In This Article:
- What Is Philosophy?
- Thinking Hard About Loving God With One’s Mind
- Thinking Hard About Addressing Falsities
- Thinking Hard About Building a Better Worldview
- Thinking Hard About the Way Jesus Thought About Things That Matter
- Consider Studying More Philosophy
What Is Philosophy?
One way to define philosophy is simply this: thinking hard about things that matter. Philosophy also assists us when addressing our natural curiosities and desire to have our questions answered. Indeed, Plato said, “Philosophy begins with wonder” and Aristotle — Plato’s student — said, “All humans desire to know.” Here, I want to consider three important reasons for why philosophy is vitally important to living life well as a Christian.
Thinking Hard About Loving God With One’s Mind
First, when Jesus was asked “What’s the greatest commandment in God’s law?” he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment,” (Matt. 22:36-38). Well, in order to better understand and obey this commandment, don’t we need to think hard about it? Don’t we need to think hard about who is God, what God is like, what is love and how does one love God with one’s heart, mind and soul? And what exactly are the human heart, soul and mind — are they really different from each other, and if so, what are the relationships between them, and what role do they play in performing the kind of love Jesus is talking about?
See what’s going on here? We are beginning to think hard about the greatest commandment. Which is to say, we are doing philosophy. Since philosophy, again, is simply thinking hard about things that really matter, the practice of philosophy is vital to being a Christian. For in order to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself, we need to think well on how to properly go about obeying these commands.
Thinking Hard About Addressing Falsities
Second, becoming a mature Christian requires thinking hard about the history of Christianity, its doctrines, its theology, its anthropology, its ethics and the way it describes reality and our relation to both reality and God.
Please take note that if there are true statements comprising these subjects, then there are going to be false statements, theories, theologies and worldviews in opposition to them, too. So, philosophy, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, “must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”1
Therefore, philosophy is going to be vital for us to continue growing in our capacity and maturity to love God with all of our hearts, souls and minds by not being led astray by false teachings, current trends, movements/causes, theories, political ideologies, idols and arguments that compete for our allegiance (2 Corinthians 10:5). This suggests another important reason.
Thinking Hard About Building a Better Worldview
Third, whether you realize it or not, you and virtually everyone else has some kind of worldview. A worldview is a mental map we use to interpret evidence, form beliefs and understand reality. It is comprised of specific assumptions, commitments, norms, standards, values, principles, beliefs and theories that filter and process evidence and/or information. Sometimes we are even unaware of the ways in which our worldview is filtering, processing, “coloring” and assisting us when forming beliefs and interpreting reality.
All one needs to do in order to learn more about the kind of worldview one uses to form beliefs and interpret reality is discover whether or not one already has beliefs about the following kinds of questions:
- Does God exist?
- If God exists, what is God like? Does God have a character?
- Do only physical things exist? In other words, is materialism true or false?
- Do humans have free will and the ability to sometimes act differently than they did?
- Do humans have an essence or nature?
- Can humans have knowledge about the way the world really is? That is, do humans have the ability to get truth, knowledge and understanding — at some level — about reality?
- Is there objective meaning and purpose in the world; and can humans discover them?
- Is there an objective way for humans to flourish and be happy at both an individual and collective level?
- Is there life after death?
This list of questions is by no means exhaustive. But it does begin to capture the kind of ingredients that go into forming a worldview. (By the way, if you don’t understand some of these questions, then that’s another reason why philosophy is valuable. Studying philosophy will help you understand and think better about why these “big-ticket” questions matter and how to form reasonable answers to them.)
The current state of one’s worldview will then not only filter and process the uptake of information, evidence, etc. one receives from the external world at the subconscious level; it will also govern how likely one consciously takes some idea, statement or belief to be true or false, depending on how well it coheres with other things one already believes.
The important thing to learn from this is that your worldview affects the fluctuating number of true beliefs and false beliefs you have. So, don’t we want to continue living in such a way wherein we increase the number of true beliefs we have and decrease the number of false beliefs we have? Of course, we do! This is another reason, then, why philosophy is so important: the practice of philosophy helps us to actively monitor, refine and maintain a more accurate, coherent worldview.
Thinking Hard About the Way Jesus Thought About Things that Matter
The last reason for why philosophy is important for Christians is this: Jesus was a philosopher!2 Yes, Jesus thought hard about things that really matter, not the least of which is thinking well about how to love God and others, while living within the reality of God’s Kingdom.
Indeed, Jesus addressed many falsities that prevented people from being able to know God and live in communion with God in his Kingdom. Since one of the purposes of life is to know God and develop Christ-like character, Christians do well when seeing how Jesus thought about important topics, life experiences and arguments. Then they can learn how to do likewise. Jesus is, after all, an exemplar for Christians to follow and emulate (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Jn. 2:6; 1 Cor. 11:1).
Consider Studying More Philosophy
Do you think you can respond to people with whom you disagree like Jesus did (see Luke 20:27-40)? Can you provide a winsome, reasonable and loving defense of why you believe Christianity is true (1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 3)? Do you have the kind of philosophical tools along with the moral and intellectual virtues Jesus had to think hard about things that matter?
Regardless of how you answer these questions, the point is that studying philosophy can contribute toward further cultivating the kind of heart, mind, soul and character Christians should strive to obtain. Philosophy, then, plays a significant role in the sanctification process — that is, cultivating Christ-like character.
If you’re interested in thinking hard about the things that matter in the world, you should consider enrolling in GCU’s Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Philosophy degree program, offered by the College of Theology. This program will allow to study Christian beliefs and philosophy and use what you learn to minister effectively to others and guide them in their relationship with God. Fill out the form above to learn more and read more Theology Thursday to explore other theology and ministry degree programs at GCU.
1C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), p. 58
2One way to consider Jesus in this new light is to read Dallas Willard’s essay “Jesus The Logician” in Christian Scholar's Review, 1999, Vol. XXVIII, #4, 605-614. I also recommend reading Travis Dickenson, Logic and the Way of Jesus (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2022).
Approved by an instructor of theology from the College of Theology on April 13, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.