Philosophy vs Theology

January 8, 2009

Few weeks ago, an atheist friend was visiting from out of town, and on the way back home from dinner we dropped by Barnes & Noble.  This particular B&N store, as I’m sure is the case with most other ones, has the Christianity book section right next to the Philosophy section.  Few of the more prominently displayed volumes in the Philosophy section were about why atheism is right, why Christianity is wrong, and the inevitable conclusion that all Christians are therefore stupid.

“There!” he cried as he pointed triumphantly to these works, “That is the opinion of the greatest thinkers.  Where, HG, is your Christian philosopher!”

“That is only because all philosophers who are Christians,” I replied smugly  “are filed under the Christian section.”

Perhaps I was understating the case.  The Christian philosophers were not only under the Christian section.  They were also under Mathematics (Pascal), Photography (come on now), and Fiction (Sayers).  They were, in fact, everywhere.  I am not merely talking about the fact Christianity seems to be the veins of western civilizations.  Christianity seems to be very basis of all knowledge.

As Chesterton once wrote: “You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”

Frequently when kids go off to college they are shocked as they are exposed to all these different ideas.  Our job as teachers is then to teach them that the Christian doctrines are not just some old stale propositions that are to be memorized like robots. (Although part of me delights to think of them rattling off Bible verses. MUAHAHAHA) The more important job, I think, is to show them that Christianity is what allows you to view everything else objectively.

This is not to diminish the importance of teaching the correct doctrine.  A humanistic agnostic co-worker who grew up in a Catholic environment, told me once that he truly wanted to believe and thought at certain point in his early childhood that he was in fact a Christian.  I believe he was entirely sincere in his beliefs.  But upon further inquiry it became evident that his view on what Christianity is really about was skewed and man-centered.  His faith mirrored those of his teachers’ and predictably his life experiences were vastly different from theirs, resulting in his apostasy.  What we teach is important.  But let us not forget to also teach them these are not mere facts and sentences and bold claims; these are lenses to be worn to correct our faulty vision.  These Christian paradoxes, though we cannot stare into them directly, are the very source of light that illuminate everything else (Lewis, can’t remember where dang it).

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