Philosophy is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. And many believers shy away from the subject. Some even see philosophy as inimical to their faith. But we need not be afraid nor suspicious of philosophy. It is important for at least two reasons: truth matters, and ideas have consequences.
Written from a Christian perspective, this volume not only gives an accessible yet accurate account of some major philosophical themes, but it helps the believer interact with the various philosophical options from a biblical framework.
Philosophy simply has to do with the big questions in life: Why are we here? Where am I going? Important questions for everyone. Of course there are many unhelpful and even dangerous philosophies and ideas. But as C.S. Lewis has reminded us, the answer to bad philosophy is not no philosophy but good philosophy.
And while Christianity is much more than philosophy, it is also good philosophy. Thus good (Christian) thinking is needed to refute bad thinking. And given that believers are encouraged, indeed commanded, to love God with their minds, then we all should have an interest in philosophy.
But philosophy can be quite daunting to the uninitiated. It is even daunting to those who have been steeped in it. Thus the need for a somewhat simple, easy-to-read guide to the major philosophical ideas and the major philosophical thinkers. This book, subtitled “A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions” nicely meets this need.
It is helpful for several reasons. One, it lays out the main philosophical discussions, such as what is right and wrong (ethics), what is real (metaphysics), and how we know (epistemology). There are also important chapters on related topics, such as the philosophy of science, and the importance of worldviews.
Two, it lays out the various philosophical options and positions taken on a given issue, and shows how Christians can think biblically about these views, and wade through the various cross-currents of thought on a given topic.
Three, it provides a nice overview of how philosophy and theology intersect and play off each other. Each discipline can be enriched by the other, and the authors show us how this can be done to good effect.
The book begins with basic principles of logic, and ends with a plea to think from a biblical worldview. The authors remind us that Paul found no contradiction in proclaiming the gospel and being able to debate with the best of Greek philosophy and thinking.
We are called to do the same. We live in an age where many bad ideas are in circulation. They need to be countered by clear biblical thinking. Ideas really do matter. Faulty ideas need to be challenged, and truth needs to be proclaimed. This volume helps us to do just that.
Some may argue that this relatively brief volume (less than 170 pages) is still not exactly light-weight reading. Bear in mind that the authors were modest in their claims: this is a slightly less difficult look at a difficult and complex subject. But it does succeed in helping those who want to grapple with the big issues to do so, if they are willing to don their thinking caps and put in a bit of effort. And that effort will not go unrewarded.