By Roland W. Keith
Based on the title some readers may be thinking that philosophy and religion do not mix. Philosophers as a group are rather famous for advancing ideologies spanning culture, basic life, and sociopolitical realms based on personal and highly speculative values rather than objective observations or time-tested truths. However, philosophy is a broad term that as a discipline covers logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics and epistemology; its core value being in the study of the basic beliefs of an individual or group in pursuit of wisdom.
As Christians are we not interested in the validity of Christian reasoning (logic), the beauty of God’s universe and His divine plan (aesthetics), in good and evil and our moral obligation and duty to God and man (ethics), the nature of knowledge and its validity and the limits to what we know (epistemology), the theory and nature of being and existence (ontology), and the origin and natural order of the universe (cosmology) (epistemology, ontology, and cosmology = metaphysics)? Man was created in the image of God. It is our nature to want to know things, to be curious, to make sense of our lives and our place in the universe and beyond. Philosophy in a broad sense is our effort to know about ourselves, why we are here, and what it means to exist. In some way everyone is a philosopher; we all have a philosophy for life. The question for us is: how close does our philosophy align with God’s?
As Christians what should our philosophy of life be? In Ecclesiastes we read: “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (12:9-14). Solomon had tested both worldly knowledge and that of God. What he found was that book after book could be written, fact after fact can be gained to the point of weariness. Knowledge for knowledge sake does not necessarily satisfy, nor is there always gain in the effort. Trivial Pursuit is a fun game, but what value is it to life? In the end there was only one type of knowledge that he found of true value and it came from one source. “Fear God and keep His commandments.”
I like to read about history, science, and current events. And, I like a good novel (read any Tony Hillerman lately?). But if I spent more time on books in those interests than in the Bible then my thirst for knowledge would not be well spent. The Christian philosophy is the study of the beliefs of Christianity. That study will touch on many aspects of life and nature in general; it may lead us into word studies and forays into history to better understand the world we read about in the Bible. That’s fine, its even to be encouraged. However, our philosophy of life begins and ends with the divine word of God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). God delivered His final covenant with man through His Son and those men selected to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That final covenant, the New Testament, is contained along with the rest of God’s inspired word in the Holy Bible. In truth Jesus is the ultimate philosopher because He actually has the answers to all the questions worth asking. All the questions about life and its meaning, about the universe and existence that others have pondered can be answered if we understand His philosophy. The Bible is the source of true wisdom. That which all true philosophers seek. It contains all the answers to life.
So, what is the Christian philosophy? Well, to get the whole story your going to have to read the book. But, I can tell you this much in the space I have— it’s the philosophy of love and sacrifice (Matthew 22:37-39; John 3:16; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; John 15:13). Its all about being there for one another (John 13:14; 13:34; 15:12; Romans 12:5, 10). Its also about forgiving and forgetting (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 17:3-4; Philippians 3:13). That doesn’t just mean forgiving and forgetting what others have done, but being able to forgive ourselves as well. In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (3:12-15).
It takes a certain amount of maturity to realize that while we can never truly forget our past, we can learn from it and move on. We cannot allow what we can’t change to prevent us from reaching forward to better ourselves in the imitation of Christ. Before he became a Christian Paul saw himself as blameless before the law (Philippians 3:6), even as he was doing wrong. Later, he would tell King Agrippa, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:9).
Paul was zealous for the traditions of his forefathers, to such an extent that it manifested itself in a raging fury that led to the violent persecution, even deaths of Christians (Galatians 1:13-14; Acts 8:1-3). However, when he became a Christian, he put his past behind him. He gave up everything that he had gained, including a certain amount of prominence and power, in order to follow Christ. In fact, he went from being the persecutor to the persecuted for the sake of Lord, writing, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
Paul spent the rest of his life living according to the Christian philosophy and sharing it with others. At the core of our philosophy is the gospel of Jesus Christ— the fundamental understanding that the Creator of the universe sent His only Son to earth to die and thereby redeem sinful man, securing his eternal salvation by His good grace. Elements of that salvation include hearing the word, believing, repenting of our sins, confessing Christ before man, being baptized and continuing in faithful obedience. In our philosophy simply believing there is a God is not enough. We must take action, and do so in obedience to God’s will, not our own. Therefore our belief system requires the study and exercise of obedience (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8; Romans 5:19; 6:16-17; I Peter 1:22). This means those who follow it will seek to be more Christ-like (I Corinthians 11:1; I John 2:6; I Peter 2:21; Romans 8:29), living more godly lives (Titus 2:12; I Timothy 2:2’ II Timothy 3:12).
We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). Our growth is to be a continual effort that leads to maturity in understanding God’s word and our way of life (Hebrews 6:1; 5:12-14; I Corinthians 2:6-7). That way of life is distinguished by the self-control and discipline necessary to attain the goal of salvation (I Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul, Peter, and James all made a point of stressing the need to remain vigilant in our Christian walk (Ephesians 4:1; II Peter 1:10-11; James 1:12). Satan never rests. There will always be temptation in our lives, and though God will provide a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13), it is up to us to take that way. Our free will remains after our conversion. We must exercise it wisely.
A final word about the Christian’s philosophy of life. It is a philosophy that requires us to look up. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. The Christian accepts the fight and its risks for the glory of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8), looking forward to the reward (Colossians 3:24). Not only do we keep our heads up in this life, but we look beyond to what lies ahead, as Paul wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ Who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.