Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 2: Philosophy (Part 2)

Philosophy, of course, is a very broad subject; many books and dissertations exist on the topic. In this entry I want to discuss several areas of philosophy and how a Christian worldview deals with them.

Faith and Epistemology: Hebrews 11:1 defines faith; Epistemology is defined as "The branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and origin of knowledge. Epistemology asks the question “How do we know what we know?" in the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd ed. This seems like an unresolvable paradox until we recognize that all knowing requires faith! Where is your faith? Is it in God, or something else? Edward T. Ramsdell is responsible for this great quote in his book, The Christian Perspective (p. 42):

"The natural man is no less certainly a man of faith than the spiritual, but his faith is in the ultimacy of something other than the Word of God. The spiritual man is no less certainly a man of reason than the natural, but his reason, like that of every man, functions within the perspective of his faith."
Please note also that Christian philosophy does not throw out tests or reasons for truth. If anything, we are to consider the evidences that reason can employ.

Reconciling Science and Christian Philosophy: One of the most repeated (and erroneous) statements on this subject is that these cannot peacefully coexist. The scientific method is actually a help to the Christian, for it is based on observations—and the Christian should be OK with that. Indeed, it is the man who believes life sprang from non-life or that a large explosion was the catalyst for the known universe that should be concerned with observations. Observations from the scientific method support the Christian's teleology (discerning God from His design) and cosmology (questions about the origin and nature of the universe).

Scientific discoveries also support the conclusion that God exists. Here are four of them:
  1. The Second Law of Thermodynamics (increasing entropy)
  2. The apparent impossibility of spontaneous generation of life from non-life
  3. DNA and genetic information theory
  4. The "Anthropic Principle": The cosmos seems to be "fine-tuned" to accommodate human life
It is also interesting to note that modern science, for the most part, was founded by men with a Christian perspective—men who, observing laws in nature, gave credit for those laws to an all-powerful Lawgiver.

Metaphysics (the branch of philosophy dealing with "first principles" and ultimate reality): The two main classes of metaphysics are plainly addressed by Christian philosophy.
  • Ontology—the nature of existence or being. Christians believe that God exists; God is.
  • Cosmology—the origin and nature of the universe. God created it, from nothing, as He described in Genesis 1.
Take, for example, the Mackinac Bridge. Does it exist? I have, by my count, crossed it five times, so I am going to say, Yes. Where did it come from? There are plenty of eyewitnesses (and probably a documentary on the History Channel) to its construction, so I'll assume it did not simply evolve at that location over a period of untold years.

Do the universe, our planet, our human race, and the other uncounted things we see around us exist? If so, where did they come from? The answers: Yes; because God created them.

The mind and the body are two different things: Christians believe the mind, or consciousness, exists as a separate entity from the physical body. Admittedly, some of the other worldviews believe this also. We believe that the mind was created by God. The key implication is this: Matter exists, and something other than matter exists. Christians believe in both the material and the supernatural. The Bible teaches that the physical body is not the same as the soul or spirit in verses such as Daniel 7:15; Micah 6:7; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; and James 2:26.

Perhaps you can see now why I am leaning toward making two S.S. lessons out of this instead of one....

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