It’s interesting how within spiritual circles there are strong and conflicting opinions about the importance of philosophy. I know that many Christians feel the subject is a waste of time, and instead focus exclusively on Biblical revelation as life’s only real source of wisdom. On the other hand, there are many who feel philosophy and religion go hand in hand, and that it is impossible to defend one’s faith without engaging in philosophy at least on some level.
In this article I will briefly explain why philosophy is important to me, and why as much as I have immersed myself in Christian living, I have never been able to dismiss the importance of philosophical enquiry.
What is Philosophy?
I think that often philosophy can seem like a subject that is highly academic; full of propositions and logic and complex arguments that would give anyone a headache. But for me, this is not what philosophy is at all. Philosophy is the quest to understand the true nature of reality, including ourselves.
Philosophy, for me, begins with fascination and mystery. It starts with the astonishing fact that I find myself in some kind of existence doing something called living, and I seem to experience things like the functioning of my body, mind, and emotions, as well as being aware of a universe that I can observe.
Ever since lying in the bath for hours during my time at university listening to talks by the comparative religion philosopher Alan Watts (when I probably should have been studying), I have been excited to try to understand why I am here, what exactly I am, and why anything exists at all.
Can We Really Know Anything?
I have found that through the exploration of many different spiritual paths and philosophical viewpoints, I have been able to answer a lot of the questions that first troubled me when I began to deeply ponder the nature of reality during my time at university.
It has been a long and difficult journey, but through reading the ideas of deep-thinking people, and more importantly examining the answers to philosophical questions for myself, I have been able to form a worldview that makes sense to me, feels honest and truthful, and gives meaning to my life.
How Did I Get There?
Without a doubt my biggest discovery was that God exists. As a youngster I was an ardent atheist, and the idea of God seemed very illogical and even frustrating. I used to be angered by the seemingly ridiculous faith some people had in an entity that for me was no more real than unicorns.
The thing about God is that He reveals Himself to people in His own time and in His own way. For me, the revelation of God’s existence came during a spell in psychiatric hospital. I had been desperately searching for meaning and truth for years, immersing myself in the spiritual practices of different faith groups, but only experiencing confusion, hopelessness, longing, and desperation.
When I eventually ended up in hospital after a serious breakdown, I felt compelled to ask the staff for a Bible, which would have been a complete surprise to those who knew me, as I had never taken a serious interest in Christianity before. But God used the Bible and my time in hospital to awaken me to His presence. He began to speak to me and show me that He is in control of my life.
Christianity, for me, was a huge awakening. But it didn’t answer all of the questions that I had about the nature of God and reality. I discovered that Christians were unable to answer fundamental questions about the relationship between God and human beings. There were contradictions and confusions in the Christian worldview that I simply couldn’t ignore.
I ended up writing several books that expound what I have come to understand about God, and these books deal with those questions to which I have found Christians have no satisfying answers.
It is not my intention to in any way belittle the Christian faith. I have been a dedicated evangelical Christian in the past and made the Bible the focus of my life for many years, so I completely understand the passion with which Christians dedicate themselves to their faith. I also fully understand the fear Christians have of being drawn away from Jesus – that’s a fear I have felt myself on many occasions.
But for me, there are philosophical problems with the Christian worldview that are very significant. For instance, I have come to understand that God is in control of everything that happens, which is something a Christian cannot agree with as the whole Christian worldview hinges on freedom of the human will. This is a very significant problem and the implications are manifold.
It is through a joint exploration of faith and philosophy that I have been able to answer my deepest questions. Reading the Bible encouraged me to believe in God, but philosophical enquiry proved to me that without doubt there is a God, and taught me deep truths about who and what God is, and how those truths relate to my own existence and the existence of the world I experience. So that’s why I am happy to argue that philosophy is important.
For a more in-depth look at my philosophical perspective and my arguments for and against Christianity, you are welcome to read my essay entitled An Almighty Predicament which is available here. Thank you for reading!