Lewis: Solzhenitsyn: Pascal
1. non-Christian: man-centered: no model: no absolutes: "situation ethics" Romans 13:8-10 a. anarchy/tyranny
b Nazis, Communisfs
2. Christian: God-centered: Christ model for individual, Trinity for society
a. God does not change. nor does His law (Heb.13:8. Jas.1:17: Mal. 3:6: 2 Cor. 3:17-18: Col. 3:10: John 17:1 Cor. 12
b the weak "more necessary" (I Cor. 12:22-24: I Thess. 5:11-15; 1 Peter 5:5 etc.)
c. respect for man because made in God's own image -Gen.1:26-28: Gen.9:5-6: John 8:11. We must be holy (I Pet.1:15: Galatians 1).