Last week I mentioned one positive lesson Christians can take from Karl Marx. That may seem like a strange statement at first blush. After all, Marx was an atheist, a collectivist, and a violent revolutionary. Hardly the sort of fellow a Christian should look to for philosophical guidance. And yet, there is one aspect of his program that does recommend itself to the Christian: he was a systematic thinker. He didn’t randomly throw ideas together, but sought to develop a unified worldview based on certain philosophic principles. Systematic thinking, systematic philosophy, has tremendous power. So much so, that even an evil system of thought such as Marxism can take the world by storm.
Christianity also is a system of thought. But unlike Marxism, or Kantianism, or Objectivism, or any other system developed by man – what the apostle Paul deemed “the wisdom of this world” – Christianity is a revealed system of thought. One could even call it a revealed system of truth. For Christianity reveals the mind of God, the truth that comes from God, in every area of intellectual inquiry.
But even though Bible-believing Christians would be the first to defend the Word of God as inspired, inerrant and infallible, too often their thinking, and thus their practice, betrays a certain amount of inconsistency. The Bible, in the view of many Christians, is good for learning about God, sin, and salvation in Christ. But when it comes to questions of philosophy, well, the Christian will have to go to the experts. This always means the secular philosophers.
Thomas Aquinas is the ultimate example of this approach. In his case, he attempted to combine revealed ideas from the Bible with the empirical philosophy of the pagan philosopher Aristotle. The resulting system called Thomism is now the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church-State. It is also, unfortunately, the philosophical system of many Evangelicals. Well known evangelicals such as R.C. Sproul and Norman Giesler both espouse Thomism. And while Aristotle and Aquinas were brilliant men, neither one’s system of thought was Christian. By following Aquinas, these Evangelicals unknowingly undercut their Christian witness.
In one of his lectures on philosophy, John Robbins made the point that a major weakness of the Reformation was the fact that it never produced a systematic philosopher. That is, no one, at least in any coherent way, ever attempted to apply Scripture to the problems of philosophy. That is, no one until Gordon Clark. With Clark’s work, Christians for the first time were furnished with a Biblical system of thought capable of meeting and defeating all rivals in all fields of intellectual endeavor. In some ways, it is hard to believe that it took so long for this to happen. Yet happen it finally did. And as Christians we can take great delight in this. My goal in this and in the next few posts will be to summarize the basic ideas of Christian philosophy using John Robbins tract What is Christian Philosophy? as my guide.