"We must know where to doubt, where to affirm and where to submit....”. I would like to use these words of Blaise Pascal to set the tone for my discussion of this question: What is Christian philosophy? Doubt! Affirm! Submit! According to Pascal, we can break each of these rules. We shortchange doubt when we claim that everything can be proven. If we acquiesce in everything, we fail to do justice to argument and the ability to make judgments. So too, assuming that everything should be doubted leaves no room for assent.
I have chosen these words of Pascal—a believer, skeptic, and mathematician—because they evidence the spirit with which the Christian philosophy I have in mind is done. Pascal is not trying to find the golden mean among doubt, proof, and assent. Rather, his thoughts assume and tangibly demonstrate the tension among these three. Doing philosophy is about the thoughtful exploration of that tension—a tension that does not absolve the investigator. The relationship between the thinker and the truth is at stake—a relationship that must be there. Philosophizing requires thinking through the position from which one is philosophically busy.
Be that as it may, the more immediate question might be, “Is Christian philosophy what we need today?” Aren’t we talking about some kind of relic, an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms—a “wooden iron,” to use Martin Heidegger’s term? Is it not better to keep faith and reason separate? Does “Christian philosophy” deserve a place in the university? Is it not simply faith lurking behind an intellectual façade?
I will address such later, but I want first to articulate where I stand—my (thetical) position, if you will. Doing so fits with the style of philosophizing I am addressing. This way of doing philosophy is interested in the relationship between questions and the questioner. What is the gist— the direction-setting spirit—of the question? What does the person asking the question presume, and what am I being asked to take for granted when engaging that question?
Read full essay in the Sept 2011 edition of "Pro Rege".
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Contents of this Issue -
What is Christian Philosophy?:
Gerrit Glas (Translated by John Kok)
Machen and the Gospel:
John V. Fesko
Saints in Training: the Career of a Dordt College Grad:
Hubert R. Krygsman
Paul Simon’s Memento Mori: A Review Essay:
James Calvin Schaap
Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World
Reviewed by R.D. Henderson
Chaplin, Jonathan. Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society
Reviewed by Keith C. Sewell
Van Drunen, David. Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture.
Reviewed by Carl E. Zylstra