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Philosophy (part 1)

July 01, 2007     Time: 00:11:43


Conversation with William Lane Craig

Transcript Philosophy (Part 1)

Kevin Harris: Philosophy – now that is a fascinating field. Bill, everybody has a philosophy it seems, a philosophy of life.

Dr. Craig: I think that is right, Kevin. We all live according to a certain worldview which involves a commitment to what we take to be the ultimate reality, whether or not we think there are objective moral values that we guide our lives by, what is the meaning of life. And the person who claims not to have a philosophy is the person who is most apt to have simply absorbed one unawares and to subconsciously be living according to a certain philosophy that he isn't even aware of. So the question isn't really whether we are going to be philosophers, the question will be whether or not we are going to be good ones.

Kevin Harris: And it is rather self refuting to say, “My philosophy is that I don't need philosophy” because you've uttered a philosophy at that point.

Dr. Craig: Right.

Kevin Harris: The Bible actually addresses philosophy. Paul does in Colossians 2:8; he says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Now there have been some rather negative interpretations of that Scripture and some believers in the church avoid philosophy because of that verse.

Dr. Craig: Well, it is rather sobering when you think that the only place that philosophy is mentioned in the New Testament is in the context of a warning; that this is something to beware of. But I like the translation you read because it made it clear that Paul is talking about a certain kind of philosophy. He says to beware of hollow and deceitful philosophy according to human tradition not according to Christ. I certainly agree with that. A godless, secular philosophy of life is something that can be very destructive and is something to be on one's alert for. But, fortunately, philosophy doesn't have to be like that. There can be philosophy which is according to Christ and that can be something that honors God, that helps us to more deeply understand our faith, and can help us to defend our faith in the public marketplace of ideas.

Kevin Harris: Even a philosopher who is not a Christian or doesn't believe in God, when that philosopher recognizes truth they are recognizing God's truth.

Dr. Craig: Right. My former philosophy professor at Wheaton College, Arthur Holmes, was fond of saying that all truth is God's truth. And I think that is correct. Regardless of who understands it or who discovers it or enunciates it, that person has had a glimpse of God's truth, truth that is known to God and which belongs to him. So the source is in a sense irrelevant. All truth is God's truth. The danger though in reading godless or secular philosophy is that there is apt to be a large mixture of error in with the truth. And that can lead one astray and be destructive. That is why Paul warns against this kind of philosophy which is according to human tradition and not according to Christ.

Kevin Harris: Bill, when I read this verse it tells us to beware of this kind of philosophy. It occurs to me that we cannot beware of what we are not aware. It is almost as if we need to be aware of what the arguments are so that we can counteract them perhaps.

Dr. Craig: That is a good point. I, in my own life, take this warning to heart. I try to beware. But that doesn't mean I am unaware of it or in blissful ignorance. I study these men and their writings. I try to discern where the fallacies lie. And I submit my reason and my work as a philosopher to the authority of Holy Scripture. But as you say, obeying the command to beware of something isn't inconsistent with being aware of that same thing.

Kevin Harris: That makes sense. And when we go to Acts 17, we see that Paul was very philosophical when he stood before the philosophers there on Mars Hill.

Dr. Craig: Right. He encountered Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens and proclaimed to them the creator God of the universe who has revealed himself through Jesus of Nazareth by raising him from the dead. So Paul was certainly a person who was not afraid to interact with the thinkers of his day. [1]

Kevin Harris: It would probably be helpful just to define philosophy.

Dr. Craig: Philosophy, literally exegeted, means the love of wisdom. But more specifically it is an academic discipline that explores the foundations of every other discipline at the university. It asks questions about metaphysics. For example, what is the nature of ultimate reality? What is the nature of human being? It asks ethical questions like the nature of objective values and duties. It asks questions of epistemology which is the theory of knowledge – how do we know what we know? Is there truth? What is the nature of truth? How do we discover truth? Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy which deals with the beautiful and whether or not there are objective distinctions between beauty and ugliness. So philosophy explores all of these very deep questions about the nature of reality and the world in which we live.

Kevin Harris: We, as Christians, are told over and over to seek wisdom. The Proverbs are full of wisdom. Surely, this would be something that we would fall into naturally.

Dr. Craig: I think so. Paul says that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [2] and so we have the tremendous privilege of having a revelation from God in Scripture that tells us the answer to some of these most basic questions of life. But then it doesn't give us all the answers. It leaves it up to us to rationally reflect upon the data revealed in Scripture and to seek to formulate a Christian world and life view. That is one of the projects that a Christian intellectual will be about – trying to formulate what's called a weltanschauung, a world and life view from a Christian perspective. A Christian view of literature, of history, of the arts, of science, and so forth. One of the great privileges of being in Christian academics is being able to explore all of these various interesting questions from the standpoint of Christian truth and trying to develop a Christian perspective on these things.

Kevin Harris: How do logic and philosophy interact?

Dr. Craig: Logic is also a branch of philosophy that seeks to explore the rules of correct reasoning. There are really only about nine basic rules of logic that you have to learn in order to reason correctly from premises to a conclusion. Most of us employ these rules all the time unconsciously in everyday life. But in logic, these rules are rendered explicit. One learns how to then formulate arguments, test them by these rules of inference, and then discern fallacies. There are different kinds of logic for various kinds of statements. For example, modal logic deals with the logic of possibility and necessity. Counterfactual logic deals with the logic of conditional statements in the subjective mood like “If I were rich, I would buy a Mercedes.” So the field of logic is a very rich field of philosophical inquiry. It is somewhat akin to mathematics really. Pure logic is very much like mathematics.

Kevin Harris: Bill, if there is a certain philosophy that dominates the universities of a country, that really has an effect on culture, doesn't it? It trickles down perhaps?

Dr. Craig: I think that is correct. The university is the single most important cultural institution shaping Western society. And because the university is so deeply secularized the society shaped by that university will be secularized. Because the university is the place at which our future political leaders, our future businessmen, our future scientists, our future judges and lawyers, our future artists will be trained, it is vitally important that the Christian world and life view have a place of respect at the university so that we can help to shape culture by means of those who influence culture. Therefore, I am deeply committed to working with university aged students and with faculty as well to see that the Christian world and life view has a place at the table in the conversations that are going on at the university.

Kevin Harris: Do you have some suggestions as to what we should read if we want to begin to increase our philosophical prowess or knowledge, including some of your own resources?

Dr. Craig: J. P. Moreland and I have recently written a book called Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview published by InterVarsity Press. This is a book that is a very wide ranging introduction to the different fields of philosophy from an explicitly Christian point of view. So we look at things like philosophy of science and metaphysics and epistemology and philosophy of religion from the standpoint of a Christian world and life view and seek to enunciate some positions with regard to these ultimate questions. So that would be a resource, I think, that folks might find helpful if they have some familiarity with these issues already. It is not a beginners text but it is a text for those who are already engaged in thinking about some of these issues seriously.

Kevin Harris: We should love God with all our minds.

Dr. Craig: We are commanded to love God with all of our minds as well as all of our strength and soul and might. Therefore, part of Christian discipleship, part of reaching Christian maturity, is the discipleship of the mind. I've taken as a sort of theme verse for my ministry what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5. There Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” [3]