How to Discern Errors in the
Speaking or Writings of Christians Who Are Philosophers
More accurately, this essay discerns the unbiblical
nature of Christians who are philosophers.
"Christian" is used far too loosely in the jargon of
Christians. For more on this issue, see
1. Use of the word “integration” relative to the
world of nature (general revelation) and Scripture (special
revelation). God’s authority in His Word cannot be
integrated. As He is Lord of His Creation, He is Lord of
knowledge. His Word is truth. All other knowledge is only
functional and temporary. As Robertson McQuilkin has written
about psychology, Scripture must be the “controlling authority."
I have adapted his article to
medicine, but the general principle still applies.
2. Use of the phrase, “All truth is God’s truth.” This statement is almost always used as “integration” is
above, to equate knowledge from natural revelation (including the
studies of men) to that of the Scriptures. These authors
rarely discus the difficulty of
discerning truth outside of Scripture (both formally and
informally), when such knowledge by its very nature is temporary
3. Failure to discuss the issues of authority, the
canon, and the translations of Scripture.
These are the major issues of a truly Biblical
Corollary: Failure to cite Scripture as
evidence, even "proof" (within a Biblical worldview),
frequently and substantively.
4. Failure to discuss that there are two different
worldviews and populations on earth. One
worldview is that of Biblical Christianity. The other is
any other philosophy or religion. The Bible calls these the
world (the non-regenerate peoples of the earth and their
ideas), the flesh (the ideas of the world that persist
in the regenerate), and the Devil (the personification
of evil and everything that is anti-God). The
two different populations are the regenerate (Christians, spiritually minded, etc.) and the
unregenerate (pagan, worldly minded, etc). The two
different areas of knowledge are "light" vs. "darkness"
and "wisdom" vs. "foolishness."
Philosophy for the regenerate Christian is entirely different than
that for the unregenerate person. For the Christian, philosophy
has the same goals and methods as theology. Towards the pagan, the
goal of the philosopher who is a Christian is apologetics, that is, to
show the unregenerate person that the Biblical system is the best answer
to all the arguments of consistent pagan philosophers.
Corollary: Philosophy is traditionally
divided into such branches, as metaphysics, epistemology,
ethics, and logic. A Biblical philosophy would have to add
soteriology because man needs to be saved from himself, the
world, and ultimate damnation by God.
Corollary: The state of being regenerate or
unregenerate is a precondition—or better,
presupposition—to any other methods of knowledge
and brings with it that the Bible is Spirit-breathed and the very Word
of God. So, whether a philosopher believes in free will or not, at
least this one presupposition is inescapable.
Corollary: What is foolish, and what is wise.
"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Those that
are unregenerate are also foolish—the epitome of anti-wisdom.
"Foolish" is different in the Biblical sense. It is not just
"unwise" or not the best policy, but it is ethical and religious—enmity
against God. This attitude is easily seen in the atheism and
agnosticism of our day. God has chosen the foolishness of the
Cross—His greatest wisdom—to
humble the earthly wise (I Corinthians 1:27). True philosophers,
who "love wisdom," will love the Word of God and discuss it at length in
their speaking and writing.
5. Failure to discuss soteriology. Man's greatest
problem is his estrangement from God and being under
His wrath. All secular philosophies and non-Christian
religions totally fail to provide any answers in this area.
In fact, they distract man from this need with "windy verbiage"
(Will Durant). The Christian philosopher must have a
Biblical soteriology clearly and substantively in his
discussions. While soteriology may not be his primary
focus, salvation must be prominently found there.
Corollary: A failure to
invoke some urgency. Philosophy is not a game without
consequences. Bertrand Russell thinks that the pursuit of
philosophy in itself is an adequate goal. But Christianity posits
an eternal destination for all men: heaven and hell. No person is
immune to the possibility of death, whether child, teenager, or adult
due to disease or accident. The immediate and most important
concern for every person on planet earth is to be at peace with whatever
eternal destiny that he concludes awaits him. This conclusion
should only come after considerable study and logical application.
Where is this message ... this keygma ... among Christian
philosophers? Blaise Pascal understood this immediacy in his
famous "wager." Moderns should follow his Biblical lead.
6. Failure to recognize that the ends of philosophy and
religions are the same: an understanding and being at peace
with the universe. In Biblical Christianity, the universe
is both subjective and objective (without compromise of the
Creator-creation distinction of orthodox Christianity). Neither
the philosopher nor the non-Christian worshipper can hide in the nuances
and mysteries of their personal beliefs. For indeed,
all philosophies and
religions are based upon belief.
See All Philosophy Is Unavoidably Religious.
Corollary: Failure to define
"religion." In my study of philosophy in among both
Christians and non-Christians, I have found the lack of precise
definitions appalling. Why appalling? Because philosophy is
about logic, reason, and definition. Without definition, the law
of noncontradiction cannot be applied. Yet, I challenge any reader
to find where "religion" is ever defined. What one will find, if
religion is defined, is that it can be only defined in two ways:
Biblical Christianity or individual belief of every person on plant
earth. The characteristics of what are called "religions" are too
diverse to subsume under one definition. For more see "philosophy
of religion," below, "religion" in my Glossary, and
a review here.
7. Failure to state that belief is prior to reason, but not independent of it.
No matter what one's starting point is, that starting point is a presupposition. For
the empiricist, sense reliability is the first principle. For others,
self-coconsciousness is the starting point. Etc. But, the starting point may be
challenged by reason; it may even deny its own starting point. But, even so, another
starting point will be inevitably chosen.
8. Failure to state that special
revelation settles once and finally any questions of metaphysics,
epistemology, and a source of ethics. Once special
revelation is recognized for what it is, The Very Word of God, then
three of the four dilemmas of traditional Western philosophy are
Philosophy, then, becomes theology and vice-versa.
Philosophy can no longer roam the vast ranges of man's speculation about
these three subjects. However, the "tools of philosophy," such as
logic, language and communication, definition, and grammar, are also the
tools of theology.
9. Failure to write in a way that any
person with reasonable intelligence and effort can understand.
Certainly, there is a place for academic discussion that is technical
and precise. However, one wonders whether issues that cannot be
summarized and stated in clear, simple terms really have much value.
What impact has the mountainous theorizing of Christian philosophers of
the last four decades had on teaching and ruling elders and the man in
the pew? Worse yet, what sort of young men are we turning out to
preach and pastor their flocks after their post-seminary indoctrination?
I have been in the ivory tower of medicine and little that goes on there
has any pragmatic value. In fact, one can make the argument that
the academy in medicine has done more harm than good. From my
short and limited perspective, the same seems to be true for Christians
10. Statements that allow other areas of knowledge to be
equated with Scripture, as J. P. Moreland in "How Evangelicals Became
Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It." This
position is really just a different way of saying, "All truth is God's
truth." A Christians first commitment to Scripture is to its
authority as God's truth, infinitely above any conclusions by sinful and
Then, his commitment should be to the application of Scripture, as
widely as deductive reasoning allows. For example, some may not
consider the Bible to speak to
politics and civil government, but it surely does. This
limitation of Scripture sometimes is presented by the phrase, "The Bible
is true in every area to which it speaks." The hidden meaning here
is that the Scripture is somewhat or quite limited to the number of
areas to which it speaks. That is, it may speak to matters of
personal morality and salvation, but little else. Or, it may speak
to many areas, but is still limited in some areas, such as
11. Lack of concern with hermeneutics, the rules for
interpretation of Scripture. In reality, certain tools of philosophy
(especially language study and logic) offer the
best analyses for Scripture. For example, the law of
non-contradiction will now allow many of the "dichotomies" or
"inconsistencies" that many Christians and non-Christians believe.
Philosophy encourages accurate definitions; certainly interpretation of
Scripture needs more attention by Christians to definitions. For
example, few Christians today seem to have a Biblically accurate
definition of love.
12. Failure to distinguish a philosophy or theology
that is different for Roman Catholics and Protestants.
Epistemology in concerned with how one knows the truth. The formal positions of
Catholics and Protestants are incompatible with each other. For
Protestants, sola Scriptura, is the only source of truth.
For Catholics, tradition, the magisterium, and the Pope
speaking ex cathedra are equated in their authority with
Scripture. Catholics also include their Apocrypha in addition to
the canon of the 66 books of the Bible.
Are philosophers what they are supposed to be?
Professional philosophers are trained to think carefully, reason
logically, "examine their lives" (Socrates), and otherwise "love wisdom"
(philo-sophia). But this failure to state that
Catholicism and Protestantism (as least as it is portrayed in Reformed
theology) are logically incompatible. A person cannot be
saved by "grace alone" and grace infused; a person cannot go to
Purgatory or straight to heaven; the Bible alone and Catholic
sources of truth are incompatible; and, if one prays to Mary, he is not
praying to one who can help. These theologies are logical
incompatibilities, inconsistencies, and therefore fallacious. How
can Protestant philosophers teach, and be allowed to teach, at Catholic
universities? How can Catholics be allowed to teach at Protestant
universities? Please! If philosophers are trained thinkers,
even "analytical," and these situations exist, then they belie their
training and the very essence of what they are supposed to be!
13. Failure to posit a clear dualism of the nature of
man and the universe. The Bible is clear that man is a
composite of material (body, physical) and spirit (soul, heart, mind,
will). An "epiphenomenalism" that is supposed to be based upon the
brain (physical substance) is unbiblical. Man is made in God's
image, and God is spirit.
14. Too much of a focus on Christ and not enough on His
Word, the Scriptures. Whoa! I must quickly say (if
it is not readily apparent from all that is said on this website), that
I am in full agreement with orthodox Christianity on all its teachings
about Jesus Christ, particularly as stated in the Westminster Confession
of faith. But all that we know of Christ comes from the
Scriptures. For example, some say that they have "No
creed but Christ." But that statement is really facile and
inadequate. Christ has been defined in several dozen ways over the
centuries, so I ask, "Which Christ?" The answer is the Christ
who is the sum of the truths about Him in the Scriptures.
And Christ has spoken from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
He has spoken to every area of life, scholarship, and worldview in the
Scriptures. We must proclaim "the whole counsel of God"
or we are only speaking partially to the problems of this world,
including philosophy. Theologians may be more culpable of this
error, more than philosophers, who are often more concerned with other
15. Failure to posit that all epistemologies are based
upon circular reasoning. To many philosophers,
circularity is a horror. They want their systems to be basic or
integral to all systems. However, all systems are circular.
In fact, as stated above, there are really only two systems: that of man
beginning with himself and that of the Christian beginning with Biblical
revelation. Autonomous man will not accept the latter, and the
Christian should not accept the former. Since their systems are
built upon these first principles, all reasoning will be circular.
"No system can avoid circularity, because all systems—non-Christian
as well as Christian—are based on presuppositions that control their
epistemologies, argumentation, and use of evidence." (John Frame,
The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, page 130)
16. Failure to distinguish between "classical theism" and
Biblical theism. "Classical theism" is a concept of a god
who exists only in the individual mind of the philosopher who uses it.
While this god may have certain attributes in common with the Biblical
God, he lacks central characteristics, such as, the Trinity, the purpose
for which man was created, his Fall, and plan of redemption. The
Biblical God is summarily represented by the expression found in the
Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter Two. For a description of
"classical theism," see here.
Corollary: Frequently, Christianity,
Islam, and Judaism are lumped together in discussions of "theism."
The God of Biblical Christianity is not the god of the other two
"theistic" religions. A defense or a discussion the God of the
Bible when lumped with the othe two is both immoral and philosophically
incoherent. Either project is immoral because the Triune God of
both testaments will not share His glory (defense) with another.
Either is incoherent because the logical arguments for the Biblical God
is far greater than arguments for the other two gods. This
"lumping" is possibly the worse form of
17. Failure to "keep it simple."
God in His wisdom, gave us His Revelation, consisting of 1000-200 pages,
depending upon the translation. This Book is "sufficient" to give
a right answer to every problem encountered by anyone over the entire
course of the history of humanity (II Timothy 3:16-17). It even
says that since Solomon's time, "there is nothing new under the sun"
(Ecclesiastes 1:9). And, "no trial has come your way but such as
it common to man" (I Corinthians 10:13). Many, if not most, modern
Christian philosophers multiply minutiae upon minutiae. Now, I am
not against ferreting out the nitty-gritty details of philosophy,
theology, and ethics. I have done some of that myself!
However, there comes a point at which there is minutiae to the absurd.
For example, where does "justified" belief end: reductio ad absurdum
of the words themselves, answering every question that any other
philosopher or theologian or person can devise, or drawing out symbolic
logic to the extent that it looks like an analytic proof for calculus?
Gordon's Clark's books are an excellent example of this simplicity.
His system does not intend an effort at exhaustive detail, but coherence
that is based upon simple propositions, logic, and an understanding of
first principles (positions of faith). And, his insights are
extraordinary quite often.
18. Failure to recognize and state that "philosophy of
religion" in Western society is really "philosophy of Christianity."
The term, "philosophy of religion," seriously obfuscates that in the
West "philosophy of religion" concerns Christianity. The vagueness
of the term allows a discussion of "religion," as if it were somehow
distant or divorced from Christianity. This result gives a freedom
to discuss philosophical and religious issues without consideration of
the central truth of Christianity—its Scriptures.
Without them a philosophy of religion becomes a discussion of virtually
any philosophy, that is, all the "gods of the philosophers" that have
been imagined by them, beginning with Descartes. One example of
this obfuscation is the formation of Society of Christian Philosophers,
based solely upon one's statement that he is a "Christian." The
major denominations of Christianity in Europe and America are heretical
by orthodox beliefs. So, they are allowed into that organization?
Is that not obfuscation that Christianity is objectively true in the
Scriptures, and not just subjectively in the person?
This obfuscation also gives credence to other
"religions." "Philosophy of religion" strongly implies
that all "religions" are valid, as the term is so generic that it places
Christianity among all other claims. There is only one religion:
Biblical Christianity. All the others are false and deceivers.
That Christians in general, and theologians and philosophers in
particular, commonly used "religion" to apply to both Christianity and
other beliefs is a denial of the singularity of Christ and His Word in
the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible.
19. Failure to invoke some urgency to the philosophical
quest. Death, more than taxes, is the great certainty of
life. Thus, what happens after death is more important than what
happens in one's earthly life. Once one attains the "age of
accountability," or perhaps, "the age of investigation," death and its
subsequent state must be the central issue of one's life. But
where is the urgency in anyone's philosophy, including that of
Christians. Certainly, debate about the minutiae of justified true
belief or freedom of the will is fun and important, but they and any
other concepts pale in the face of eternity. This message of
finality and eternity does not have to be prominent in philosophical
discussions, but it must be there ... else the Christian fails in his
first duty: to proclaim the Great Commission and its terms and promises
of salvation. Is this urgency not the primary message of
Ecclesiastes, one of the Wisdom Books?
20. Many Christian philosophers work from the position
of "philosophical imperialism." John Frame created this
term and discussed
Corollary: Secular philosophy should not be
allowed to define terms for Biblical or theological understanding.
Scripture has only one root (noun: pistis) for
"belief" and "faith," yet philosophy often uses each with slightly
different variation because the English language has no verb form for
"faith." "Love" has a wide range of definitions by philosophers
and ethicists, but Biblical love (both
agapeo and phileo) includes duty and specific
commands for fulfillment (John 14:15). One of the major areas
where confusion occurs is "knowledge." I have written on that
Corollary: Christian philosophers
"group-think," that is they think in the same terms and constructs as
non-Christians. One dimension of philosophical
imperialism is that Christians with most of their education and training
in secular philosophy carry those concepts over into their work in
Christian areas. Perhaps, the most crucial area is that of Special
Revelation and epistemology. The objective Bible is God-speaking
and written. Surely, that fact is the most important to a Biblical
21. There seems to be a fascination within the
"academy" to make the simple into something complex. I
have always disliked the word, "cognition." It simply means
"thinking," but "cognition" seems so elevated and erudite. There
are many other words of a similar nature: epistemic (know), justified
true belief (believe), personhood (person), metaethics (predisposed
belief), cogent (pertinent), and others. (These may not be the
best examples, but they will suffice for my point.) This "flighty"
language reflects that those in the "academy" have a superior language
that non-academicians do not have. One of the many dimensions of
Abraham Kuyper's "sacred theology" that is accurate is his insistent,
and personal testimony and that scholars cannot, indeed must not, divorce
themselves from the life of society and the church. To separate
themselves in this way is to separate themselves from the true theology
of the Gospel. Norman Geisler has other admonitions for scholars
"Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars."
22. Reference to Scripture as
"authority," even "ultimate authority" or "final authority."
Christians in philosophy (and other disciplines, as well) like to refer
to Scripture with these two terms. On the surface, this stance
seems appropriate. However, the generally accepted references to
the content of the Bible today is "infallible," "inerrant," and even
"sufficient." (See the position of the Evangelical Theological
Society.) A listener or reader of those who use this referent to
Scripture will find that the Word of God is not really their "ultimate"
or "final" authority, but tradition or their own reasoning ability.
While this use is not always the case, it certainly is the majority of