“Who am I and what is my purpose?” “How should I live and how can I determine right from wrong?” “On what basis can I answer these questions?” “What is the truth?” And, “Who is my final authority?” Questions like these do not have simple answers. Rather, they demand deep thinking and philosophical spade work.
A person committed to veritas et lux (truth and light) will commit himself to a rigorous study of philosophy. What is the value of such a pursuit for a follower of Christ? Consider two important motivations for studying philosophy.
Learn to Develop Discernment and Guard Against False Ideas
The first benefit of studying philosophy is to become acquainted with dominant systems of thought. As a result, one is able to develop discernment when faced with false ideas. J. Gresham Machen, a 20th century evangelical and champion of the Christian faith writes,”False ideas are the greatest hindrance to the gospel. We can preach with all the fervor of a reformer and even win a straggler here and there; but if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or world to be dominated by ideas that, by their very logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a hopeless delusion, then we do damage to our religion.
Becoming familiar with philosophical systems will take time and effort but will be worthwhile in the long run. We must first be aware of ideological errors before we can confront these false ideas.
Learn to Think Hard and Evaluate Propositions
The second benefit to studying philosophy is to develop thinking skills and proficiency in evaluating propositions. Everyone has an opinion about something in our culture. Our task is to consider each assertion in light of God’s Word. We are called to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). C.S. Lewis adds, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” As we take captive every thought captive, we press good and God-centered philosophy onto the hearts and consciences of our opponents.
Carl Henry writes, “If modern man, the conqueror of outer space, does not make up his mind, he will vacillate intellectually to a gypsy’s grave.” May God grant the church renewed resolve and discernment in these difficult days. May we stand boldly and courageously for the truth of God’s Word. May a love for propositional truth define the essence of our Christian lives. And may we remember afresh that truth is ultimately found in a person, namely, Jesus Christ of Nazareth!
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
– Jesus (John 6:35)