Towards a Biblical
Philosophy: Basic Principles
The following is an outline that I wrote in
answer to a Christian as we discussed philosophy
relative to theology and the Bible.
I have made only a little effort to be complete, but this
outline will also serve to identify in a short form, the basics
upon which this website is founded.
Scripture is infallible (inerrant)—and sufficient for
every thought and endeavor for which man is responsible before
God. Scripture is the only truth that we have and can
know. Indeed, it is truth itself.
Its teachings about God and man provide the only basis for
other knowledge that is functionally useful in everyday life.
Interestingly, Scripture fulfills the traditional tests
of truth (coherence, correspondence, pragmatism) better than any
other system. One
could also add completeness or thoroughness to all of the
universe in general and human life in particular.
1.1 Science is not truth.
Science is induction which can never determine truth
because it cannot survey and experiment in every conceivable
situation in the universe.
Therefore, where both science and Scripture speak to a
subject, Scripture must
rule. The "science" of today is not the "science" of
tomorrow. For example, compare quantum physics and chaos
theory with Einstein's theories and Newton's physics.
1.2 The language of Scripture and science and
their purposes are different.
That is, Scripture is not written in scientific terminology, and
the language of Scripture is not written to "cohere" with
So, "translation" must occur from one to the other, but
the technical language of each will prevent total correspondence
of one with the other. The authority of Scripture (i.e.,
of God) must govern all "translations."
1.2.1 Application may involve trial and
error,so we must continue the attempt..
Kuyper talked about “mining the depths of Scripture” that could
only be developed as it was challenged by the morality and the
science of the day.
1.2.2 We will make mistakes.
But if we are careful, perhaps we will not make many.
There is only one ethical principle that I can recall in
30 years of writing about which I came to change my mind.
1.3 Philosophy has no truth.
I mentioned Peter van Inwagen’s book,
Metaphysics: there is
no agreement on whose metaphysics is true, so any metaphysics
that anyone wants to choose is as good as any other.
The same is true of epistemology: how to you choose one
that is true? There
are only two choices: personal choice or a totally true “other”
(only Scripture fits this other).
1.4 Man has knowledge of God, Rom. 1, etc.
I think what this particular knowledge varies from
person to person, as the knowledge of Christians vary from one
1.5 Scripture comes to us in a complete,
objective form. The
canon was virtually, suddenly “just there.”
See F.F. Bruce,
The Spreading Flame, Chapters 22-23.
Philosophy is the handmaiden of (Biblical) theology.
Scripture and deductive propositions from Scripture, as
theology, must govern philosophy in all its forms. See 1.8
on specific theologies.
1.6.1 A Biblical epistemology will recognize
that "Christian" encompasses a wide variety of theologies, some
of which are antithetical to each other. Perhaps, the most
important difference is that of Roman Catholic and Protestant
dogma on authority. Protestants claim sola Scriptura,
the authority philosophically and theologically exceeds any
other. Roman Catholics claim the Bible with its additional
Apocrypha, tradition, the magisterium, and the Pope
when he speaks ex cathedra. Then, there are
Arminian and Reformed differences, as well as Luther and
Reformed, etc. The Christian philosopher who goes about
his work without making particular distinctions of these
theologies have not even grasped the nature of epistemology.
A Biblical epistemology answers all the questions of the
four traditional branches of philosophy: metaphysics (God “is”
and God created), epistemology (God is omniscient and the
logos—the source of
light, that is, all knowledge—Colossians 2:3), and ethics (right
is what God says it is).
reason, and rational thinking are the means of
“doing” theology and
Philosophy and theology are virtually one and the same.
See John Frame,
The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God,
Biblical philosophy is unique in that its focus is the realm of
philosophy and it language. To a great extent, philosophy
then determines the agenda, but the added dimension of Biblical
revelation to epistemology becomes the governing principle for
everything in the agenda.
1.9 From what is revealed in Special
Revelation, we do not know by analogy—we
know as God knows. If we only know by analogy (Cornelius
van Til), we know nothing.
Who/what is God.
Chapter 2, Westminster Confession of Faith.
For our purposes, He is Creator, Sustainer, Immanent but
entirely separate from His Creation, unchangeable (as truth must
be), etc., etc.
John Calvin, "the knowledge of man begins with the knowledge of
The “God” of various philosophers (Descartes, Kant,
Spinoza, etc.) is not the God of the Bible.
Their God is a their own creation of some Biblical
characteristics and their own religion (philosophy).
2.2 “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one
6:4) God in His oneness
unifies His mind, man's mind, and every other entity in the
2.3 This unity is the answer to the
philosophical dilemma of how mind's mind corresponds to
mathematics, physics, and other "laws" of the universe.
2.4. Natural (general) revelation is
insufficient within itself, even with the aid of extraordinary
technology, to be understood without all its knowledge being
under Scriptural authority. Natural revelation says
nothing that is sufficient for man to understand the salvation
that God has provided for him in Jesus Christ.
2.5 See the unity of God and His
universe at #10 below.
2.6 While the mind of God is mostly
hidden, He has revealed considerable knowledge about Himself in
both natural revelation.
God’s Providence gives purpose to history and all that
man does. He has
designed the end from the beginning.
Thus, the future controls the present, while most people,
including Christians believe that the past determines the
is in control—totally.
He is determining my thoughts as I write to you, and even
the errors that I make in keystrokes.
But you can work out in your own mind the degree to which
He is in control.
Finally, all things are in His hands.
God Created the heavens, the earth, and all creatures. But
creation is broken. Both
the universe and people are severely affected by the Fall.
Any philosophy that ignores this distortion, will never be able
to speak rightly of either mankind or the universe.
4.1 The anthropology of man must begin
with his being made in the image of God which is his rational
ability, "a reasonable soul (mind)." Then, it must posit
his total depravity that can only be solved by regeneration of
individual souls on the basis of the perfect life (keeping of
the law), sacrificial death, bodily resurrection, and ascension
of Jesus Christ. See 4.3 below.
4.2 Man is finite—God
is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
4.3 All mankind is divided into two
groups: the saved and the unsaved. These two groups are
variously referred to as pagan and Christian, sheep and goats,
tares and wheat, light and darkness, the world and the Church,
and the saved and the lost.
The spiritual world is primary.
God is Spirit.
From Spirit, He created material matter.
God exists and spirits (both good and evil) exist.
See Charnock, The
Existence and Attributes of God, “God is Spirit” for the
most comprehensive insights on "spirit" that I have found.
5.1 Time is imposed (somehow) on eternity.
Eternity is primary.
Philosophers, even the best Christian ones, are still
trying to figure out what time is.
God posits in the Scriptures, at least functionally, a dualist universe—matter
While I personally believe that matter is not ultimately
“real,” it only exists in God’s mind and our own, He has posited
in Scripture a physical world and a spiritual world.
That is all that
we can know for sure.
To speculate otherwise is just that: speculation.
6.1 The physical world rests on the
"substance" of God Himself as spirit, "the substance of things
not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). "All things are upheld by the
Word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3).
The universe is highly structured at every level, from
the sub-atomic particles to the giant nebulae of the universe by
what men call "natural laws."
7.1 The physical universe.
Planets rotate in orbit.
Gravity can be plotted out in mathematical formulae.
Intricate, detailed biochemical equations like the Krebs
cycle and photosynthesis.
7.2 A commonality of morality exists in every
tribe and nation.
The “natural” order of man does not allow anarchy.
Anarchy anywhere will not exist for long, as reason,
power, or both will produce some sort of order.
7.3 When are the objects of the universe most
free: when they are obeying God’s laws.
When do they destruct: when they are caused to violate
God’s laws. When
are humans most free: when they obey God’s laws.
So, both freedom
and responsibility merge into oneness.
7.4 Quantum physics and chaos theory
have introduced some new wrinkles into an understanding of both
natural science and philosophy, but these wrinkles ultimately
have strictly limited outcomes—the
possibilities are not unlimited.
Natural law and natural science reveals inconsistent and conflicting
“Nature is red in tooth and claw,” that is, in the beauty
of a universe is found both art and design that defies the
imagination and merciless destruction of that design and humans.
8.1 Thomas Aquinas and the Roman Catholic
Church are natural law theorists. So are many Reformed and
other Protestants. Natural law must always be governed by
Biblical law or it will go astray. See
William Blackstone's Introduction, Part 2.
8.2 Natural law, natural
theology, and the philosophy of religion are one and the same,
that is, synonyms.
See Oliphant, Reason for
Faith, in many places.
8.3 Man cannot by rationalism deduce the God
of the Bible. In fact, a god determined in this way will
be amorphous, inconsistent, irrational, impersonal, and
All politics is based upon someone’s ethics, usually a
diverse blend of casually accumulated
wishes and power plays.
The only ethical system in which there are no conflicts
of the rights of individuals, families, social groups, and
governments is that of systematic Biblical ethics.
9.2 The Biblical system of law and
sanctions (both positive and negative) is the only one upon
which justice on earth is possible.
There is a particular unity found in Biblical philosophy that is
to be found nowhere else.
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One.”
“In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and
knowledge.” “In the
beginning was the Word (logos: all knowledge, omniscience)… “
In a Biblical philosophy, seeming opposites and paradoxes are
solved. Examples follow here. For a more complete
Unity-The Grand Demonstration.
Freedom and responsibility are one.
When is man most free… when he is most fully obedient to
God. When he
glorifies God, he glorifies himself.
Reason and faith are one.
The best system of truth (and truth must be systematic)
is that of Scripture based upon man’s best reason (logic).
Even rationalists must start with some presupposition (first
Scripture, as posited by God, solves the problem of
metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics.
Again, no conflict from the level of the individual to the state.
Law and grace are one.
Christ fulfilled the law so that we could receive His
grace and live according to the law (Ten Commandments and all
His other commandments, such as, “If you love me, keep my
Traditionally, Jews find 613 commandments in the O.T., and there
are an estimated 800 in the N.T.
This is a corollary of 10.1.
Free will and determinism are one.
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for God
is at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure.”
I.e., we are most free when He is most at work within us.
10.6. Freedom and responsibility are
one. That is, man is most free when he is most
responsible. When man is most responsible, he experiences
the greatest freedom.
Idealism (classical) and realism have their unity as
posited above in God’s description of man and the universe.
The physical world is based upon the spiritual world, as "God is
Good and evil from God’s perspective are one and the
same. See “Evil” in
The tools of language and communication are sufficient to
communicate and understand truth because God created language and
communicated to mankind in that way.
Wittgenstein’s challenge is thus destroyed.
Language is limited at its extremes.
How do we describe and understand the Trinity?
How do we avoid miscommunication with each other, even
when we make our best efforts?
How do we describe infinity?
11.2 Definition is crucial. If one
cannot or does not define his terms, communication cannot really
11.3 Truth, that is, reality can only be
understood in the form of propositions.
12. Biblical revelation reverses cause
and effect. God is "working all things to His glory."
Thus, the cause of all events is not what precedes, but what is
the end that has been determined by God. Thus, eschatology
determines all of history.
12.1 Thomas Aquinas had his cosmological
argument backward. He should have argued for cause that is
determined by the future. Of course, the immediate cause
does have precedents, but they are not the ultimate cause.
13. Dualism of a physical (material) and
spiritual (immaterial) world is a test of Biblical orthodoxy and
coherence within a Biblical philosophy. The Bible clearly
posits that God is Spirit; that man is composed of body
and spirit (soul, mind, heart, will); and that purely spiritual
beings exist (angels and demons). To posit monism of
either materialism or idealism over against the Bible rests on
false premises. Many professing Christians are "believing"
in modern neuroscience over against this orthodoxy. They
have forgotten that the spirit world, i.e., God, is primary. For
a devastating critique of materialism, behaviorism, and natural
science in general, see the book by Gordon H. Clark, Behaviorism and
of ... Monism.
14. A Biblical philosophy, as
apologetics, does not
defend "classical theism" or "theism" as represented in the
three monotheistic religions, but Biblical theism which is
Biblical Christianity. Theism without strict Biblical
definition and limitation to Biblical propositions is simply,
only philosophy of religion or natural
theology—a Christianity determined by the "canon" of a man or
group of men. An example of this limitation of theism is
well represented by Greg Bahnsen in his opening remarks to the
15. The Bible posits two great
interruptions in the history of the universe and of mankind: The
Fall and The Flood. Man is broken and the universe is
broken by The Fall. The Food again caused a great
disruption in each.
15.1 Man, as we find him today, is not
"normal." He is totally alienated from, and an enemy of,
God until He is regenerated by God to begin the restoration of
what he once was. Thus, the Bible posits a unique
anthropology, both concerning what man is and how he must be
"saved" from himself, society, the world, and damnation.
15.2. The universe is not normal.
The Bible posits a broken universe (Romans 8:22). And, The
Fall and The Flood disrupted the uniformity of the universe
through time. These disruptions must be taken into account
in all empirical (scientific) study of the universe.
15.3 All men are either regenerate or
unregenerate destined for Heaven or for Hell.