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ISBN/ASIN : 0830827668
Manufacturer : InterVarsity Press|
Release data : 30 November, 2005
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A Christian approach to philosophy
Philosophy is not exactly everyone's cup of tea. And many believers shy away from the subject. Some even see philosophy as inimical to their faith. But we need not be afraid nor suspicious of philosophy. It is important for at least two reasons: truth matters, and ideas have consequences.
Written from a Christian perspective, this volume not only gives an accessible yet accurate account of some major philosophical themes, but it helps the believer interact with the various philosophical options from a biblical framework.
Philosophy simply has to do with the big questions in life: Why are we here? Where I am going? Important questions for everyone. Of course there are many unhelpful and even dangerous philosophies and ideas. But as C.S. Lewis has reminded us, the answer to bad philosophy is not no philosophy but good philosophy.
And while Christianity is much more than philosophy, it is also good philosophy. Thus good (Christian) thinking is needed to refute bad thinking. And given that believers are encouraged, indeed commanded, to love God with their minds, then we all should have an interest in philosophy.
But philosophy can be quite daunting to the uninitiated. It is even daunting to those who have been steeped in it. Thus the need for a somewhat simple, easy-to-read guide to the major philosophical ideas and the major philosophical thinkers. This book, subtitled "A Beginner's Guide to Life's Big Questions" nicely meets this need.
It is helpful for several reasons. One, it lays out the main philosophical discussions, such as what is right and wrong (ethics), what is real (metaphysics), and how we know (epistemology). There are also important chapters on related topics, such as the philosophy of science, and the importance of worldviews.
Two, it lays out the various philosophical options and positions taken on a given issue, and show how Christians can think biblically about these views, and wade through the various cross-currents of thought on a given topic.
Three, it provides a nice overview of how philosophy and theology intersect and play off each other. Each discipline can be enriched by the other, and the authors show us how this can be done to good effect.
The book begins with basic principles of logic, and ends with a plea to think from a biblical worldview. The authors remind us that Paul found no contradiction in proclaiming the gospel and being able to debate with the best of Greek philosophy and thinking.
We are called to do the same. We live in an age where many bad ideas are in circulation. They need to be countered by clear biblical thinking. Ideas really do matter. Faulty ideas need to be challenged, and truth needs to be proclaimed. This volume helps us to do just that.
Some may argue that this relatively brief volume (less than 170 pages) is still not exactly light-weight reading. Bear in mind that the authors were modest in their claims: this is a slightly less difficult look at a difficult and complex subject. But it does succeed in helping those who want to grapple with the big issues to do so, if they are willing to don their thinking caps and put in a bit of effort. And that effort will not go unrewarded.
Start with the last chapter
According to Garrett J. DeWeese and J.P. Moreland, "[p]hilosophy is thinking critically about questions that matter. Conceived this way, philosophy is something everyone does." Perhaps so, but few people these days, Christian or otherwise, really know how to think critically. In Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner's Guide to Life's Big Questions, DeWeese and Moreland provide a remedy to that problem by offering readers "a useful discussion of basic philosophical distinctions relevant for doing theology and for constructing and defending a Christian worldview."
Os Guinness, Mark Noll, and others have written about the anti-intellectualism that has plagued evangelicalism at least since the Scopes trial. And, writing a quarter of a century ago, Francis Schaeffer observed that "[Christians] have gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But...[t]hey have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in world view..." Not much has changed since Schaeffer wrote that, except that homosexual marriage, assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and more could be added to his list. One reason why the situation continues is that most Christians understand neither what it means to have a Christian worldview nor how other worldviews (read philosophies) have shaped the culture in which we live.
As the title indicates, in this book DeWeese and Moreland have done their best to make philosophy "slightly less difficult," and to show readers how important philosophy truly is, not just to professors inhabiting ivory towers, but to every one of us in our everyday lives. In its seven chapters, the book provides an overview of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, philosophical and theological anthropology, and the philosophy of science. Though some of these terms are unfamiliar and even daunting to the lay Christian, DeWeese and Moreland use familiar examples, anecdotes, and situations to introduce them to and define them for the reader. Within the chapters of this slim volume, readers will find the basic tools they need to begin to understand worldviews and to develop one of their own.
Although this book will probably appeal primarily to pastors and others in leadership positions, the last chapter makes a compelling case that an understanding of philosophy is critical for all Christians. If, due to ignorance, Christians fail to challenge the false philosophies underwriting the things Schaeffer listed and more, not only will we and our children find ourselves living in an increasingly degenerate world, but our ability to fulfill the Great Commission will be seriously compromised.
If you're serious about your faith, consider "doing" a little philosophy by reading and studying Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult. And make sure you start with the last chapter! - Linda Whitlock, Christian Book Previews.com
"Slightly" Is the Key Word
The primary goal of DeWeese and Moreland is not to transform their readers into professional philosophers; rather, it is to equip men and women to "have a better understanding and appreciation for the contributions philosophy can make to understanding and declaring (the Christian) faith in our world" (p. 155).
The bulk of the book (the first five chapters) is devoted to defining five philosophical concepts: logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology, and chapter six explains how Christians should approach the philosophical problems related to the field of science. The final chapter is a clarion call for Christians to actively and intellectually engage with the secular culture.
The overall goal of the book is a commendable one, and the authors did an incredible job of condensing complex and highly detailed information into a mere seven chapters. It is no small feat to "boil it down" to the basics.
However, having said that, the material in this book is still very difficult. Despite a strong background in theology, I had to read the text several times and make copius notes over each term before I finally began to "get it". The authors give great definitions for key philosophical terms, but fail to adequately explain how these terms fit in the big picture.
This book would be an excellent resource for those who have some background in philosophy, for those who have a professor or instructor to guide them through the material, or for those who are willing to struggle through it.
If you're a beginner in philosophy, you may want to start with a book that gives a broad overview of the field before moving on to this one.