By: Jason Kline | January 25th, 2017
A major crisis in the Church is how many believers lack a depth of understanding about the Christian faith. What this means is that a good many of us cannot explain what we believe to another person let alone explain why we believe it. As a result it shows that Church leaders have led people gradually through a state of unintelligible beliefs to a kind of anti-intellectualism about faith, or what is named fideism. According to Geisler, “Religious fideism argues matters of faith and religious belief are not supported by reason.” As a result, unsuspecting Christians have become intellectually stifled. They simply, “just believe,” with a low view of education and training. Others have become antagonistic about Christians seeking educational training. I have been ridiculed and mocked for going to Seminary by people in a church I used to attend. Without a doubt, this trend has burdened the Church with great consequences, (1) People who are ill-equipped to defend the Christian faith on intellectual grounds, (2) loss of ground in academics, (3) a significant falling away from the faith (roughly 70 percent of students, who graduated from the Church youth program, go off to college and abandon their faith), and declining church attendance on an average Sunday.
It is believed that Americans are becoming increasingly less spiritual. That is a myth. I believe Americans continue to be spiritual but are thirsty for truth, and are willing to follow whatever appeases their “itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3). The Church has failed to meet this need head on. I have personally heard leaders teaching and preaching shallow doctrine or focusing so much on ethical living (how Christians ought to live). The problem with this style is that the people do not know who it is they are being asked to follow – namely Jesus. I believe it is more effective to discipleship we teach out folks what they believe, why they believe it and then how to live and defend the faith. I believe that ethical Christian living naturally follows from being confident in knowing who it is they are following, on an intimate level; and people desperately want to know their savior on this level.
Numerous people are abandoning the Christian faith at alarming rates. Their knowledge of the faith simply cannot withstand secular scrutiny, and we have led them to their death by aiding in them in committing intellectual suicide. People are searching elsewhere for truth, like a lost child from their mother, and we have led them there, just to be honest. It is high time we do something about it. If we are to be successful, we need to show our people what William Lane Craig calls, a Reasonable Faith.
Allow me to share with you an example. I once had a conversation, about the compatibility of faith and reason, with another Christian, not long ago. I was met with immediate resistance when appealing to the disciplines of philosophy and theology in conjunction with our faith. Strangely, most Christians, want to learn more about our faith and grow in our relationship and knowledge of God. Because of the nature of philosophy and theology, you would think we would embrace these disciplines to meet this goal. After all, these are instruments used to reach this end. Unwittingly, this person countered my appeal, using Colossians 2:8 to make her case against them,
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.
This is simply misguided. First, Paul is not exhorting Christians to abandon the discipline of philosophy but addressing the heretical brands of mysticism contaminating the Colossian church at that time. The teaching circulating in Colossi was contrary to the Gospel message Paul first delivered. As a result, the Colossians were led astray from the truth of the Gospel. Had they knew better, that is, knew what they believed and why on philosophical and theological grounds, they may not have been so easily persuaded.
The purpose of the letter by Paul was to combat the erroneous teachings circulating in their churches and he did so using reason to defend the Gospel (a discipline called Christian Apologetics) and to exhort the people back to orthodox Christian truth. That is, they were being deceived by a false philosophy and Paul reasoned with them, using philosophy to bring them back to right understanding. Second, Paul was using reason to address the deceit of man centered philosophy. Many interpret this verse to mean philosophy in general is incompatible with the faith. But, if this was true, then why would Paul argue against philosophy using reason and logic (principles of philosophy)? That is because he wasn’t arguing against it. Indeed, he was pleading with the Colossians to abandon bad philosophy, not philosophy in general.
Philosophy is inescapable. The moment we begin to give reasons for what we believe (or explaining why we believe something), we are using reason to do so. There is not one aspect of our life where we do not use reason and logic to aid us in our survival. It is a great gift of God as well as evidence for the existence of God. I will explain why logic is evidence for the existence of God at another time. For now, it is important we understand that philosophy is not simply a man-made invention. Man did discover it and…we also corrupted it. But, we did not invent it. It applies to every facet of our lives, it is essential to daily living, it is a gift from a rational God, and it serves a purpose.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” Which is why I felt compelled to address this person’s mistake. Consider what took place between me and this person. In her appeal to argue against the use of philosophy and theology in Christianity, she was affirming the law of non-contradiction – that two opposing views cannot both be correct, or true, at the same time. In her appeal, I was wrong and she was right, so she thought. Unwittingly, she had to do so using logic and reasoning. That is, she reasoned through the Scriptures, and with the Scriptures to make her case. She was using the very disciplines she was arguing against.
Sadly, her understanding of that Scripture reveals the type of dilemma our Church is facing –anti-intellectualism. Good philosophy must exist because bad philosophy needs to be answered. Her position was itself, self-defeating, or empty; the very thing Paul was arguing against. What is more is that, elsewhere, Paul, endorses the use of philosophy in 2 Cor. 10:5,
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
If what she was arguing for was true, then she is now faced with a logical contradiction. How Paul can argue against it in one place, using it to make his defense in another (which is a common purpose in the epistles), and then elsewhere, encourage it as a useful tool for faith, is simply mind-boggling if one denies the discipline of theology and philosophy. It would literally leave us in intellectual neutral. We could not move forward in our knowledge and hope of Christ and knowing Him better. One can only destroy an argument with a better one. Using a better one requires principles of philosophy. That is why I believe that the philosophy of faith without reason is a dead faith – it produces little fruit. Philosophy is inescapable, yet, corruptible and that is why the church must undertake its discipline and apply it to the faith. If we do not, the secular world will cave in on us and take away every freedom we have of religion.
Now, here is the benefits of philosophy and theology. Consider this illustration, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” At first glance, you might think this proves the point in fideism; that arguments, theology or philosophy are fruitless attempts in evangelism. Not entirely. You see, it is the free will of the horse that he willingly goes to the water and takes a drink. If he cooperates, it is because he had good reason to do so in the first place. He was thirsty. That is the role of philosophy and apologetics – to make people thirsty, thirsty for the richness of Christian truth.
Philosophy and Theology are not greater than faith but they do serve it. Peter Kreeft rightly points out about faith, “Even religion, though it goes beyond logic, cannot go against it.”  For the same reason the horse went to the water by his master’s leading, and took a drink is the same reason philosophy should be applied to faith – it informs the will. It is volitional faith that is saving faith, yes, because the person freely chooses to accept the truth of the Gospel but it is the intellect that informs the will of the truths of the Gospel, producing faith and its conditioning. This does not always mean a person will choose God. Even with good evidence, a person can still choose not to believe. But this does not mean philosophy is ineffective. It means the will of the person is.
Neither you, nor philosophy, can make a person taste and see that the Lord is good. One can only put out the “salt lick” (a tool to make one thirsty), providing them good reason (and see their great need) to take a drink. That is why I believe that faith without reason is dead faith. Without it, a person is leaping into blind faith – a faith with no substance (or slapping on theological floaties to keep one from drowning in a kiddie pool of ignorance). A faith without substance is death. A faith without the substance of truth, leaves one vulnerable to deceit and accepting “bad philosophy.”
Because there is such a thing as blind faith, philosophy exists because blind faith must be enlightened. Both atheism and the blind Christian both have blind faith and it must be answered. I know this because it was not until I started learning why I believed what I believe I began to understand what I believed. My faith started to make sense for the first time and I grew in confidence of my faith. I was able to make a head to heart connection. My faith became strengthened and my love for Christ unwavering. My confidence to share my faith increased and started to bear fruit. You see, philosophy, theology and apologetics serve faith. Philosophy, theology and apologetics serve to preserve the truth of Christian doctrine. It helps us to not only know what we believe, but also why – why the Christian faith is the only way to the Father and on rational and experiential grounds. Being the only true religion, theology and philosophy protects us from false teachings like that of what the Colossians experienced. It also helps us to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Christ in great confidence, or boldness, like that of the Apostles. It is by learning what we believe and why we believe it, that we come to know the person of God on a deeper level.
Let us not forget, it is also a biblical mandate to love Him with our minds (Luke 10:27). This is another reason why I believe that a philosophy of faith without reason is dead. Fideism is simply not compatible with the kind of faith God wants us to live. It leaves us intellectually and spiritually bankrupt. Not only is philosophy, theology and apologetics inescapable when we talk about God and faith, it is irresponsible to neglect growing in these areas. When we were kids, we preferred toys for presents at Christmas. If we got socks, well, we all know how that goes. But, as adults, we appreciated getting socks as a gift. Well, that is kind of like philosophy and theology. God gifted them to us to help us wade through the trenches of life. We may not have appreciated it as kids but we cannot afford not to as adults. We should not act like kids in this area. We shouldn’t just throw it off to the side like a pair of socks. We ought to be adults and appreciate it for what it is, a God-given gift. For the same reason James, the half-brother of Jesus, and a convert from skepticism, says that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), so is faith without reason.
By the Way, the Apostle Peter states, in 1 Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prep
ared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” The word Peter uses, here, for defense, in the Greek, is apologia and how we got the word (and discipline of) Apologetics. Not only is philosophy, theology and apologetics, gifts from God to us, we are also mandated to grow in them – like adults should.
 Norman Geisler. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. “Fideism.” Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. 1999. 246.
 Peter Kreeft. Socratic Logic: A Logical Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles. Ed. 3.1. Edited by Trent Dougherty. St Augustine’s Press. South Bend, Indiana. 2014. 3.
Our guest writer is Jason Kline who is a hospice chaplain in southwest Virginia. Jason received his M.Div. in Theology from Liberty University, his chaplain certification from Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital, is a veteran of the United States Air Force, the founder of the Dead Apologist Society Facebook group, and is currently working on a D.Min. from Luther-Rice Theological Seminary. Jason blogs at By the Way Ministries found at http://bythewayministries.org.
***The views expressed by guest writers are their own and may not represent those of BellatorChristi.com or its affiliates.***
(c) 2017. Bellator Christi.