May 23, 2023
I’m taking a little different tack here and jumping around in my posts to topics or sections I’ve been able to get into a publishable form. Philosophy, in particular, has been difficult for me, because I have very little training in the subject. I’m trying to be as accurate and fair as possible, but don’t be surprised if I get some details wrong. Oh, I’m also bringing in some Greek words, and I’m bound to screw that up.
Philosophy, in particular, is difficult for me, because I have very little formal training in the subject. I'm trying to be as accurate and fair as possible, but don't be surprised if I get some details wrong. Oh, I'm also bringing in some Greek words, and I'm bound to screw that up.
I am not a philosopher, and sometimes philosophy’s intricate parsing of words and ideas really can feel like obsessing on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin—it may be an interesting question, but it has little or no bearing on our lived experience. However, philosophy also tackles questions with concrete implications for how we live our lives, which was its original goal—this wasn’t simply the love of knowledge or disputation (annoying ancient Greeks aside) but of wisdom, the practical application of knowledge and experience. Both philosophy and theology seek to address questions of transcendence and meaning (Who are we? Who is God? Why are we here?) along with more tangible / concrete concerns (How do I love God? How do I love my neighbor? Paper or plastic? Is this storm bad luck or divine judgement?).
The study of anything simultaneously so broad and so tangible and intimately connected to living our daily lives is bound to lead to hard questions. While the questions alone haven’t caused me to reject the tradition I was raised in, many of the answers I’ve heard from current Evangelicals fail miserably, presenting a contradictory and bleak view of life and a misanthropic God. I confess to adopting some of philosophy’s stance of radical skepticism, at least as regards the divine. I don’t mean that belief is impossible but that I need to reexamine mine from the roots (Greek: radix, radices) up. What can we really know about God? Does God exist? What is revelation? Can it be trusted? Which beliefs are tradition? Which are conjecture? Which are just plain ludicrous?
I’ve struggled to be accurate and intellectually honest in writing about those failings, partly because I have no formal training in philosophy and partly because these are difficult concepts to communicate, even more so to communicate why they matter to me.