Sunday, September 2, 2012


I mentioned in the last post that I wanted "to offer a Christian philosophy that attempts to be as centered in the glory of God as possible," but did not explain where I was going or what I mean by that. Some of it may be gleaned from my explanation of how Christian philosophy is a branch of theology, but this post will draw out more of the why for it.

God is centered on His Own Glory

A short argument adapted, with small changes, from Edwards. God created everything. Therefore, whatever is valuable was made by God. The ability to create a thing is more valuable than the thing itself. Therefore, God is the most valuable "thing" of all. God is just, therefore he does what it is right to do to that which is most valuable, i.e., seek with all his being to obtain it in its fulness. To seek with all one's being to obtain a thing is to center one's life, i.e., one's self, on that thing. Therefore, God is centered on himself.

The Glory of God is the Nature of God and Our Good

Jonathan Edwards argues, in The End for Which God Created the World (The link goes to John Piper's God's Passion for His Glory, the second half of which is Edwards' The End for Which God Created the World. Piper chunks it into sections and explains what some of the more archaic language means, which makes it somewhat easier to read), that,
"The whole of God’s internal good or glory, is in these three things, viz. his infinite knowledge, his infinite virtue or holiness, and his infinite joy and happiness. Indeed there are a great many attributes in God, according to our way of conceiving them: but all may be reduced to these; or to their degree, circumstances, and relations." (paragraph 268, p. 244, emphasis in original)
So, to be centered on God's glory is to be centered on his nature which is identical to being centered on him. Extending the short argument above to its climax, then, God is centered on his own glory. God created all things, therefore, there was nothing to force him to act in any manner except his own nature. Thus, God did exactly what he willed, making what it was in his nature to make. From the short argument above, then, it follows that all things were made to glorify God. But the world is now fallen, in sin, yet it is still true that a thing is good (on its own, only,) in respect to how well it fulfills what it was made for. We shall still only find true, lasting happiness in doing that which we were created to do: glorifying God, that is, being centered on him, his glory.How this is to be found is likewise glorifying to God, for it is by Christ that we come to glorify him, though in our sin we wanted nothing to do him, indeed, we wished he did not exist. So, by the grace of God, by the work of the Spirit within, we come, through Christ, to see God's glory and therefore glorify God.

From this it follows that in seeking, or being centered in, that which is not God, we are not seeking even to know what our own good is, let alone to get it. In fact, it would seem that philosophy that is not centered on God and his glory is not Christian philosophy.

Where "Christian" Philosophy Might Not Be Christian

It seems best to focus here, not on where I disagree with prominent christian philosophers, though I use some as an example, but instead on the main attitude I fear they may have left behind in getting to those places: humility in understanding. Some who agreed with the entirety of this post up to this point may disagree with what is in this portion, hopefully any such disagreement will be by virtue of a different reading of scripture.

It seems that some philosophers, seeing that they cannot understand how something could be true, assume it to be false. The place this stands out most to me is open theism's assuming that God cannot be both personal and beyond time, and therefore denying what has usually been understood by his eternality, removing one of (in my opinion) the best explanations for divine foreknowledge and his unchanging nature, and offering little solace to believers in the midst of trials. This is certainly not a new charge to the ideas of open theism. My fear is that philosophers may save God's goodness and personal-ness at the expense of any meaningful sort of sovereignty. I believe it is better to suppose we merely do not yet know how God's person-ness and goodness interact with his sovereignty and eternality than to deny or lessen the import of any of his attributes, especially those most easily drawn from scripture, similar to how many affirm Christ's nature as the God-man, entirely God and entirely man at once, or God's nature as three persons in one, without necessarily being able to explain how these things are so. My frustration with modern philosophy was born from trying to find an answer to the problem of evil, and finding it difficult to find an answer to it that began with the nature of God, rather than merely explaining how the argument did not go against the orthodox understanding of his nature or suggesting that the orthodox view was wrong in some point, by virtue of its not being able to hold up at some point because it contradicts, say, his goodness or other attribute that people like (I fear a similar reaction is going on in response to the existence of hell--an overemphasis of God's lovingness to the detriment of his justness).

I reject many of these ideas for more reasons than merely that I fear they are born from a philosophy that is not centered on God, but those reasons can wait for a post specifically on those topics. For now, it is enough to note that christian philosophy seems to be ready to veer away from the nature of God as the nature of God, and toward the nature of God as would least offend modern sensibilities. A sort of Moralistic Therapeutic Deist philosophy of God, is what I fear we will end up with in the long run. This whittling down of God will quickly lead to an ineffective gospel, as the cross loses its reason for being and God loses his power to save the more we remake God in our own image. We must be careful to submit ourselves to the Spirit, humble ourselves before the Word, and listen first to God, as only by his grace may we come to the truth.

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