Can a Christian study Philosophy and become a philosopher without compromising their beliefs? is it good for Christian to study philosophy
closed as not constructive by David Stratton, H3br3wHamm3r81, Narnian, Dan Andrews, Bruce Alderman Dec 28 '12 at 18:28
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Christianity is a world view, so in that sense, it's a philosophy. We'll discuss the effect of common sense realism on biblical hermeneutics in another thread. Here I want to highlight that theologians were already doing philosophy without knowing it, or if knowing, denying it was a proper philosophy:
In this Bible.Org article on Scottish Common Sense Realism the author describes the quick adoption of Baconian philosophy by Dispensationalists and the reasons for that adoption:
The Influence of Common Sense Realism on Early Dispensationalism
It is important to note that despite its overwhelming acceptance, many American Christians were unaware of Common Sense Realism as an actual philosophical system. Writes Noll, “For much of the history of the United States, evangelicals denied that they had a philosophy. They were merely pursuing common sense.” 7 Diogenes Allen adds that the resulting effect of this catechesis of Common Sense Realism was, “a static view of Christian doctrine and morals with no sense of historic [one might add, philosophic] development.” 8 In fact, as dispensationalism was first being articulated, it seems to have simply assumed as unquestioned fact many of the tenets of Common Sense Realism. After all, one wasn’t necessarily doing philosophy by simply using common sense, was he? Thus, when one encounters hermeneutics texts by early dispensationalist authors (and other Enlightenment theologians, as well), very little space, if any, is given in defense of the philosophical foundations of the interpretative methodological approach being offered. It seems that more often than not, dispensationalists were either unaware of or had simply ignored the role of philosophical presuppositions in their hermeneutical methodology. Bernard Ramm points out this characteristic ineptness towards philosophy in Lewis Sperry Chafer’s theology, in particular. “In reading Chafer’s theology, it is apparent that he is not at home at all in philosophy. He makes rare references to philosophers, and in most cases Chafer is citing some other source and not the philosopher directly.” 9
In actuality, this unknowing acceptance of Baconian ideals is understandable given the anti-intellectual history of many in American Christianity. Nathan Hatch writes of an attitude typical among many American Christians, “[…] they rejected the traditions of learned theology altogether and called for a new view of history that welcomed inquiry and innovation. [T]hey called for a populist hermeneutic premised on the inalienable right of every person to understand the New Testament for him- or herself.” 10 And since apart from John Nelson Darby, very few of the real progenitors of dispensationalism ever seemed to have ever undergone serious theological training, the Common Sense epistemology that was the academy’s ruling philosophy of the day, no doubt had a significant, though indirect influence on their thinking and approach to hermeneutics quite unbeknownst to them. Marsden writes, "To whatever degree dispensationalists consciously considered themselves Baconians (it is rare to find reflections on philosophical first principles), this closely describes the assumptions of virtually all of them." 11 He further adds, "[…] the millenarian's view of Scripture was, in effect, modeled after the Newtonian view of the physical universe. Created by God, it was a perfect self-contained unity governed by exact laws which could be discovered by careful analysis and classification." 12 Thus, the application of the inductive method to the study of the Bible was a natural and obvious move for dispensationalists and other Enlightenment theologians to make. Consequently, they viewed Scripture to be objective fact, needing only to be read, understood, and classified via common sense, plain, normal, or literal interpretation. William E. Blackstone implicitly reflects this trend throughout his 1904 book, The Millennium. Against proponents of “spiritualized” interpretation he writes, “They tell us that Revelation is a symbolical book and therefore we cannot take its plain statements literally…Such reasoning is most fallacious and destroys all foundation for conveying definite ideas by any language.” 13 Darby likewise hints at the influence of Common Sense Realism when he writes, “When therefore facts are addressed to the Jewish church as a subsisting body, as to what concerns themselves, I look for a plain, common-sense, literal statement, as to the people with whom God had direct dealings upon the earth, and to whom He meant His purposes concerning them to be known.” 14