Apr 27, 2005

Faith Seeking Understanding - Part 1

This week I want to give some thought to what it means to be a Christian Philosopher, perhaps in order to provoke those who read this to give some thought to the matter themselves. Many Christian philosophers of the past such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and many others up to the present day, have sought to live by the motto: "Faith Seeking Understanding." It is living by this motto that I take to be the essence of what it means to be a Christian philosopher. Of course, this slogan must be interpreted. What does it mean for faith to seek understanding? The answer to this question will depend to a large degree on what one means by the terms "faith" and "understanding." In part 1 of this blog I will define what I mean by "faith." Next week I will discuss "understanding."

By faith I mean "trust," as when I say, "I have faith in my wife," or "I believe that this person is telling me the truth." Specifically, for the Christian philosopher, as for the Christian, faith is trust in God. It is trusting God. It is having faith in him. To sound a bit more theological, I take faith to mean trusting the triune God who has revealed himself to me in Holy Scripture. Understanding faith this way has a few important implications. First, it implies that God has revealed himself to me. As Francis Schaeffer said, "He is there, and he is not silent." The Christian philosopher believes that God speaks to His people, and discloses true information about himself which provides a basis for their trust in him.

Second, this view of faith implies that God reveals himself in the Scriptures, that is, the Bible. As Paul says, "All Scripture is God-breathed..." More than that, this God-breathed Word is "living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword." When I read the Bible, I believe I experience what theologians call the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which assures me that this word is God's Word, and not merely the words of men.

Third, this view of faith implies that I trust what God reveals in the Scriptures. If the Bible is God's Word, then trusting God, who is the proper object of faith, implies that we trust what he says. And what he says is contained, at least primarily, in the Scriptures. So, "faith" in the phrase "Faith Seeking Understanding," I take to mean a response of trust to what the triune God has revealed to men in his Word. And this further implies, I take it, that I have confidence in the truths of the faith---the doctrinal content of the Scriptures, what it reveals to me about God, about Christ, about mankind and myself, about heaven and hell, and salvation.

Given all of this, I would say that Scripture (more particularly, the faith) provides what Nicholas Woltestorff calls "control beliefs"---beliefs which act as a filter for what the Christian philosopher will take as true in the course of his philosophical investigations; beliefs which may imply the rejection of certain philosophical theories. For example, if the Christian philosopher is convinced that the Bible teaches that humans have an immaterial soul (and I for one believe it does teach this), then this control belief will prevent him from accepting any materialistic view of human persons.

1 comment:

Richard said...

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