A Little Book for New Philosophers
Why and How to Study Philosophy
Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2016
128 pp; pbk; £6.99
Publisher’s website here
This may be a little book but it tackles a large task: examining how and why Christians should study philosophy. Philosophy has been more than a little denigrated in the church, it has become a byword for worldly thinking or at best a tool for theology. So Copan’s task is an important one.
Copan’s aim is ‘that this small book will offer new material for some, reminders for others and, hopefully, reinforcement for all to look afresh at the implications of doing philosophy under the lordship of Christ’ (9). The need to do philosophy under the lordship of Christ is crucial. For those beginning to study philosophy will find this book a helpful guide.
Copan sees a number of important roles for philosophy. These include sharpening our minds, helping us see that ideas have consequences, to isolate and deal with sloppy thinking. These are all crucial roles and not just for Christians. In addition he for Christians he sees philosophy as being able to strengthen theology. Though we need to be careful to see philosophy as the handmaiden of theology. Philosophy should not be a naturalistic tool, as Copan puts it: ‘If God is the originator of the universe, why can’t he also be at work within it? Why must the Christian bow to naturalistic demands and assumptions?’ (90).
What is perhaps most surprising is that one of the foremost Christian philosophers, one who has done much to establish Christian philosophy, Herman Dooyeweerd is not mentioned in this book. Nevertheless, this book will help philosophy students see that philosophy can be a much a Christian calling as doing theology, and as such it is a welcome addition to this new series of ‘Little Books’. As Copan has it:
‘Ultimately, our philosophizing—as with our eating, drinking or whatever we do—should be done to the glory of God. Undertaking the study of philosophy should be an act of worship, and thus we devote our mental exertions, our research and our reading to God. Our philosophy should be undertaken in a spirit of prayer and dependence on God for understanding, insight and wisdom about what projects to undertake’ (119-120)
Amen to that!
Why Study Philosophy?
1. Philosophy and Baking Bread
2. Philosophy as Loving Wisdom
3. Faith, Philosophy and Scripture
4. Thinking About God
How To Study Philosophy
5. Virtuous Philosophy
6. Philosophy and Community
7. Doubting Wisely
8. Considering Philosophy
Name and Subject Index