Philosophy

A Good God in a Wicked World: Considering the Problem of Evil, Part 1

From DBSJ 22 (2017): 75-90. Republished with permission.

by Jonathan Moreno1

Introduction

Elie Wiesel trusted in God. As a boy, he believed that Yahweh cared deeply for him and his people. All that changed in the grueling death camps of Nazi Germany. Elie was a Jew. Subjected to the horrific atroc­ities of Auschwitz, his faith was shattered as his God seemed to sit idly by while countless victims suffered through the darkest evils imaginable at the hands of wicked men. In the preface to his memoir Wiesel writes:

In the beginning there was faith—which is childish; trust—which is vain; and illusion—which is dangerous. We believed in God, trusted in man, and lived with the illusion that every one of us has been entrusted with a sacred spark from the Shekhinah’s flame; that every one of us car­ries in his eyes and in his soul a reflection of God’s image. That was the source if not the cause of all our ordeals.2

How could a good God exist in a world filled with such mindless cruelty? In the face of crippling evil, many have concluded with Wiesel that God is dead. If there truly was a good and powerful God, he would never permit such suffering and pain. Therefore, since evil exists, God does not.

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The Primacy of Revelation, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The Importance of a Prolegomena, and the Importance of Having a Christian Philosophy

There are all kinds of philosophies which the Christian should avoid. The Apostle warns,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

The reference here is probably generic, referring to the various ideas floating around in Asia Minor in the day: eclecticism, syncretism, idolatry, superstition, and neo-platonic moralism. In the midst of it all there was and is a true Christian philosophy. In fact, anyone who is a lover of real sophia (wisdom), is going to love the philosophy of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, the one who discloses God par excellence. Mature Christians become such, in part, by thinking biblically.

In one of his earlier books Francis Schaeffer made this pertinent remark about the reticence of Christians to think with their theology:

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The Interconnectedness of Philosophy, Theology, & Worldview

A worldview is the perspective through which one views the world. By definition, a biblical worldview is derived exegetically from the pages of the Bible. Philosophy and theology have long been perceived as rivals in worldview, but if we define those terms lexically and through a Scriptural lens, then we find no friction between the two disciplines. In fact, the two are complementary.

Philosophy as a discipline is recognized as “the systematic and critical study of fundamental questions that arise both in everyday life and through the practice of other disciplines.”* Philosophy the discipline is often confused with philosophy as a worldview. The discipline is informed by the worldview (or the perspective by which the philosopher is viewing philosophy), but the discipline is distinct from worldview.

For example, many of the early Greek philosophers set out to find answers to life’s great questions using only naturalistic evidences. To their credit, they were in part motivated by a desire to move away from superstition and unwarranted belief in a pantheon that was hardly explanatory. The naturalistic worldview of these thinkers shaped much of what we understand as philosophical inquiry, but it is important to note that it was their worldview that was naturalistic, not the discipline of philosophy itself.

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What Is the Biblical Worldview?

Human beings are hardwired to behave on the basis of what they believe. We dream and plan, will and act, emote and communicate according to our perception of reality. Each of us possesses a conceptual filter by which we interpret the world around us and that interpretation fuels our decisions.

At first, this conceptual filter is largely innate. I observed a newborn baby girl recently who capably communicated to everyone in the room that life was good in her mother’s arms and torture anywhere else. But as we mature, we gain the capacity to develop rationally the contours of our filter. Emotions (one’s fear of heights, for instance), affections (such as one’s love for family) and life experiences (say, suffering) will continue to play a large role in determining how we interpret life. Yet we can refine and even reform our perceptions by deliberately constructing a worldview that orders our beliefs and transforms our behavior.

The Bible is predicated on the counter-cultural premise that the establishment of one’s worldview is not a matter of individual freedom. Rather, the Bible insists that God speaks and that it is our responsibility and joy to conform our worldview to what the Creator has revealed. We are called to submit to God’s counsel such that our perceptions of reality are filtered through the framework of revelation and then to ethically respond to the implications.

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Review - The Territories of Science & Religion

Image of The Territories of Science and Religion
by Peter Harrison
University of Chicago Press 2015
Hardcover 320

Science Versus Religion: a New Angle

The battle between Science and Religion has been presented to the wider public as a struggle between reason and superstition. In the present intellectual climate, where the ghosts of logical positivism have been far from exorcised from the corridors of scientific thinking, any countering of the reigning attitude is most welcome. The volume under review is an absorbing historical account of the way the words scientia and religio have been used through time, and how they have changed their meanings since about the middle of the 19th century. The book under review is scholarly yet readable, comprising six chapters, an epilogue, fifty plus pages of notes, and indices.

It may seem that a book-length study on two archaic words would scarcely qualify as a riveting read, still less that it would be of any relevance. But Peter Harrison, who is a distinguished historian of science at the University of Queensland in Australia, has managed to produce a study which does both things. The resultant work is a real contribution to the Science versus Religion debate; a debate that has been impacted to a large degree by its wrong understandings of the terminology.

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Review - A History of Western Philosophy and Theology

Image of A History of Western Philosophy and Theology
by John M. Frame
P & R Publishing 2015
Hardcover 928

I have read some but not all of the philosophers John Frame canvasses in this book. That almost certainly describes you, too. So you’re probably in precisely the same boat I’m in when it comes to Western philosophy—that creaky boat full of hopefuls traveling from the land of ignorance to the land of knowledge. But (and please bear with this analogy, ahem) we hopefuls need guides to get us across the water. (Keep bearing.) We want the kind of guide who will say, “That’s a rocky coastline; you don’t want to land there” or “That’s a good harbor.”

It simply isn’t advisable—or even possible—for most hopefuls to navigate the massive waves and hidden sandbars of philosophy without a guide. That’s true even though firsthand knowledge of that sea is the ultimate goal some of us, at least, ought to be shooting for. We ought to aim to become capable skippers ourselves, guiding others across the perplexity.

One of the themes of John Frame’s own theological work is the moral obligation we have to pick the right guides, to get knowledge righteously. And one of the primary ways we accomplish this feat is by trusting the right authorities. Ultimately, of course, divine authority is the only one that validates knowledge. But that very authority has gifted His church with teachers like Frame (Eph. 4:10).

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