Some people, when they hear what it is I am interested in theologically and academically, listen politely for a while, but ultimately say something like, “We are limited by man’s understanding.” Sometimes they’ll even say “these kind of questions are prompted by satanic influences,” or “the Bible forbids getting involved with philosophy and vain janglings.” Is this true? If it is, it should be noted interpretation of the Bible requires inference, so that philosophy must be done on at least some level. If it is not, what role does it play in apologetics and theology?
First, philosophical reflection can influence theology greatly.
Suppose one believes, philosophically, that divine omniscience cannot coexist with human freedom. On the basis of this philosophical reflection, then, one either denies divine omniscience to be true, or denies human freedom. From there, one’s entire theological perspective may be altered dramatically as implications arise.
In a less dramatic and more useful (biblically) way, I have discovered certain “problems” in theology can be readily solved once philosophical reflection gets involved. Take, for instance, the problem of Jesus’ ability to sin. There is quite a contemporary debate among laymen as to whether or not Jesus could have sinned. However, applying possible world semantics, we can point out if Christ could have sinned then there is a possible world in which he is not God. But since God is a necessary being, either Jesus could not have sinned or he is not God at all. Jesus is God; therefore, Jesus could not have sinned. Other problems in theology may be solved this way. In short, problems in theology can be exacerbated by bad philosophy or solved by good philosophy. Since philosophy is inescapable, which would you prefer?
Second, philosophical reflection can influence apologetics greatly.
Perhaps one of the largest problems in apologetics is the problem of evil, pain, and suffering. Pure theological reflection only (if there is such a thing) can help those who are already saved greatly in this area. The answer for them is something like this: you have trusted God already for your salvation, and you know he is good. Trust him to be good here. This is a very biblical response, and I would never minimize it for the believer. But for the unbeliever this response comes across as intellectual hand-waving.
Philosophy can help us to question even the questions behind the objections to God’s existence. Further, it can help us provide an offensive case for Christianity (instead of merely defending it). Philosophy permeates everything we as Christians do. If we evangelize, we do so in a particular way; we think this way is best for this person. Since we cannot escape philosophy, we should do it in a way that benefits both Christians and unbelievers.
Third, God may use philosophical reflection to bring you closer to him.
Since God is truth it only stands to reason that knowing more of him will bring you closer to him in many cases. As we do philosophy, theology, and apologetics, we must remember that this is not primarily an intellectual engagement. This is primarily an engagement of the heart. If this sounds cliché to you, then you’re the one I am talking to. I’m speaking to myself, and to anyone who is tempted to think and check their heart at the door (even though the reverse is a far more prevalent problem).
Many people seem to fail at Matthew because they think the Lord is speaking in terms of compartmentalization. They think Jesus is saying, “love God with this, and then that, and then this,” and this stutter-step way of thinking will leave you unbalanced every time. Jesus’ point is very simple. Love God with all of your being. Can you love God without being philosophically trained? Absolutely. Can God use philosophy to help you in your knowledge of him? Absolutely. Should top-notch apologists and theologians use philosophy? Without question!
 One could go to the dramatic move of claiming God is not a necessary being, but that leads us to deny that God is the creator of all reality external to him; that is, some things could have come into being without his influence (which seems contrary to biblical and intuitive truth).
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