Monday, August 20, 2012

Philosophy in Peril

It seems to me that the best philosophers begin (or ought to begin) with two basic principles, one from Socrates, one from Aristotle:  Know yourself, and ask the right preliminary questions.
If philosophers actually followed these two rules, they would realize that these two principles meld into one.  If those philosophers asked whether or not they were capable of pursuing knowledge of God, and if they knew themselves well enough to understand the radically debilitating effects of sin on the human mind and heart, they would see that knowledge of God is beyond their reach.  They would know that they do not know and cannot know.  They would see that, even if the world outside us were a perfect revelation of God, our understanding of that revelation would inevitably be twisted, truncated and self-glorifying, and that in our narcissistic frenzy we would turn nature from a window for seeing God into a mirror that reflects only our own sinful selves and our own wicked doing.   They’d realize what they do not realize now:  Apart from revelation and a radical regeneration of our very selves, we are hopelessly adrift in a sea of divinely omnipotent fact with no compass, no North Star, and no rudder.  We sail in ever-decreasing circles that spin tighter and tighter in upon ourselves.  If they really knew themselves, and if they asked the right preliminary questions, they would realize the abject foolishness of considering themselves and their thoughts the measure of Heaven and earth.  But in their current condition, this knowledge is beyond them.  They do not know, and they do not know that they do not know.  They are blind to their blindness. 
In other words, the problem with combining philosophy and God begins with the philosophers.  That problem can be fixed or transcended only by God.
I have yet to mention Satan, a supernatural deceiver posing as an angel of light against whom, apart from Christ, we have no defense.  He is an enemy intent upon driving us from the Bible, not to it, and driving us from Christ, not to Him.  He is an enemy who remembers what was done to him by the Bible in the hands of the One Who inspired it (Matt. 4: 1-11).  He is an enemy determined to convince us of what we are already too willing to believe, namely that we are able to get to God without God, as if we did not need Christ to know God, and as if we were gods ourselves.  Philosophers believe the Liar and his lies precisely because they do not acknowledge him and his works.
Remember:  You are most likely to become an unwitting agent of the enemy you neither recognize nor admit -- and philosophy does not recognize or admit the Devil and his doings.  His self-appointed task is to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4: 4), Aristotle included.  At that task he is an unquestioned expert.  Against him we are no challenge.  Satan fights unremittingly against eternal life, which is knowing God and His Son (John 17: 3).  Never forget that philosophy is ill-equipped to resist Satan.  It has not the tools necessary for the task because those tools have been removed from philosophy's armory at the outset:  Philosophy permits no Bible in its work and no word from Christ.  Philosophy has yet to come to grips with demonology and its own undefended exposure to relentless and colossal evil, against which only the blood of Christ prevails. 


jonathanvanderhout said...

Hello Dr. Bauman,
Here are a few questions I had.

Since the “radically debilitating effects of sin on the human mind and heart” make knowledge of God beyond our reach, how do we interpret and understand the Bible when we are in this state? If a fallen human cannot understand the revelation in the creation, how is it that he can understand the revelation in the scriptures?

You mention both radical regeneration and revelation as our only way to know about God. What specifically is this revelation? It seems that if we all start in the completely fallen state you describe, then we will need God’s intervention in our hearts and minds if we are even going to be able to know Him though the scriptures. Is God’s intervention in our minds and hearts the same thing as this radical regeneration you speak of? Is this regeneration the same thing as salvation?

I greatly enjoyed your post, and, as far as I can see, I agree with it completely. These are just some questions that are on my mind, and I think they could come up inside some of my friends’ minds when I describe this position on philosophy.
Jonathan Vander Hout

Dr. Michael Bauman said...


One might interpret a Bible passage correctly and not know God because (A) the "know" involved here is relational rather than merely informational and (B) the content of revelation is God Himself, not simply information about Him. In revelation, God (literally) reveals Himself. Satan, for example, has a great deal more information about God than we do, but Satan does not know God. Knowing God is something made possible only through Christ via the work of the Holy Spirit. Being correct about a Bible passage is not the same as knowing God.

The sort of knowing we mean here is the sort of knowing involved when the Bible says that Adam knew Eve. It's deep, intimate, interpersonal, experiential knowledge. In this case, if you know God, you love Him, serve Him, obey Him, and worship Him. If you do not, you do not know God. All these things, in His sovereignty, God Himself not only makes possible, but does.

Yes, "regeneration" is just the one-word way of saying "being born again." Being born again is something God does, not something we do. It is done to us, not by us. Grammatically speaking, in regeneration, God is the subject, we are the object. Regeneration and salvation are deeply and closely related, but they are not identical. Salvation is deliverance from sin and from the ultimate and final consequences of sin. Regeneration is being born again; it's God making a new you, and granting spiritual life where none was before.

Jonathan Vander Hout said...

Thank you for the distinction between the two types of knowledge and for the distinctions between regeneration and salvation. Your reply satisfies my questions.

I see that if people have come to God it is not because they saw God in the world, nor is it because they found Him in the scriptures, it is because He revealed Himself to them and regenerated them. This way, all glory truly goes to God.