Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Secular philosophy shouldn’t intimidate Christians

Getty Images/Carol Yepes
Getty Images/Carol Yepes

Culturally, people and some Christians too are mistakenly led to believe that philosophy can be as arbitrary as mathematical equations. Philosophy is not so. Nevertheless, I am not suggesting that it’s a menace to the Christian faith. The discipline of philosophy is one of ideas. That’s it. Some are good, and some are bad. There isn’t an ultimate standard by which a bad idea should be philosophically repudiated without God, as the material Universe is neutral. It simply couldn’t care, define, or distinguish good from bad.

Further, secular philosophy provides ideas that are preferred and conveniently adopted by cultural thought, especially when they are reputed to debunk the Christian faith. As a Christian, I have come to realize that philosophical critiques of the Christian faith create more of a nuisance. I remain convinced that for many good reasons a Christian’s faith shouldn’t be intimidated by secular philosophy.

Ideas are necessary, and should always be stimulated. Our minds were wired by God to think, innovate, and also to advance knowledge by observations. Throughout history, Christians too have contributed significantly in all disciplines and with other theists have received the majority of Nobel prizes, while atheists have received about 10%. The tension between secular philosophy and Christian faith has always been that the former insists on naturalizing everything, while the latter acknowledges the natural world and philosophizes that belief in Christ is reasonable for a comprehensive human experience of reality.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

In Western culture, since the Enlightenment, it’s been reputed that the traditional arguments for God’s existence have been refuted. That’s not true at all. They remain reasonable, logical, and compelling. Retorts from high-profile critics have been established in cultural thought ex cathedra and thereby accepted gratuitously. A celebrated academic who holds a prestigious chair at a distinguished university rebuts, “who created God,” and so the design argument is deemed refuted. Or a popular public intellectual philosophizes about how moral objectivity was established by growing social concords and then that is treated as refuting the moral argument for God. It’s all conveniently contrived, with a point here and there, to derail from any path towards a reasonably held Christian faith.

Take for example, the logical positivism popularized by the highly influential English philosopher A.J. Ayer. Philosophical terms can be abstract and even mesmerizing when unfamiliar. It’s important for Christians to learn the definitions, as that will make it less difficult to think through what seems intimidating. Positivism is the idea that knowledge of something is verified either by direct observation or a priori. A priori refers to statements that are known without observation; such as, a bachelor is not married, or grey is a color, or a square has four equal sides. These are self-evident truths prior to any empirical attestation. You can see how the Christian faith is categorically excluded as positivists demand empirical verification and pounce that God is not self-evident.

It's generally acknowledged, however, that Ayer’s positivism failed his own test. Its methodology is neither self-evident (a priori) nor observed empirically. Thus it fails its own requirements for valid knowledge and is thereby self-referentially defeated. Culturally, however, many continue to treat the idea as refuting claims of Christian faith. In variations, positivism persists as more than its status as an idea. It’s treated as a binding solution to the Christian message that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

The tension of “we walk by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) is at the core. The apparatus of secular philosophy is its underlying assumption that “faith” is blind and so it demands “sight” in order to establish any truth claims. We all know that “sight” is not possible. This impossibility is exploited with ideas that are proffered as warranting unbelief. For the Christian, there is much philosophical theology and philosophy of science that is logical, compelling and supports the reasonableness of one’s faith.

The tension will persist largely because secular philosophy has the subtle demand that unless God is observed it will not believe. Actually, it cannot appreciate how God allows Christian faith to be in relationship with Him. If the ultimate request of secular philosophy were satisfied, it would result in immediate physical death. Can anyone come close to the Sun and survive? How much more could one see the Almighty who created that great light and remain alive? For our own good, God said: “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20).

By faith, Christians have an unmistakable experience that, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). This experience forms part of a cumulative warrant for a reasonably held faith. A Christian doesn’t need to feel insecure until faith is validated by the ideas of secular philosophy. Frankly, that will never happen. With forethought, philosophical naturalism persists and so it's limited from the outset. Some secular philosophers, however, have come around to realize that metaphysics and ontology are a realm that is beyond the categories of direct observation, and yet provides meaning.

In many ways, the Christian faith is itself intimidating and purposely avoided. I get it that talk of sin, repentance, judgment, and Hell is not endearing at a dinner party. These tenets of the Christian faith are not culturally welcomed. That does not mean they are false, but it does challenge believers to be prudent and learn how to articulate appropriately. As the Bible teaches, there is “a time for every matter under Heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Nevertheless, I believe that love and kindness towards secular thinkers go a lot further than rigorous arguments or seeking to win in debate. When the ideas of secular philosophy are properly acknowledged and understood they can make stimulating conversation.

Marlon De Blasio is a cultural apologist, Christian writer and author of Discerning Culture. He lives in Toronto with his family. Follow him at MarlonDeBlasio@Twitter

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion