- My Initial Thoughts:
- This isn’t a book on the philosophy of Christianity, whereby the tenets of Christianity are investigated using the tools of analytic philosophy. Rather, it is a book for Christians – those who have (for whatever reason) – a prior and irrevocable belief in Christianity (the book would say “Christ”), and wish to “have their minds toughened up a bit”.
- I have no doubt there will be many useful spin-offs for the uncommitted, since Moreland and Craig are competent philosophers. But the intentions of the book must not be lost sight of (and no doubt the intentions will be “in your face” throughout).
- So, while the Christian doctrines will be up for discussion, there will never be any chance that one of them will be overthrown in an evangelical tome. The reader will be left with the impression that all avenues have been covered, but they will not have been.
- My main initial concern is that analytic philosophy is (to use Dennett’s1 expression concerning Evolution)2 the “universal acid”. It is – or ought to be – prior to any other discipline. It is not the hand-maiden of theology (or of science, for that matter), but asks questions more fundamental than any other disciplines (apart from its own sub-discipline of metaphilosophy3).
- So, while everyone comes to philosophy with lots of intellectual baggage, the tradition since Socrates has been that our prior beliefs are confused and are to be critiqued and initially thrown into further confusion before (hopefully) being sorted out by philosophical analysis. Everything is up for grabs.
- Hence, to use the techniques of the discipline to find better reasons to believe what you believed before “on instinct4” is – strictly speaking – an abuse of the discipline, even if most philosophers are tempted to follow this path. It is not pure philosophy, but applied philosophy (or a particular application of “philosophical methods5”).
- Anyway, we now proceed to a discussion of the actual text.
- Why Philosophy Matters (pp. 1-7)
- The Chapter starts with a long quotation from Charles Malik, speaking in 1980, to the effect that there are two tasks for evangelism saving the soul and saving the mind. Malik bemoans the (then) fact that Christians are too quick to “get on with the job” and don’t converse with the great minds of the past6. Nor were they (then) up to scratch when compared to contemporary secular intellectuals, so that the “evangelical mode of thinking” had no chance of becoming dominant in the universities.
- The authors broadly agree and ask the reader if he realises that Enlightenment naturalism and postmodern anti-realism are arrayed in an unholy alliance against a broadly theistic and specifically Christian worldview. This seems to misplace the debate. In the UK, at any rate, “the Christian worldview” is largely ignored rather than being engaged in “intellectual struggle”, and “Enlightenment naturalism” has more in common with Christianity than it does with postmodernism, so there’s no alliance between these two.
- The authors point out the importance of “the University” in shaping our culture and leaders.
- Also, they point out that “the Gospel” is always delivered in a context, and in a secular society can seem as “freakish” as Hare Krishna, if it is not an “intellectually viable option”.
- The authors (correctly7) state that – since philosophy is foundational to every8 discipline at the University – it is the most strategic discipline to be influenced for Christ.
- The author’s note that there’s been a resurgence of Christian influence on – and representation within – Anglo-American9 philosophy departments since the 1960s. The rather pessimistic (but important – as a “call to arms” of naturalists) "Smith (Quentin) - The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism" is references. Skinner thinks a quarter to a third of A-A philosophy professors are theists, but our authors think this is probably optimistic. They also put a different spin on the figures. Smith thinks of this Christian enclave as “a last stronghold” of theistic representation in academia, while our authors think of it as a “beachhead”.
- An Invitation to Dialogue (p. 7)
- My Concluding Thoughts
Footnote 1: In "Dennett (Daniel) - Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life".
Footnote 3: See "Williamson (Timothy) - The Philosophy of Philosophy".
Footnote 4: To adapt the famous quotation from Bradley – “Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct” (see Wikiquote: F. H. Bradley).
Footnote 5: By analogy with Mathematics.
Footnote 6: Malik would have the Christian spend years poring over Plato, Aristotle or Augustine.
- Actually, there are disputes amongst philosophers, and between philosophers of “X” and practitioners of “X”, as to whether “philosophy of X” is logically prior to, and normative for, “X”, or whether it is merely descriptive and clarificatory.
- See "Shapiro (Stewart) - What Is So Interesting about Mathematics (for a Philosopher?)", where X = Mathematics,
- and it is reported that the range of stances goes from “philosophy first” to “philosophy last, if at all”.
Footnote 9: I suspect there’s a greater Christian representation in US philosophy departments than in the UK.
- Actually, they claim – with the medievals – that theology is the “queen of the sciences”, but in theology’s absence philosophy will do as a regent.
- My view is that this is entirely wrong – pace Plantinga and his “reformed epistemology” – as is demonstrated by the philosophy of religion.
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
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