An Introduction to Christian Philosophy - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonIntroduction to the Writings of Dr. Gordon Clark - Apologetics
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The following article is a summary of the book, “An Introduction to Christian Philosophy”
Lecture One: Secular Philosophy
Secular epistemology (epistemology being defined generally as “how knowledge is possible”) attempts to define the universe generally in a materialistic formula. All thought requires some kind of classification to take place. This is why Plato’s “Ideas” or Aristotle’s first categories have such a prominent place in secular philosophy as a beginning point for discussion. Such empiricism is necessary for understanding the secular view of men like these in their explanations of epistemological ideas. Though the law of non-contradiction destroys the empiricism of the ancients, to understand how the flow of thought progressed through the ages one must take time to evaluate both Plato and Aristotle, not to mention Hegel and Dewey.
After empiricism, the responsible philosopher must take into account Science. Kant’s a priori category of cause was suppose to set the framework for science where Hume’s skepticism has lacked. If one accepts these a priori concepts, then nothing more than a reasonable amount of empiricism is needed to guarantee the universality of physical law and the possibility of prediction. But Kant only wanted to make physics possible not actual; but this blatantly fails in that categories (Kant’s categories) cannot make physics possible at all. This leads scientists to rely on observational choice, rather than actually attaining ultimate truth. In doing so, a natural law cannot be determined by them at all – one way or the other. There is nothing in scientific methods that allow a scientists to determine to use one law over another. The laws of physics are neither discoveries nor descriptions. The scientist has an equal number of choices to make, and because of this fails to comprehensively determine the correct law. Only someone omniscient could do this. If science cannot explain the workings of nature, or identity the elements of its composition comprehensively, then materialists, naturalists and atheists who have many times dogmatically claimed scientific authority for their views are left without any foundation to work upon. For example, if science cannot establish a mechanistic metaphysics, then it also cannot establish the law of gravity or the second law of thermodynamics. Science consistently replaces old laws with new ones as new information emerges. As a result, science is not cognitive. If Science is merely regarded as manipulation, then one may assume it is astoundingly successful. However, the “science of scientism” (naturalism as a cognitive process) is a complete failure.
Secular philosophy also fails in its attempts at Ethics. After Kant, the next greatest dominate philosophy was utilitarianism which taught that good is the greatest pleasure. But this fails immediately in that no one can “foretell” or “estimate” the pleasures and pains two lines of action will produce for him, much less the greater good of the nation. Nor does utilitarianism produce the morality, or foundation of morality, that its system assumes. What is good? How is good defined? The moment these questions are posed, utilitarianism falls apart. Morality cannot be left to a social code. Rapists do not have the luxury of stating that rape for them is pleasurable, thus it is the highest good. A utilitarian society would not allow this, and by not allowing this it would render its own inconsistency blatantly apparent. Reducing ethics to a personal preference is embarrassing in this way for any philosophical view. Existentialism also does this in attempting to discern ethics because it rejects an ultimate truth. But, then, how can truth be known in any way, or for that matter, the truth of morals?
Secular philosophy fails to establish knowledge in general, and religion more particularly. Metaphysics and religion revolve around a personal identification to an ideal. However, if the “ideal” is unknowable, or indefinable in an absolute sense,. Or that this “ideal” has not communicated some proposition revelation to the subject, how could the “ideal” be known in any relevant manner? Humanism is really the secular world’s “religion.” Man, in this case, is the ideal. However, humanism attempts to create ideals like friendship, truth and beauty. How are friendship, truth and beauty universally and absolutely defined? Are they defined by the social order? If so, then they fail again at establishing a norm for all people for all time. Again, the rapist has a say, and Hitler is their friend too.
Lecture Two: The Axiom of Revelation
Experience cannot give way to universal judgments. This is an impossibility because no experience is universal. Even Hume demonstrated that our experience is limited to the past and non-existent in the future since the future has not happened. Since such faulty secular presuppositions have failed in their attempt to justify ultimate reality, the only conclusion one is left with is revelation given to mankind.
Does revelation make knowledge possible or establish ethical norms? Axioms cannot be deduced from earlier theorems. This means that axioms are judged, not created. One can either deny God or try atheism (which fails miserably). Either revelation must be accepted as an axiom or there is no knowledge of God possible (either natural revelation or special revelation). In either case, revelation was given by God, through His Word (either the spoken word in creating the universe, or the Logos and special revelation in the Scriptures). An all-inclusive axiom in this way swallows up all the problems that secular philosophy brings to the table in one swoop. Verbal inspiration cannot be assumed prior to dealing with and understanding the law of non-contradiction. Scripture without logic would have no meaning. This is the point of John 1:1, “In the beginning was [the Logos].” Literally this is logic. Logic was, then, from the beginning. Christ is the eternal logic of God. This logic is made known to men (i.e. it lights every man in his rationale – the image of God is his logic and thinking faculties over the animals (as Pascal said, “All our dignity consists in thought.”)), and revealed in the Scripture more specifically. The Bible expresses the mind of God. Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The Scriptures give one definiteness and content, without which axioms are useless.
The Christian religion is not a religion of emotions, but fundamentally it is an acceptance of an intelligible message. Only those immediately worked upon by the power of the Spirit of God can understand this message with a transformed mind (John 3:3) but it is the faith derived from the message of the Bible that establishes what is to be believed.
Lecture Three: Several Implications
Various attempts at “Christian” epistemology have been propagated. Herman Dooyeweerd attempted to create an axiom using historical pinpoints to knowledge. But For example, Dooyeweerd misrepresents what “historical” means and what Genesis is as an historical narrative. How can one determine, according to him, the difference between a cosmic event (which according to Dooyeweerd was the basis for all temporal acts) and what is not? Spengler and Toynbee also attempted to explain how history worked in relation to faith. They say that patterns in history are impossible, individual events are unimportant, and all explanations for history are subjective. This makes history look quite dim, including the objective nature of the cross! Without revelation that is historical, there is no possibility of developing any significance to life whatsoever. Revelation explains the significance of history.
Revelation not only interrupts the humanism of religion and ethics, but also of politics. How one views human nature will determine how one views government and politics. One is indispensable to the other. Civil authority is defined by divine decree, and without that decree one will either fall into the secular appeals of totalitarianism, or anarchy.
Ethical theory must have the revealed will of God to make moral sense. Without verbal revelation ethics is impossible. Scripture endows men with the necessary requirements to determine what is true and false based on God’s knowledge and power. Without that revelation, subjectivism would rule and ethical theory of any kind is impossible since it would be based on subjective experience, rather than axiomatic truth. This is why the Ten Commandments provide a fundamental basis for the duty God requires of man, and why secular theorists do all they can to destroy those laws in order to set up a subjectivism and relativism that destroys nations (cf. Hitler, Stalin and Ghangis Khan).
In religion axioms are equally necessary. They are vital. Without a God who speaks truth, one would have a god that speaks contradictions who cannot be trusted, and again, one turn to subjectivism or existentialism or some other form of a relativistic structure to “abide by.” If God did not give man a verbal revelation to believe concerning soteriological truth, there would be no way in which man could come to a complete knowledge of the truth, or a soteriological axiom about truth. Secular philosophy is demonstrably pathetic in its attempt to solve problems surrounding knowledge, history, ethics, and religion. Divine, God-ordained, verbal revelation solves all of these problems emphatically.