Yeah. I really hate philosophy.
What is philosophy, and why is it so detestable? Let’s start with a definition.
Philosophy: the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline. (source: New Oxford American Dictionary)
Or as Wikipedia puts it: Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. (accessed 4/2/11)
As a good dictionary will tell you, philosophy is rooted in the Greek word φιλοσοφία (philosophia) which means “love of wisdom”.
Now, is the study of the above mentioned things good? Certainly, growing in knowledge of God’s creation is a very good thing.
Is loving wisdom good? Certainly, the Bible is filled with examples of this, and the entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to the subject.
Here’s the problem, though: philosophy, as a rule, ends up being completely man-centered.
What I mean is this: that philosophy, being enamored with acquiring knowledge of the deep things through reason and use of the mind, relegates the revealed things of God to second-place (at best). The word of God becomes (again, at best) merely a tool for acquiring insight and knowledge into the deep things – a means to an end, and a wrong end, at that.
Again, I will qualify myself by saying that the Bible is definitely useful for acquiring wisdom and knowledge – but so are math textbooks. Far from being just a philosophy primer, the Bible is God’s revelation and record of what He has done for us, in history and eternity, to bring us to Himself. If the Bible is simply treated as a tool to beef up your philosophical underpinnings, you are using it wrongly.
So, back to the man-centeredness of philosophy. The thing is, philosophy ultimately becomes so enamored with itself that it decides it does not need God. One has only to scan the history of philosophy to see how increasingly humanistic, rationalistic, and secular it has become. David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, and more – the philosophers of the past 3 centuries have buried God, and erected an altar to man over the grave.
I contend that this is the inevitable end to all philosophy. It is puffed up by its own “understanding”, its own “wisdom”. It is a house of cards, built on sand. To the limited extent it ever does incorporate God’s word, there may be a beam or two of solid support in the structure, but because even then it is misapplied and misunderstood, it’s not the wood of the cross, and thus termites will have it – and sooner rather than later.
I could go on and on, bemoaning what I see to be the problems and dangers to philosophy. I could wax eloquent on the absurdity of building a worldview from the starting point of what you can figure out via contemplation. I could point to philosophers who were driven mad (some who committed suicide, more who contemplated it) through the pursuits of their own minds (Albert Camus and Arthur Koestler, for instance).
But would not this be my own philosophy at work, in one sense or another? Let’s see what the word of God says. Let’s turn to the wisest man who ever lived, whose writings are contained in the cannon of Scripture, and see what he has to say about man’s attempts to grasp at wisdom.
I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
What is crooked cannot be made straight,
and what is lacking cannot be counted.
I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Wow, that’s a pretty damning critique on philosophy, especially coming from the wisest man in history, huh? The rest of the book of Ecclesiastes is more of the same – knocking the pegs out of human efforts one after the other.
The fact is, no matter how much earthly wisdom one acquires, it can never be a means to approach God, or achieve one’s own salvation. Never through our intellects can we draw one millimeter closer to Him – only He can draw us to Himself, and He does that in His Son, on the cross. It’s ironic, then, in a sense, that it is God on a cross that philosophy is so opposed to (‘cause it just can’t get it’s head around it). For only in the man on the cross is true knowledge of God available – but nothing is more detestable to the philosopher than that.
Hence why Paul writes:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Yes, yes, I know I quoted this same passage in my last post – it’s just such a great statement on philosophy though. Look at the bolded section in particular, and note what Paul says, “The world did not know God through wisdom*.” No, the world knows God through what Paul preached: namely, Christ crucified.
(*FYI, the word there is “sophias”. Look back up top if you have forgotten the Greek we talked about. Yeah, as in “philo-sophy”.)
Approaching God through your own intellect and philosophy of life is not only a no-no, folks, it’s impossible. That’s why I despise philosophy – because it tries to convince us that we can ascend to heaven on the tower of Babel called “wisdom”. But just like the original tower of Babel, it’s a lie, and the consequences of trying are dire.
Again, God says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Stop looking for God and salvation through your philosophy of life. It will end badly.
Instead, look to the cross, and the man on it, who is the wisdom of God. For you.