School of Athens painting by Raphael

Is Philosophy Important?

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It’s interesting how within spiritual circles there are strong and conflicting opinions about the importance of philosophy. I know that many Christians feel the subject is a waste of time, and instead focus exclusively on Biblical revelation as life’s only real source of wisdom. On the other hand, there are many who feel philosophy and religion go hand in hand, and that it is impossible to defend one’s faith without engaging in philosophy at least on some level.

In this article I will briefly explain why philosophy is important to me, and why as much as I have immersed myself in Christian living, I have never been able to dismiss the importance of philosophical enquiry.

What is Philosophy?

I think that often philosophy can seem like a subject that is highly academic; full of propositions and logic and complex arguments that would give anyone a headache. But for me, this is not what philosophy is at all. Philosophy is the quest to understand the true nature of reality, including ourselves.

Philosophy, for me, begins with fascination and mystery. It starts with the astonishing fact that I find myself in some kind of existence doing something called living, and I seem to experience things like the functioning of my body, mind, and emotions, as well as being aware of a universe that I can observe.

Ever since lying in the bath for hours during my time at university listening to talks by the comparative religion philosopher Alan Watts (when I probably should have been studying), I have been excited to try to understand why I am here, what exactly I am, and why anything exists at all.

Can We Really Know Anything?

I have found that through the exploration of many different spiritual paths and philosophical viewpoints, I have been able to answer a lot of the questions that first troubled me when I began to deeply ponder the nature of reality during my time at university.

It has been a long and difficult journey, but through reading the ideas of deep-thinking people, and more importantly examining the answers to philosophical questions for myself, I have been able to form a worldview that makes sense to me, feels honest and truthful, and gives meaning to my life.

How Did I Get There?

Without a doubt my biggest discovery was that God exists. As a youngster I was an ardent atheist, and the idea of God seemed very illogical and even frustrating. I used to be angered by the seemingly ridiculous faith some people had in an entity that for me was no more real than unicorns.

The thing about God is that He reveals Himself to people in His own time and in His own way.

For me, the revelation of God’s existence came during a spell in psychiatric hospital. I had been desperately searching for meaning and truth for years, immersing myself in the spiritual practices of different faith groups, but only experiencing confusion, hopelessness, longing, and desperation.

When I eventually ended up in hospital after a serious breakdown, I felt compelled to ask the staff for a Bible, which would have been a complete surprise to those who knew me, as I had never taken a serious interest in Christianity before. But God used the Bible and my time in hospital to awaken me to His presence. He began to speak to me and show me that He is in control of my life.

Christianity, for me, was a huge awakening. But it didn’t answer all of the questions that I had about the nature of God and reality. I discovered that Christians were unable to answer fundamental questions about the relationship between God and human beings. There were contradictions and confusions in the Christian worldview that I simply couldn’t ignore.

I ended up writing two books that expound what I have come to understand about God, and these books deal with those questions to which I have found Christians have no satisfying answers.

Conclusion

It is not my intention to in any way belittle the Christian faith. I have been a dedicated evangelical Christian in the past and made the Bible the focus of my life for many years, so I completely understand the passion with which Christians dedicate themselves to their faith. I also fully understand the fear Christians have of being drawn away from Jesus โ€“ that’s a fear I have felt myself on many occasions.

But for me, there are philosophical problems with the Christian worldview that are very significant. For instance, I have come to understand that God is in control of everything that happens, which is something a Christian cannot agree with as the whole Christian worldview hinges on freedom of the human will. This is a very significant problem and the implications are manifold.

It is through a joint exploration of faith and philosophy that I have been able to answer my deepest questions. Reading the Bible encouraged me to believe in God, but philosophical enquiry proved to me that without doubt there is a God, and taught me deep truths about who and what God is, and how those truths relate to my own existence and the existence of the world I experience. So that’s why I am happy to argue that philosophy is important.


For a more in-depth look at my philosophical perspective and my arguments for and against Christianity, you are welcome to download my essay entitled An Almighty Predicament for free from the Essays page. Thank you for reading!

43 comments

  1. Wow. Sometime ago, I actually saw philosophy as a waste of time. I think what many call ‘faith’ is presumption (my thought).

    A couple of years ago, my faith was threatened. I needed facts to prove that my belief in God was authentic and accurate. And I also ended up despising myself for doubting God.

    But somehow, God intervened and showed me the truth in the midst of a terrible depression. I’m healed, now.

    Recently, I added a book to my library, entitled “The God Quest.”

    Thanks for being open. I’m encouraged by your testimony.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting how God often uses our times of suffering to enlighten us in certain ways. It’s reassuring to hear testimonies of God really touching people when they are going through trials, as this demonstrates His love and mercy.

      People often get angry with God about suffering. I understand why, but I’m sure He always has a purpose (dare I say it!).

      The book sounds interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. God Quest ( Discover the God Your Heart is searching for) authored by Sean McDowell and Stan Jantz.

        You can add it to your library, also. It’s an essential read.

        About God, He has won my heart in a way words can’t tell. I count Him faithful in all situations. And I’m forever secured in His love.

        My desire is that more people will believe He exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

        Like

  2. Sometimes you have to partly identify something by what it’s not. Philosophy is not accepting a statement without subjecting the statement to examination. “This is an Oreo.” “Is it?” “Yes. It says Oreo on it.” “If I write Oreo on a piece of paper, will the paper become an Oreo?” “No. This is also a snack composed of two chocolate wafers around a white creamy filling. This type of treat has been copied by many companies, but Nabisco stamps the name Oreo on those that they officially designate with that name.” And then we go on.

    Some people are uncomfortable subjecting the statements of the Bible to examination. The questions “Was Jesus a real man?” and “Did he raise from the dead?” are considered too holy to ask or answer. The reasons that people feel this way vary: some are trying to hold on to since sort of power or perceived power, others around afraid they aren’t smart enough to really examine these things and therefore anyone who does is suspect.

    For me, this is the difference between authentic Christianity and other offshoot religions. I give an example of this kind of investigation on my post about Mary and Joseph. https://shaunckennedy.wordpress.com/2018/06/12/mary-and-joseph/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shaun, some great insights.

      The reasons that people feel this way vary: some are trying to hold on to since sort of power or perceived power, others around afraid they arenโ€™t smart enough to really examine these things and therefore anyone who does is suspect.

      I think you’re right, there are many reasons. A lot of the time faith can be fragile and people are also terrified of damnation. I totally get it.

      I’ll check out your post about Mary and Joseph ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s hearing stories like yours, that gives me hope in those I love the most coming to a place of faith in God. You are so right, it has to be in His time and His way, which is often so different than what we’d think or like.

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading, Stephanie! I can safely say that if I can do a 180 degree turn from atheism to theism, then anyone can. As you say, it’s just a matter of God’s will ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

    1. Hey there! Thanks so much for reading, and for following! Glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for your kind words. God bless you!

      Like

  4. I find this intriguing as I am taking a philosophy class at this moment. We are being asked about the elements of how much we really know; as you say, the basis of philosophy. I am conflicted between the concept of free will and Godโ€™s control. Of course, I believe in God but I want to learn more about this element of my faith. Thank you for sharing your thoughts๐Ÿ™

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool that you’re studying philosophy! I hope that you find it useful ๐Ÿ™‚ If you ever want to discuss anything to do with the free will / divine sovereignty issue, you know where to find me ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a blessed day!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When my interest in philosophy began, someone once defined it as ‘the study of knowledge’, but your definition must be my all time favorite and the most accurate one I have heard to date.
    The whole question of existence and why we are here reminds me very much of Existentialism which reminds us that in a chaotic world, we are to create our own meaning/purpose of life. What are your thoughts on that, or do only search for and/or find meaning through your faith? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Katelynn!

      Many thanks for your comment. The study of knowledge is certainly part of philosophy (epistemology) but definitely for me it’s primarily about fascination, wonder, and mystery.

      I love to write about what the purpose of life might be, and that’s at the heart of my God’s Grand Game article. Also there are sections in my book The Philosophy of a Mad Man which look at the bigger picture of the meaning of life ๐Ÿ™‚

      Why do you believe we’re here?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read God’s Grand Game and your beliefs on the purpose of life now makes sense to me – I still wonder, as you might recall, that if God is omnipotent, how come not everybody is saved, or then essentially ‘doomed’? Surely God won’t go to such extremities to entertain Himself.
        Nevertheless, perhaps those questions are also a big part of why philosophy is important.

        As for what I believe – I’ve been through more life philosophies (if one can call it that) in the past six months then I can think of. While I’m still rather unsure, I too believe that life is essentially meaningless BUT that we are to create our own meaning and purpose, and that the ultimate goal is simply to be happy, whatever that might mean for the individual.
        I once again feel the need to thank you for creating a space were people can discuss these things – I thoroughly enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hey again Katelynn,

          I did respond in detail to your questions about damnation. Here’s a link to my comment in case you missed it (it’s easily done!):
          https://perfectchaos.org/2018/01/24/is-jesus-the-only-way/#comment-11930

          Also, keep an eye out for my post next week which deals specifically with the problem of suffering. I think I’ll be publishing it on Thursday.

          Glad you’re enjoying Perfect Chaos and I hope you’ll become a regular visitor! ๐Ÿ˜

          Steven

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Steven,

    It’s been a while since I’ve commented here. But this topic brought up something I have recently studied in my MA courses. Michel de Montaigne’s “Apology for Raymond Sebond” criticizes human reason for its inherent limitations – the end of knowledge is the admission to how little humans can know. He contrasts this with the reason that God possesses. However, he builds this theology on a presuppositional foundation like Cornelius Van Til. I thought you would find this interesting.

    – David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi David,

      How’s it going? Good to hear from you ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll check out the book you mentioned!

      Thanks and best wishes,

      Steven

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Steven! Great read, loved your post but I do have a question for you. Where did you come to the conclusion that God is in control? Do you think there are some things that are out of his control and in our free will? Would love to have this discussion with you just out of my personal curiosity. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello! Please forgive me for not addressing you by name, I couldn’t find it on your blog. Thank you so much for reading and I’m really pleased you enjoyed my post ๐Ÿ™‚

      What led me to believe God is in control was rationally considering the His nature and attributes. I think a lot of people who believe in God don’t really think through who or what exactly they are talking about when they refer to Him. There are important questions like ‘Is God embodied?’ ‘Does God have boundaries?’ ‘Is God everywhere?’

      I believe that if we consider such questions deeply, in conjunction with observing the world around us, we can come to know some truths about God’s being.

      To give you a deeper insight into why I believe God is in control, I recommend this post that I wrote recently entitled ‘On Sovereignty’. If you get a chance to read it, and have any questions, feel free to comment or email me.

      Thanks again and have a wonderful day!

      Steven

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You can call me Jen! I checked it out, itโ€™s very interesting and insightful, although Iโ€™d have to say I do disagree with you on the free will part. I see the relationship between God and man as a friendship/partnership, if we look at Adam and Eve in the garden, God created Adam and told him to name the animals, to fill and subdue the earth. This is an expression of our partnership with God. He also told Adam and Eve, โ€œDo not eat from the fruit of Good and Evil.โ€ This is an expression of our free will, surely God wouldnโ€™t say โ€œDonโ€™t eat of the treeโ€ if He originally intended for them to eat it, we have the free will to choose our way or His and He invites us into a partnership with Him, even today to subdue and fill the earth. However being the 21st century many of us are living more of a complacent sedentary life when there could be so much more we could be doing with Him in partnership. Anyway, I just wanted to share my perspective, I appreciate and respect yours as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Have an awesome day!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hi Jen!

          Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, which I completely respect.

          It’s true that my understanding of God is not in every way compatible with the Christian worldview (which is why I have had such a struggle with the Christian faith over the last decade or so). Having said that, you might be interested to watch a short video I made which looks at some of the key Scriptures in the free will debate. You can find it here.

          If nothing else, the video will show you that I have thoughtfully considered the Bible and the Christian worldview before coming to the conclusions that I have.

          Thanks again!

          Steven

          Liked by 2 people

  8. Once you read the Bible, how did you make the decision of which kind of church you wanted to go to? As you said, there are lots of contradictions from one to the next, and each denomination has their variances. Iโ€™m curious to know what your thought process was on that after you started believing in God?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey there! That’s a really great question. It’s a long story but I’ll give you a brief overview!

      During a spell in hospital not long after I became a Christian there was a Catholic activity coordinator and a Catholic priest who came to the hospital to conduct a short service for any interested patients once a week. That got me interested in Catholicism and I started attending a Catholic church, also visiting the priest occasionally to learn about what baptism into the Catholic church would entail.

      However, I felt compelled to explore other churches as I was looking for a more ‘contemporary’ approach to worship, something a bit more lively and vibrant than the traditional Catholic mass. I went to an event one day in a local music venue and the person on the door mentioned Hillsong church to me, and after looking at their website, I thought I’d go along to a service in central London. I thought it was amazing and really appealed to me โ€“ so that became my regular church for some years.

      At different times I have also attended Church of England (Anglican) churches, which is the church to which my father is committed. And I got baptised in a Baptist church, but that’s a whole other story!

      Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about my journey, and let me know if you have any other questions ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for sharing with me!
        What was your take away with going to different kinds of churches? Did you feel each one had itโ€™s own thing to offer, or was it hard to know what to believe because each one has its own requirements and expectations?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I felt a deep and real connection with God, so in a sense, it wasn’t too important where I worshipped, the most important thing was that I worshipped. I do feel there are important differences between denominations, but that understanding has come through years of studying theology and was less important to me when I was a new Christian.

          These days I believe that everything in life is governed and unfolded by God, and so different belief systems are in a sense God expressing Himself in different ways. This applies to the Christian faith and to all other beliefs people hold. I believe all of it is God’s will. If you’re interested in why I believe this, here are a couple of relevant posts:

          God’s Grand Game
          Truth Beyond Christianity

          Thanks for another great question and I’m grateful for your curiosity ๐Ÿ™‚ If you have any further questions I’d be happy to answer them either in the comments or by email. Blessings!

          Liked by 2 people

  9. I was so enlightened reading your posts. There are some part of it that I can really relate myself and thatโ€™s when you started to ask if truly God exists. And the only way we can answer that doubts is when He himself finds way so we can realize His existence. It happened to me many times already. God is always with me since He always answers my prayers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello! I’m delighted you found some of my posts interesting; thank you so much for taking the time to read them.

      Yes, I feel belief in God comes from His revelation in our minds and lives. Unless He wants people to believe they won’t believe.

      Best wishes, thanks again, and have a wonderful week!

      Steven

      Liked by 2 people

  10. People are searching and for some it is because their old beliefs just don’t feel right anymore. There is a major shift occurring today and I think those who are willing to question and not follow blindly will be richer for it. We are all different and on different parts of our paths, so what resonates for me may not resonate for another. But we are on this journey together and only with mutual respect and unconditional love can we move forward as a people, as a planet and as members of the All of Creation. Lovely blog. thank you for following mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my blog. I love what you wrote about the importance of respect, and that we’re all on different paths. I agree. As for following your blog, no problem! I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you for your kind words and have a wonderful day ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure how much you’ve read of my writing, so I’m not entirely sure where your question is coming from. I don’t believe we have free will, no. I believe all will is God’s will.

      Like

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