Purpose of philosophical thinking

As I mentioned earlier in my previous post, the active study of the spritual life in a philosophic manner has many traps and dangers. So what am I to do?

Many of my friends who I admire greatly see this failing in people like myself and simply veer towards anti-intellectualism in spiritual matters. They don’t respect the scholarly community, and mainly get their input of spiritual truth from pastors. Adopt a simple faith they say. Just believe what the pastor says to believe. I understand their reasoning – people who doubt, question things, or think deeply about spiritual issues can often have less then perfect motivations that will lead them into spiritual danger, but I’ve been given a brain to think with, so I’m going to use it. I’m keenly aware of the dangers (see my last post). Willful ignorance does nothing to improve my life. Why turn the direction of my spiritual life over to others to control? Of all things in life, should this not be entirely my responsibility?

The answer may reside in my understanding of the purpose of philosophy. Here are some thoughts on that subject, some from Epictetus, some from James, and some from myself. Note: beware of that last group… 🙂

  • The purpose of philosophy is to improve my life, meaning my daily life, which encompasses how I do my job, treat myself and others, and my relationship with God. Spiritual truth HAS to be applicable to my everyday life.
  • If I come across a belief and believe it to be a truth yet my life is not changed by it, I really don’t believe it. I must examine my life in light of this new truth. Either I actively apply this new truth to my life, or reject it. Truth not evidenced in one’s life is not believed. Or said in another way, faith without works is false (Christian-eze version). This is not to say the belief is not true, but to start LIVING it. Let the spiritual truths you discover change your life. If you find a belief you determined to be true not working out in your life, then re-evaulate it. I greatly respected a friend of mine who believed that the world was ending because the anti-Christ of Revelation was returning any day, a belief I didn’t share. He didn’t go to college and just took part time jobs, because, well, what was the point of long term goals or a career? Others who I did not respect as much who believed the same exact thing went to college and took out long term loans for their nice houses and collage expenses. Obviously they didn’t really believe that Christ was returning any day, otherwise they would be stealing money from the bank because they would knowingly be unable to make payments on their loans when “any day” came and they would be raptured while the banks and their owners would be left behind. I see this all the time. I am guilty of this as much as the next guy. We must constantly compare our beliefs with our lives. This process of applying the truth we have already found in our everyday lives is more important than seeking new truth.
  • Philosophy is not a tool whose purpose is to make me into a good debater or to impress people with my reasoning and logical skills. The truths found with searching should only be shared if people want to hear, otherwise, they are yours alone for your own spiritual nourishment. Seekers of spiritual truth should never be opinionated, but more interesting in listening. After all, they’re supposed to be seeking truth, not shoving it down other people’s throats.
  • Sometimes you come across a belief and decided to try it out before you commit to believing it as truth. Its like dating and getting to know a person before getting married. Some beliefs are obviously wrong and are not worth trying this with, but others are so close to the truth, that sometimes it seems you need the information that experience believing it brings to the table to move forward towards declaring it one. I’m trying to be as fair as possible by doing this. If God is truly behind this belief, I’ll see its positive merits in my life. I did this with 5-point Calvinism, and I became terribly depressed, and quickly dropped it. Not only did it fail the Bible interpretation test with flying colors, but it failed in practical applicability. Another belief I “dated” was that Gods ways SHOULD be my ways, not that God’s ways are too great and too wonderful to understand, as many people tend to interpret Isaiah 55:8. After all, God admonished his people to walk “in my ways” about 4-5 times earlier in the Old Testament. I decided to really apply this principle to my life, that God wants me to model my life after His ways. This belief I quickly adopted as truth — it brought me closer to God — God’s ways CAN be mine, and since this truth says he’s down-to-earth, approachable, and quite reasonable, He and I can walk together and work on them, but more importantly, just enjoy each other’s company.

    2 Responses to “Purpose of philosophical thinking”

    1. Thelma

      I know you wrote this a few years back – I believe that the word of God does not expire. It comes to you when you are at that point in your life.

      Thank you for giving me yet another way to express to people that I am the way I am because I believe in the only God, and in that belief I have to mimic (learn, obey,) his ways so that I might become the person he wants me to be. I love this “If you believe it then your actions/life should/would show that you do.”

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    2. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      I’m so glad you liked the post. God bless your walk with him, and that your ways would become his ways!!

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