The Bible is Philosophy

A few points about Philosophy and Christianity.

FIRST. Philosophy is about asking and answering Ultimate Questions about reality. If these are ordered in a logical structure, then it is called systematic philosophy, or systematic theology. Peter says that Scripture reveals all the important things relating to life and godliness. What is our starting point for knowledge? This is an important issue of life, for without it we cannot talk about the knowldge of God. What is reality and what are the cause and effects of it? We must use logic, but why is that the case? Is there evil and is there good? Does man need to be saved? (etc.) These are all important questions about life and godliness. And so, to say the Bible is philosophy is to say: the bible reveals answers to all life’s foundational questions.

I often quote Vincent Cheung or Gordon Clark on this subject, but my experience at college also showed me that even in the secular world, if unreluctant, knows Christianity is a system-of-thinking for all of life. My philosophy book at college was called, “Life’s Foundational Questions,” by Michael Krogman, Ph.D. This is the same as saying “ultimate” questions, as Vincent would  say it.  The text book ended in endorsing a combination of rationalism and empiricism, in what was called a correspondence hybrid. The reason was that rationalism, or that logic is undeniable. However, logic gives no content. Yet,empiricism, gives context (this is false of course). It was asserted that an epistemology needed to be without contradiction, which is true. The end result is that an epistemology needs to have content, be without contradiction and account for logic. The issue with this hybrid is that the incurable problems of rationalism and empiricism are now compounded. I say all this, to show how the secular world understands some basic issues of structure about Ultimate Questions and the problems with the systems of thinking the world has come up with. My teacher even agreed Christianity gave answers to all the Foundational Questions he brought up in his philosophy textbook, such as (1) epistemology, (2) metaphysics, (2) logic and (3) ethics.

Vincent due to his consistently in staying only with Scripture as an epistemology has been helpful to me in showing the indirect method of Christian apologetics. The Christian first principle says only it is true and all others are false.  The bible also says in Romans 1 and 2 that man has God’s truth directly put into their minds by God. And so, if man denies God through words, logic and premises, then they must use the intelligibility God gave them to do it. And so, Paul says in Romans 1 that man cannot give a rational argument for suppressing God’s innate knowledge.  This is like the law of contradiction. Man cannot give a rational argument for suppressing or denying it, without using it. Also, because it is our opponent who denies and not us, then our method to demonstrate the Christian starting point of knowledge avoids begging the question (see page on law of contradiction and Aristotle).

Vincent’ argument is thus:

If Christianity (the Bible) is true, and this same Christianity declares that all non-Christian claims are false, then all non-Christian claims are false by logical necessity.

The key is (1) – the rest are easy and automatic. And to attain (1), you will have to read my works on apologetics and learn how to apply the method. I recommend reading Ultimate Questions, Presuppositional Confrontations, and Apologetics in Conversation, among others. Then, this forces your opponent to interact with the Christian’s positive construction, rather than allowing him to evade the force of your presentation just by throwing mere possibilities at you – since you have destroyed those possibilities, not by specific refutations, but by logical necessity.
(Captive To Reason. 2009. 44)

IF (P) and (Q), then (R). If an empiricist wants to challenge this by their empricsm and observations, then they would be begging the question unless they prove the Christian first principle is false to begin with, and that their empiricism is true to begin with.  But this is the very thing we are arguing about. Once at this level Christian easily wins.

This is one aspect that is particularly missing for a study of philosophy: a self-authentication epistemology. Rationalism attempts this, but never takes a foot forward, because it has no content: not even content for its own logic.  The history of philosophy, (becasse man does have God’s innate knowledge and logic in them-despite their attempt to suppress it), is nothing more than a long progression of  dumb men saying about another dumb man, this point of their ultimate question is wrong. Their suppression is just lose enough for some to know something is wrong. The result is much words and books with next to nothing in any good content. Yet, systematic doctrine gives all the foundational questions. As a first principle of knowledge the bible teaches it has context for all of life, is not contradictory, it is self-authenticating(See Vincent Cheung, Ultimate Questions), and excludes all others.

See my page, “Definitions,” under my “About Me,” for more.

The word THEOLOGY refers to the study of God. When used in a broader sense, it can include all the other doctrines revealed in Scripture. God is the supreme being who has created and now controls all that exists, and theology seeks to understand and articulate in a systematic manner information revealed to us by him. Thus theology is concerned with ultimate reality. Since it is the study of the ultimate, nothing is more important. And because it is a study of the ultimate, it defines and governs every other area of thought and life. Therefore, as long as God is the ultimate being or reality, theological reflection is the ultimate human activity. – Vincent Cheung. Systematic Theology. 2010. pg.4.

However, I see preachers and theologians mix up simple concepts such as command(axiology/ethics) and decree(causality/ontology). They don’t get the Bible or foundation questions it appears.

 

I will show the parallels for preaching and philosophy. (This is a from my book: The Undefeatable Worldview. )

Systematic Doctrineor- Ultimate Questions Systematic Philosophyor – Ultimate Questions
 

1.      Scripture / God’ self-Revelation.

 2.      God’s absolute and direct Sovereignty over all things. (What IS this)

3.      Creation of man. The story of the two groups of mankind as God’s elect children and of reprobation.

4.      Jesus as the Logos, man  in the Logos image.

5.      The command to subdue the earth, for pragmatic helpfulness, and not for finding truth.

6.      Man’s sin, and then salvation by Jesus. (i.e. Soteriology, Theology).  This is essentially a SUB-category of Metaphysics.

 Conclusion: (Ought to Do)
7.      Undefiled Religion is faith in God, loving your neighbor as oneself and taking care of widows. (God’s Commands)

 

 

.

1.    Epistemology. / First Principle of knowledge.

2.  Ontology / Metaphysics.   (i.e. Causality & Existence) (What “IS” this)

3.   Anthropology
.

4.  Logic (Deductive). Intelligibility. Innate knowledge. Language.

5. Logic (Inductive).   Scientific method.

6.  Theology / IF or How man needs salvation or improvement

 

Conclusion: (Ought to Do)
7.  Axiology. Ethics. Morals.

Ethics are a Conclusion

SECOND. To conclude an ethic (What I ought to do) from ontology is invalid. It is a non-sequitur; it imports information not contained in the premises. Christian ethics is what God commands.  Scripture often reveals the metaphysics behind why God commanded such and such, but metaphysics is not a direct conclusion into ethics. To go from an “is” in the premise to an “ought” in the conclusion is invalid.  It would be a categorical error. It would be similar to saying apples and dogs are the same category. Therefore, if a dog barks then so do apples.  Even though God created all people–after Adam–to be born into sin (metaphysics) it would be invalid to conclude that what we ought (ethics) to do sinful actions. What we ought to do is follow God’s commands. His command is to repent and be born again as a new creation in Christ.

 

One cannot argue the truth of Christianity on the basis of its ethics; one must defend its ethics on the basis of its theological truth. The ethics is not a premise, but a conclusion. Theology is basic. –Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, Trinity Foundation, TN, 2012, p.139

And,

The point of this example is that empirical premises contain nothing but statements of empirical facts. They give observational data. They state what is. Hence, nothing but observational data can be put into the conclusion. If the premises state only what is, the conclusion cannot state what ought to be. There is no way of deriving a normative principle form an empirical observation. Gordon Clark,  lecture on Empiricism.

And

Now, for another point. If knowledge is to be based on experience, there is one type of knowledge which as Christians we should be particularly interested in that cannot be so arrived at. And that is normative statements. Statements of ethics particularly, but also of mathematics and logic and so on. No norms, no normative statements can be developed from any experience whatever. The concept of “ought” cannot be deduced from the verb “is.” – Gordon Clark, “A Defense of Christian Presuppositions in the Light of Non-Christian Presuppositions”

And

Brightman’s argument and all forms of so-called scientific ethics are based on a logical oversight. The premises of these theories are always descriptive statements, such as: I like this, or my friends like this. Science is a matter of observation and description, but scientific ethics depends on empirical observation for its premises. And if the premises are descriptive statements, the conclusions cannot be logically anything else than descriptive. Yet for ethics there must be normative conclusions. It will not suffice to say that you, or I, or Brightman likes this. What is required is a statement that you and I and Brightman ought to like this, and that everyone ought to like this, even though as a descriptive fact nobody likes it. The premises of science are always descriptive propositions; the conclusions of ethics must be normative. And it is a logical blunder to insert terms in the conclusion that did not appear in the premises. Any theory of ethics therefore that attempts to support ideals on observation, experience, or scientific method rests on a fallacy. -Gordon Clark. “The Achilles Heel of Humanism.”

 

Because our first principle for all knowledge is a body of knowledge given to us from God, which we call the Bible, then by necessity our system for Christianity is deduction. It’s foundation is in the form of systematic-theology (or systematic-philosophy which is the same thing). This gives a particular result; namely that, the biggest ultimate questions of life are first in order and then descend from there: such as epistemology, existence/metaphysics, causality/ontology, logic, anthropology, salvation and finally with ethics/command (etc.).

Where does that leave ethics? Ethics are at the very bottom of this intellectual system, for they are a conclusion of the other more foundational ultimate questions. This is why pitting Christian ethics against a non-Christian ethic, (although our ethics are themselves, superior)–yet, when considered is in the realm of logical debate and argument–ethics, are an illogical and inferior way to represent the Christian faith. Ethics do not come from within a vacuum; they are the conclusion of one’s philosophy. To argue them without the above is to beg the question.

 Ethics needs or presupposes the ultimate questions of knowledge, metaphysics, ontology, anthropology, logic, soteriology and etc.. In this sense epistemology is greater, because without it, there is no knowldge ethics to even discuss. Without a description of reality, then there is no context for ethics. Without anthropology there no need for ethics. Therefore, one’s ethics are true, if the whole philosophy is true.

This is one reason why in the public sphere, Christians have lost the debate in America, because they often make this mistake. Some attempt to make a logical case based off the conclusion and not the foundational elements of the Christian system of thinking. This is an inferior way to argue the Superiority of God’s Revelation.

 

THIRD. If one chooses to avoid ultimate questions, then that is itself an answer to ultimate questions in that they are not worth considering. This philosophy would be a dogmatic to such a person, and so, they will dogmatically and fundamentally live their lives avoiding ultimate questions because they are not worth considering. Everyone is a fundamentalist and dogmatic, it is just a question what it is. As Vincent Cheung says, “Ultimate questions are unavoidable, and those who have never seriously considered them nevertheless make assumptions about them, and then they derive their positions about various issues based on these assumptions, (Ultimate Questions, 2010 , p.6) Also, since such a person is using logic, knowledge, existence, and causality and morality to chose to avoid ultimate questions because they are not worth the time, is presupposing the ultimate questions of logic, epistemology, metaphysics, ontology and axiology to chose such a stance. This is intellectually empty and inferior.

 

FORTH. Our age is an age (the last few hundred years) of irrationalism. This irrationalism  is the combination of human specuation and superstition (see my definition page.) This irrational human philosophy has infected the church in many negative ways.  People do not argue by deductive arguments from truth; rather, people prove  their points by emotions and ethics, which often come out of a logical viod. They have premises about reality without a self-authenticating, non-contradictory and substantial epistemology. Their starting points are their observations and feelings; this is an endless abyss of skepticism. Their human epistemology does not even give the possibility of knowledge: not any if there is a car, sky or a leaf. Such human starting points inevitably lead to human logic. That is, it leads to invalid, illogical affirming the consequent and non-sequitur logics (i.e. human superstition).

In contrast the Christian philosophy’s starting point is God’s revelation. The Bible is self-authenticating, for Paul tells us that one cannot suppress God’s truth without using it; thus, there is no logical way to refute God’s truth (see Vincent Cheung, Ultimate Questions).  God’s truth is substantial; it describes all of realites important questions.  It’s logic is a valid deduction from these premises. Deduction is the Logos; it is the structure of the Mind of Christ.

“Moderns do not think. They only feel, and that is why they are so much stronger in fiction than in facts; why their novels are so much better than their newspapers.” – G. K. Chesterton.

Sad, but is often true. Christianity is foundationally an intellectual public-system-of-thinking about everything regarding life’s ultimate questions. Thus, a Christianity that feels more than it thinks, is no Christianity. God did not give pictures, or feelings. He did not reveal Himself in animalistic sensations of sight, touch or hearing (sometimes on the occasion of but separate from); rather, God revealed propositions that precisely describe reality as it truly is. In this definition about reality, men are able to find salvation. They find endless power of life in God’s Son.
However, feelings give no subjects or predicates about the world. They give no categories about reality. Feelings give no knowledge, not even knowledge about oneself; rather, one must borrow God’s revealed knowledge in order to understand they have a feeling to start with.

 

FIFTH. I would like to recommend a basic logic book for those who have not read one. “Come let Us Reason,” by Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M Brooks. I have read more logic books and studied it at college level, even First Order Predicate logics. But most argument are basic, and most mistakes are made at the basic level. Thus, only a basic, but well practiced basic level is need for most thinking.  Norman’s book is good, but I will give this waring, he makes a logical mistake with Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The correct biblical position is that man is responsible because man is not free but unders God’s control.

In 1 Corinthians 2:4 Paul says that he makes a deductive argument (apodeixis) from Scripture so that the people’s faith is in God and not man. Many might miss this because of the odd translation in verse saying, demonstration in the Spirit. Some wrongly think this is about supernatural demonstrations by power of the Spirit. This word for demonstrate is a philosophy jargon for a rational argument. It is similar to what one is taught in an English Comp class in college (as I was), where there is an Ethos, Pathos and Logos essay.  “A demonstration (apodeixis) is “a deduction that produces knowledge””[1] Even when Paul says man is “without excuse” in Romans 1:20 the word has similar Greek variants in how Airistole used such, in his original work explaining how a logos argument is a syllogism. That is, man is not able to give a sound syllogism or rational argument for why they suppress God’s truth. Paul is referring to the Logos type here. He is saying, by the power of the Spirit, he was able to make a rational/deductive argument from the doctrines of the Scriptures that the Corinthians could not refute. The result is that the Corinthians faith is not in speculative, flowery speech, but in a conclusion from God’s Word they must believe. The contrast, as Vincent will explain, is human speculation and superstition versus Divinely revealed truth and logic. It is between human empty rhetoric versus the Christian philosophy that accurately and precisely describes the world as it truly is. It is not Christianity versus philosophy (i.e. ultimate questions), since the Bible is gives answers to all of life’s ultimate questions, even logic.

First, when man starts with himself, he ends up with empty speculations; he has premises that are produced by an epistemology that cannot justify knowledge.  Second, when man uses he experience and experiments to find truth, they use must use logical fallacies; and thus, man ends up with superstitions. That is to say, human wisdom or philosophy is categorized by unjustified supectuations and invalid superstitions. In contrast, the Christian philosophy has a self-authenticating epistemology and it uses valid deductions.

And so, because deduction does not have information different from the original premises, it means the conclusion is what the Bible asserts. Paul’s argument is thus, what Scripture asserts. Paul says the Holy Spirit empowered him to make this invincible argument. To be against logic is not only is to be against God’s nature, which is the Logos itself, but against the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians ought to be well practiced in good thinking.

Here is Vincent regarding this same passage.

The sophists did not offer sound reasoning, but their arguments were fallacious and deceptive. Their philosophical discourses were based on dubious human speculation. Thus as Paul defends his apostleship, he writes, “I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way” (2 Corinthians 11:6). The Christian faith is not based on speculative philosophy, but divine revelation, on knowledge taught by God…

Paul deliberately slips into philosophical terms in verse 4, asserting that his preaching was shown true, not by speculative and fallacious arguments, but by the “demonstration” of the Spirit. This is unlike the “manifestation” of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:7. The word indicates a logical proof, as in philosophy and geometry, rather than the idea of exhibition. The English translation is appropriate, since “demonstration” denotes a “logical proof in which a certain conclusion is shown to follow from certain premises.” His point is that he insisted on presenting a message that was based on divine revelation instead of one that was based on human speculation.

Bullinger writes, “Here, it denotes the powerful gift of divine wisdom, in contrast with the weakness of human wisdom.” This is the issue at hand. Paul’s preaching differs from the orators both in method and content, but his arguments are nevertheless logical and persuasive. Unlike the fallacious “proof” of the sophists, the apostle provides sound “proof” for his message that is powerful to effect conversion in his hearers.

One part of Vine’s definition on the word “demonstration” is problematic. It says, “a ‘showing’ or demonstrating by argument, [apodeixis] is found in 1 Cor. 2:4, where the apostle speaks of a proof, a ‘showing’ forth or display, by the operation of the Spirit of God in him, as affecting the hearts and lives of his hearers, in contrast to the attempted methods of proof by rhetorical arts and philosophic arguments.”

It is correct that apodeixis means “demonstrating by argument,” and it is true that the “showing forth” is not a visible “manifestation” as in 1 Corinthians 12:7, but it is the operation of the Spirit’s power “as affecting the hearts and lives of his hearers.” It is also true that Paul contrasts his approach against “the attempted methods of proof by rhetorical arts.” In this case, rhetoric indeed denotes, “artificial eloquence; language that is showy and elaborate but largely empty of clear ideas.” Any speech is rhetoric in the sense that it is verbal communication or discourse, and as such Paul engages in it, but unlike the philosophers, his arguments are free from sophism. The definition is acceptable to this point. Paul’s approach differs from those who employed “mere rhetoric,” since he preaches a message with true and coherent content without using fallacious arguments to deceive his hearers into agreeing with him.

However, Vine then contrasts Paul’s speech against “philosophic arguments,” and this can be misleading. If “philosophy” is the “theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe,” then Christianity is certainly a philosophy. Scriptural teachings indeed produce a worldview, or “a comprehensive…philosophy or conception of the world and of human life.” Unless Vine means “sophistic” when he says “philosophic,” his contrast between Paul’s demonstrations and “philosophic” arguments is false. That is, Scripture indeed addresses “philosophic” issues, using sound “philosophic” arguments, but unlike human philosophy, these arguments are not fallacious or “sophistic.”

We should contrast Christianity against sophistry, and not against philosophy as such.
[The Proof of the Spirit. 2008. Found in, Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonian. Chapter, 1 Thessalonians 1:5b. Page 24-25. ]

 

———-Endnotes———-

[1]Smith, Robin, “Aristotle’s Logic”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/entries/aristotle-logic/