Friday, September 16, 2011

"Doing Philosophy as a Christian" Book Review

While philosophy used to be considered the handmaiden of theology, it has seemed that an ever increasing gap has formed between philosophy and theology over time. I am not completely sure why this is but I suspect it has to do with the defective view that the Bible is the only thing that can speak truthfully to the human condition. Regardless of where it began, Garrett J. DeWeese, professor of philosophy and philosophical theology at Talbot School of Theology, has written a book, Doing Philosophy as a Christian, that hopefully will begin to correct such faulty thinking.

DeWeese's thesis concerning theology is simple and yet profound. He states,

"Doing philosophy as a Christian means doing philosophy under the authority of the Lord Jesus and of the Bible, the Word of God. It means reasoning within the boundaries of religion. It means, in the end, doing philosophy in a way that aims intentionally at the ultimate goal of personal transformation into the image of Christ, and of extending a meaningful invitation to others to enter into that transformation--that is, extending the kingdom of God on earth." (67)

The rest of the book sets out to work under the parameters of Christ's lordship and the authority of the Word of God. After outlining in the first four chapters how philosophy and theology merge together seamlessly, DeWeese sets out to answer the "inescapable questions" in chapters 5-7. Those inescapable questions involve metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. After discussing each segment from a Christian point of view, he moves on to second-order questions such as "who and what am I "and "philosophy of science."

It should be noted from the outset that DeWeese is writing to those who are beginning in the field of philosophy. This means that while his discussions are not overly technical, they certainly are beyond a simple "introduction to philosophy." He does not explain everything for those who do not have a philosophical background. I suspect that some of his discussions in the area of personality and free-will in chapter 8 will be over the heads of some (it was certainly a stretch for me!). Nevertheless, I found the book very approachable overall.

The best thing about Doing Philosophy as a Christian is the fact that DeWeese really does draw the reader back to Christian thinking. One gets the feeling that for DeWeese, thinking rightly in philosophy concerning Christ really IS an act of worship. As a result, I found many of his discussions extremely relevant for myself as a youth pastor. I cannot think of a man in ministry who would not benefit from reading through this book as an example of what it really means to submit his thinking to Christ's authority. In particular, I found chapter 7 on ethics extremely beneficial and relevant.

In conclusion, I would urge anyone remotely interested in thinking well as Christian to check this book out. I think that while DeWeese does not necessarily break any new ground in this book, he advances the idea of the Christian Worldview further. In other words, DeWeese sees that there is no field where Christ does not proclaim his authority over. We should see the same thing and Doing Philosophy as a Christian will inevitably help you do that.

*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me a free review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review*

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