There are many philosophers who have devoted most of their lifetime to the study of philosophy, only to have come to wrong conclusions. Because of the quantity of contradicting philosophical theories among philosophers, someone must be wrong. It is relatively inconsequential to be wrong about some of the minor philosophical issues, but the consequences of being wrong on major philosophical issues are great.
Many decisions are based upon one’s philosophical beliefs. For example, if someone concludes that God does not exist, he or she will not see the need to come to a saving knowledge and relationship with God. If in fact God does exist and His scripture is true, denying his existence results in extremely dangerous consequences. The Holy Bible claims, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, New International Version). The study of philosophy is often approached as a recreational pastime; however, seeking truthful answers to philosophical questions is a matter to be approached with seriousness.
Free Will vs. Determinism
The concept of determinism is that ones actions have been predetermined by an outside source such as God, genetic makeup, or social and environmental influence. If this is true, then it is an exercise in futility to attempt to make an argument for or against this theory because ones belief or disbelief in this theory has already been predetermined.
The concept of free will is that people have some degree of control over their thoughts and actions. Most proponents of free admit that there is a degree of influence over ones actions by outside forces, but ultimately the individual chooses the action. For example, if someone is driving down a road in the United States, they are likely to be influenced by society to drive on the right side of the road. The person can choose to drive on the left side of the road just to prove that free will exists. This would be a bad decision, but it would be an exercise in free will nonetheless.
Many people who believe in God subscribe to the theory of determinism. They think that God has predetermined every action performed by every person. This theory is flawed by the fact that people sin. If God is good and desires that we not sin, He would not schedule sin into an individual’s itinerary.
Another form of determinism that is even more popular among people who believe in God is that He has predetermined who will and will not be saved through faith in God through Jesus Christ. John Calvin wrote about predestination:
Consequently, the Lord, when he calls his own, justifies and glorifies his own, is declaring nothing but his eternal election, by which he had destined them to this end before they were born. Therefore no one will ever enter into the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom, who has not been called in this manner, and justified, seeing that without any exception the Lord in this manner sets forth and manifests his election in all men whom He has chosen. (Battles, 1975)
This scenario makes a hopeless case for those who have not been destined by God to be saved by God. Free will is the theory that best aligns with the nature of God as revealed by Him through scripture. “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26, NIV).
Monism vs. Dualism
One of the great problems in philosophy is whether people are comprised of two separate entities or only one. Monism concludes there is only one element to a human. Some monistics believe that humans are made up strictly of physical matter. They believe that thoughts and reasoning are merely complex physical attributes and that there is no such thing as a soul.
Dualism concludes that the humans are made up of both physical aspects and nonphysical aspects such as thoughts of the mind and spirituality of the soul. Belief in monism completely denies the existence of God and all of His attributes. It would be difficult to come up with any meaningfulness to life is one held strongly to the believe in monism.
Dualism lines up with how God has created humans with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. J.P. Moreland makes a good argument for dualism:
First, if theism is true, then physicalism as a world-view is false. God is not a physical being. Second, a number of people have argued that numbers exist and that they are abstract, nonphysical entities (e.g.., sets, substances, or properties). (Moreland, 1987)
This brings us to the importance of first determining whether or not God exists before pursuing other philosophical dilemmas because all other philosophical ideas hinge on the existence of God in one form or another.
The Existence of God
It is difficult to address any philosophical questions before addressing the question of whether or not God exists. If one determines that God does not exist, this leads them to believe they are not bound to God’s authority and are free to justify almost any philosophical conclusion. This leads many philosophers who do not believe in God to be skeptical about the soundness of his or her conclusions. The naturalist Thomas Nagel relates his skepticism of atheism:
I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. (Nagel, 1997, pp. 130-131)
It is extremely important to be right when it comes to the question of God’s existence. If God exists, it would be a great tragedy to not acknowledge Him and seek him with every fiber of ones being. Soren Kierkegaard makes this statement about seeking God:
With respect to physical existence, one needs little, and to the degree that one needs less, the more perfect one is. In a human being’s relationship with God, however, it is inverted: the more one needs God the more perfect he is. To need God is nothing to be ashamed of but is perfection itself. It is the saddest thing in the world if a human being goes through life without discovering that he needs God! (Moore, 2007)
Many philosophers have come and gone. Many of their philosophies have been later realized to be inaccurate. The philosophies that have withstood the test of time and scrutiny are worth studying. On the question of God’s existence, a high degree of scrutiny, both objectively and subjectively, is imperative to making good decisions in life.
- Battles, F. L. (1975). John Calvin; institutes of the Christian religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co
- Moreland, J. P. (1987). Scaling the secular city. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
- Nagel, T. (1997). The last word. N. Y.: Oxford University Press
- Moore, C.E. (2007). Provocations;sSpritual writings of Kierkegaard. Farmington, Pennsylvania: Plough Publishing House. Retrieved March 14, 2010 from http://www.plough.com/ebooks/provocations.html.