THE JOURNEY: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims – Peter Kreeft (1996)

The Journey by Peter Kreeft is a sort of philosophical roadmap for truth seekers.  This allegorical tale which is something akin to Pilgrim’s Progress is a practical tool for travelers.  It is a practical guide to help them choose a life philosophy.  The author is quick to remind readers that every person has a philosophy.  Even a “n0n-philosophy” is a philosophy!  Ten questions are stated in advance by the author:

1. Shall I question?  Shall I go on this quest for truth at all?

2. If I question, is there hope of answers, or should I be a skeptic?  Is there objective truth?

3. If there is any objective truth, is there objective truth about the meaning of life?

4. If there is an objective truth about the meaning of life, is it that life is meaningless?

5. If life has real meaning, is it spiritual and not merely material?

6. If it is spiritual, is it moral?  Is there a real right and wrong?

7. If there is a real right and wrong, a real moral meaning, is it a religious meaning?  Is there a God?

8. If there is a God, is God immanent (pantheism) or transcendent (deism), everywhere or nowhere?

9. If God is both immanent and transcendent (theism, creationism) his prophets, his mouthpiece to the world?

10. If the Jews are God’s prophets, is Jesus the Messiah?

Socrates accompanies the pilgrim throughout this allegorical journey.  He reiterates the point made above, “Remember – you do not have a choice between some philosophy and no philosophy, only between good philosophy and bad philosophy.”

The traveler encounters a wide variety of philosophers, one of which is Protagoras the Sophist.  He maintains, “Truth is subjective, not objective … Whatever you believe is true, is true for you.  Man is the measure of all things.”  Thus Protagoras promotes the lie of relativism so prevalent in American culture.

The next traveler on the path is Diogenes who admits that there is some absolute truth.  He also admits that “it is self-contradictory to say otherwise.”  Socrates confronts the cynicism of Diogenes by showing the futility of the “proving is believing” model.

Gorgias emerges next on the path who represents a nihilistic worldview.  He summarizes his worldview: “First, nothing is really real.  Second, if it were, we could not know it.  Third, if we could we could not communicate it.”

Next, the traveler and Socrates come face to face with Democritus the materialist (Darwin, Marx, and Freud’s predecessor).  Socrates makes mince meat of Democritus’ arguments and “unquestioned faith.”  The author (who speaks through the Socratic character) clearly delineates the reason for the popularity of materialism as a worldview: “It offers exculpation from guilt … only a self can be guilty, because only a self can be morally responsible.  If we are nothing but clever apes, as Darwin says, or pawns of our economic system, as Marx says, or bundles of sex urges, as Freud says, then there is no free moral agent to blame, and no one to feel guilty.  Morality becomes a myth.”

The thoughtful friends continue their philosophical journey and eventually encounter the relativistic worldview of Thrasymachus.  His worldview that embraces the notion that “there is no natural law of good and evil” is immediately exposed.

Xenophanes is the next philosopher to appear on the trail who magically transforms into Nietzsche, the quintessential atheist.  The travelers are unimpressed with the antics of Nietzsche, so they scurry down the path.

Parmenides, who some consider to be the first philosophical pantheist appears next alongside Aristotle, the “first philosophical deist” (Kreeft compares him to John Locke and Immanuel Kant).

The travelers continue their philosophical quest and bump into Moses who quickly turns the discussion Godward!  He reveals the essence of man’s problem: “Sin.  Rebellion against God, and his will, and his law.  Sin blinds the mind.  Sin makes us forget God, and his will, and his law.  It makes us rationalize instead of reasoning.”

Moses directs his new friend to the creative power of God: “Our God gave the universe not just its shape or its motion but its very existence.  He created it out of nothing, not out of something.  Matter itself is his creation, not just form.”

The journey ultimately leads to the foot of three old crosses.  The middle cross pointed to the “King of the Jews.”  C.S. Lewis appears and reveals that his responsibility is to point people to the truth.  Lewis turns the attention of the traveler to the Messiah: “His claim on you is to be more than your teacher, like Socrates, and more than your prophet, like Moses.  His claim is to be your God.”  Lewis continues his dialogue with the traveler and unpacks the gospel message in a way that is theologically correct and philosophically pleasing.

Kreeft brings the journey to an end in an epilogue that finds its culmination in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He points readers to Christ, the true source of freedom and forgiveness!

Most people would immediately turn away upon seeing some of the philosophers presented in Kreeft’s book.  And people are generally intimidated by emerging worldviews.  However, Kreeft’s work enables readers to interact with ancient worldviews that have surfaced in our culture and effectively dismantles erroneous arguments and unbiblical presuppositions.  His narrative forces readers to choose between worldviews when faced with a fork in the road.  As usual, Kreeft’s work earns high marks for creativity and clarity.  The book is both educational and witty.  Postmodern pilgrims (and college students) need Kreeft’s book in their arsenal, especially in the difficult days ahead.

4 stars

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