Steve Wilkens had a problem. He had just gotten a job teaching introductory college courses in philosophy. Now there's nothing wrong with that, except that Wilkens had never actually taken an introductory philosophy course, and he was afraid of the subject. In his latest book, he explains why he was afraid of the subject. In his undergraduate years, he writes, "While no one ever said it explicitly, a message had been quite effectively communicated from all the sources I relied on for good advice: Stay away from philosophy. It isn't the type of thing that is good for a Christian. In fact, it is downright dangerous. It may not be on any list of official psychological disorders, but I had a severe case of 'philosophobia,'" he says. Nonetheless, while on his way to a Ph.D. in theology, Wilkens came to realize that he couldn't understand that subject fully without learning something about philosophy, since "the two disciplines kept intersecting." It's hard to avoid the conclusion that God was leading Wilkens in a direction he himself would never have considered. Today, he's a philosophy professor at Azusa Pacific University. And he has a healthy "respect for philosophy and its value to Christians." His latest book Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans explains the value of philosophy. It's a much-needed book, because as Wilkens points out, he's not the only Christian who has ever experienced "philosophobia." Even such great Christian minds as the third-century writer Tertullian expressed doubts about the usefulness of philosophy to Christians. It was Tertullian who asked the famous question, "What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?" Well, according to Wilkens -- and I agree -- there is a lot. My undergraduate degree is in political philosophy. As I look back on those studies -- and the mental habits that they developed -- I see how they formed the roots of my passion for worldview. Ideas can be potent, and, sure, they can be "dangerous," but that is all the more reason for Christians not to be afraid of them, but to understand them. For if we don't study the great minds who shaped our world, we'll fail to understand how the people around us today think. Their worldviews will be incomprehensible to us, and we'll have little to offer to challenge those worldviews. Not only that, but we also fail to learn the truths that the great philosophers can teach. Now, I understand the concerns. As Wilkens writes, "It is hard to deny that we frequently get very nervous about what is new and 'outside the box.' In fact, it seems that many Christians view themselves as doing God's work by making the box as small as possible." Yet we can learn from both the wisdom of the past and the mistakes of the past. This requires, however, a clear Christian worldview. That's what safeguards us against dangerous ideas. If we have that solid, unshakeable foundation from which to view the passing fads of philosophy, and to help sort out the true from the false, then we have nothing to be afraid of and a great deal to learn from the world of philosophy. Indeed, the more philosophy I study today, and compare it to my own biblical worldview, the stronger my faith becomes.


Chuck Colson


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