Christian Philosophy: The Way, the Truth and the Life
Many Christians like myself were raised knowing the Truth about God, life and the world. We even studied different views like evolution and mythology and how they fall short of the Biblical account of the world around us. Despite all this, one only has to stick a toe out into the world and -BAM! - one is hit on all sides by conflicting world views and philosophies and it can be difficult to sort one from the other.
The important thing to remember when confronted with different worldviews is the Truth. People often say that Christianity is just a religion and has nothing to do with the philosophies of the world or anything outside the box marked 'religion'. On the contrary, we find that in Jesus, all of Philosophy is complete and perfected. Philosophy strives to answer at least three basic questions: who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Please note that these questions don't apply on just the personal level: they apply to everything around us as well. (For example, we could ask "What is the world? Why is it here? What will happen to it?") In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." In less than ten words, all of the philosophical questions are answered in one word: Jesus.
The Way - Where am I going?
This statement of Jesus' is just half the verse. The other half says, "No-one comes to the Father except through me." It is part of human nature to stop and ask oneself at some point in life, "Where am I going?" and although some people don't realize it, it is not a physical destination they are referring to. Within us is the instinct of eternity and our spirits know that there is something to come after these shells of ours die and disintegrate. But where are we going? Well, we have options - two options: 1) Heaven and eternal life, or 2) Hell and eternal suffering and death. While it doesn't seem that there could be much of a deliberation over the two, many people just don't know how to get to where they want to go. Jesus told us that He is the Way. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." How is this possible? How can believing on Jesus save us from hell? Before Jesus came to earth, people had no hope. They were under the Law of Moses which only served to show where we fall short of God's holiness. People made animal sacrifices for their sins, but being only animals, their blood could do nothing more than appease the wrath of God until they sinned again. Every day, people fell short of God's glory, and every day, people died. That wasn't what God wanted, but there was no one perfect who could die for sins that were not his own. That's what Jesus did. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, so He is equal with God: indeed, He is God. He became human and took all of our sins on Himself and died. That in itself is amazing, but it didn't fix our problem. It wasn't until three days later when Jesus rose again that death was defeated and we could have access to everlasting life. All we have to do is repent of our sins, ask humbly for His forgiveness, and He gives it to us freely as a precious gift. That righteousness and forgiveness given us is our token into Heaven to live forever with our Lord.
The Truth – Who am I?
One only has to take a brief glance around our culture to see that people suffer from lack of identity. Some call it humility, but identity is not pride. God says of himself, “I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” (Isaiah 43:15) That one sentence is full of identity: it reveals to us Who God is and it establishes Who He is so that all of creation can have no doubt – He is Holy, Creator and King. But there is no pride in that identity either. God is incapable of pride: it goes against His very nature.
The other problem with our culture today is that when someone lacks identity, they often try to find it by copying someone else, which if one thinks about I doesn’t make sense at all. That isn’t identity. Actually it is quite the opposite. Dressing like Elvis Presley, or maintaining your body to look like Michelle Bridges reminds people of the original person and gives the glory back to them. Do people think of you when they see Elvis Presley’s suit? Or do they think of the rock-star himself?
Identity given by the world is fickle because the world is fickle and the fads that the world promotes are also fickle. None of it lasts and even the most celebrated celebrity has his or her moments of doubts. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear of actors, singers, models, sports personalities and so on who battle with drug addictions, alcohol issues, anorexia nervosa, etc. and of the celebrities who actually die from these issues because they have depression or they have to have the image of someone they are not.
What a terribly sad way to live! If that is the best that the world can give us, is it really worth it? What if the Holy Creator King gave us our identity and told us who we are to Him? 1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” The son of a king is a prince, and the daughter of a king is a princess: how much more when we are the sons and daughters of the King of Kings! Romans 8:17 continues on that picture. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” What a wonderful promise to us!
In Mark 12, we read the story of how Jesus is challenged concerning whether or not taxes should be payed to Caesar. When Jesus asks for a coin, He notes that Caesar’s image is on the coin and then concludes the object lesson with, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” When we are God’s children and carry His image in and on us, and strive to imitate Him in all we do, people around us will see the difference in us and, just as people think of Elvis Presley when they see his suit, people will know that we are God’s and the glory will go back to God. The chances are they might even want to know how to get that for themselves.
The Life: Why am I here?
This question is twofold: Biologically, why am I here? and for what purpose am I here?
As Christians, we know that on the sixth day of history, humans were created in the very image of God. What does that mean? It means that, although we have physical bodies and God does not (John 4:24), we have natures that resemble the nature of God. Of course, this was blemished when Adam and Eve sinned, but we have a nature of justice. We love and long to be loved. We are relational and rational. We can communicate, and express hope, joy and disappointment. We feel when we are hurt or encouraged. We have a sense of humour. We can imagine and create. Compare this to everything else in creation, and you will find nothing that quite compares to us humans. He created us and breathed into us the very breath of Him who is Life and we became alive. It is hard for us to comprehend this, because we live in an age where everything ought to be explained scientifically, and science just can’t explain life. We know it involves DNA, but DNA on its own doesn’t equate to life. There is an extra boost of something that makes us alive. That something must be the incredible, creative power of God – we just can’t explain it any other way.
The next question is one that many people spend their entire lives trying to figure out: For what purpose am I here? This does not refer to your individual gifts or talents or callings, but rather to the vocation of mankind in general. Part of our nature as human beings is to have a purpose to fulfill, and God knew this. He very graciously provided us with a book that addresses this very issue: the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is the recordings of a man (presumably Solomon) who went out into the world to discover the meaning of life. First, he tried wisdom. Then he tried pleasure, then wisdom again, then work. Next he tried solitude, achievement, success and lastly riches. He came up with the same conclusion for each. “This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Finally at the end of the book, the writer states what man’s purpose in life is. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the duty of all mankind.” God created us to have relationship with Him. Yes, he had angels, but the angels were created for service and worship, not intimate relationship and communication. Hebrews 1:14 says “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Angels cannot inherit salvation – they are the servants of those who do: us! No, God wanted people he could love and communicate with in a close friendship. That is the purpose of mankind: to be in communion with God and to keep His commands and fear and glorify Him forever.