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Question

 

Dear gramps,

What is the Church’s stance on philosophy? Do they discourage it? If so why? Is philosophy good or bad?

Will

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Answer

 

Dear Will,

Throughout history some of the greatest philosophers have been outspoken Christians. St. Augustine was among the first to attach Christian theology to philosophy. His version of Christianity was heavily influenced by Plato. He is widely considered to be the first true Christian theologian and he has influenced virtually every Christian sect.

The Church is not against philosophy. BYU has a philosophy department. Philosophy in itself is a wonderful thing and you should never be afraid of learning a new subject. “Philosophy” can’t be good or bad.  It is by nature, the study of ideas and the study of wisdom. Remember that everyone has different ideas on what philosophy is-the only thing two philosophers will ever agree on is that they can’t agree on anything. So does the Church have a problem with philosophy? No. Will they agree with the ideas and views of other philosophers? No.

Some people might be afraid of philosophy because they don’t know much about it. Philosophy is sometimes confused for atheism by people who don’t know about the subject. Remember what I said in the above paragraph: philosophy is about ideas and there many different kinds of philosophers.  Some are atheists. Some are Muslim. Some are Mormon. To be afraid of a subject without being specific about why you are afraid is not a wise life choice. It’s like saying you are afraid of reading because some books are written by people who believe different things than you do. Or like saying you are afraid of science because some people use it for destructive means.

Philosophy is an earthly means to reason out earthly truths.  It is not the avenue we necessarily use to establish eternal truths.  That is what revelation is for.  As long as we use earthly means in a manner that is appropriate, we’re golden.  But when we begin to use earthly means to establish eternal truths, it becomes easy to rely on the arm of flesh rather than the arm of God. The distinction between philosophy and revelation is an important one to remember.

So is philosophy good or bad? That is like me asking you if science is good or bad. It depends on how you use it. If you use science to become a better heart surgeon, than science is good. If you use science to increase global warming for your own gain, than science is bad. If you study philosophy and it leads you closer to God, your study of philosophy is good. If you study philosophy and it causes you to lose your faith, then philosophy is bad.

 

Gramps

 

 

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