The Bible & Philosophy of Religion

vdfvfdHow does my views about the Bible affect my study of philosophy of religion? I think my understanding of the authority and truthfulness of the Bible affects my approach to philosophy of religion in a positive way. First, my beliefs about Scripture lead me to value philosophy of religion in a fuller sense because I know it is not a vain and esoteric topic about some higher primates. Religion is not a hopeless shot in the dark but a true quest to discover our Creator and Redeemer. He has determined our allotted periods and boundaries of our dwelling “…that [we] should seek God, in the hope that [we] might feel [our] way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:27)” Accepting the authority of the Bible means that religion did not arise because men were afraid of the thunder and left behind deifying creation itself for a monotheistic God. Following Scripture means the direct opposite. There was true, untainted knowledge of God in the beginning that slowly slipped down into idolatrous polytheism with the arrival of sin in the world. Accepting the authority and truthfulness of the bible prevents me from naturalistic and psychological theories being the only valid options for the way things are.

Second, my religious convictions about Scripture lead me to view philosophy of religion to be a worshipful endeavor. The discipline can illuminate truths and realities that disclose something about the nature of the One True God. If something is true of the greatest possible being and all truth is God’s truth, then it follows that discovered truth applies to the biblical God I worship. Studying philosophy of religion from a Christian perspective prevents the enterprise from being merely an academic action. We are commanded to do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Third, it makes the study of philosophy of religion hopeful. If the One True God exists and he has a desire to reveal true things about himself to those he loves, then it seems reasonable to believe we will know the answers. That may mean getting the answers in the end after everything is said and done, but it is getting them nevertheless.

hfghntHow do my religious beliefs about scripture affect my understanding between faith and reason? Again, I think it has positive effects. One, it prevents me from running off into a moral and philosophic ditch. Recently I had a conversation with someone who obtained a philosophy degree from UNO. We discussed at length the problems with some of Peter Singer’s positions (especially his stance on bestiality). In the midst of the conversation, my friend said a problem with Christian philosophy and ethics is it prevents some positions from being held. I responded with a statement about how I considered that to actually be a strength. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Such unrestrained reason can lead to corrupt and abominable deeds such as bestiality. Preventative boundaries around reason from religion are even in Scripture. Paul begins his argumentation in Romans 6 about baptism with the questions “What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase. ” It is clear from the flow of the letter that this question arises from Paul’s assertion in Rom. 5:20-21. If the multiplication of sin sets in sharp relief the matchless character of God’s grace, then sin would ultimately seem to be beneficial?[1] The answer is no because we have died to sin. The logical end of his argument is stopped dead in its tracks because of a profound and deep truth—we are alive and alive people do not do the deeds of the dead.

Two, my beliefs also provide me with a solid, starting point. If Christianity is true, essence precedes existence. As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch over which the resurrected Lord does not declare Mine!” The divine declaration of “mine” includes reason and thinking which is worthy of an image-bearer. When faith and reason collide, it means that I ought to study deeper until an answer is found. If something appears to contradict the Bible, my first knee-jerk reaction is not to abandon God’s revelation of himself. It is to study both the Bible and the source of the issue well. I do not immediately abandon the Bible if there seems to be some ethical, scientific or philosophical problem because of my relationship with the author. If a trusted friend pledges to meet me somewhere but fails to show up, “would I not feel slightly ashamed if, one moment after [I]  had given him up, he arrived with a full explanation of his delay? [I] should feel that we ought to have known him better.”[2] Third, the doctrinal positions I hold also lend me to believe there is a genuine synthesis to be found. God has revealed himself infallibly in two books: the book of the Word (his word) and the book of the World (his works). There will be a unity between the two because truth itself is unified.


[1] Thomas Schreiner, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 298.

[2] C.S. Lewis quoted in Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 193.

 

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