C.S. Lewis wrote these words to his friend Dom Bede Griffiths on January 8th, 1936. Lewis was concerned that Griffiths was too enamored with Eastern philosophies and that he was vulnerable of diluting his Christian faith. This is a good illustration of the sort of deceptive philosophy we are admonished to avoid by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 2. Philosophy in general should not, however, be seen as an enemy of theology.
The Middle Ages recognized theology as the “queen of the sciences” and philosophy as “her handmaid.” Since the word science simply means “knowledge,” it makes perfect sense that both theologians and scientists give emphasis to philosophy, “the love of knowledge or wisdom.” But enough with definitions and etymology.
While philosophy offers us no abiding city, it does point us to one. Philosophy helps to connect the dots that span the ultimate questions every human being must face. That’s why the Apostle Paul took time in Acts 17 to dialogue with the Athenian philosophers. Paul’s statement, “In him we live and move and have our being,” touches at the heart of some of philosophy’s deepest questions. It was actually a quote from the philosopher Epimenides from Crete. Paul presented the Gospel as the answer to the perennial questions of philosophy.
The Stoics were among the philosophers present at Mars Hill for Paul’s famous sermon (Acts 17). They held that there was a “divine animating principle pervading the universe” which they called the Logos (or the word). Heraclitus and Aristotle used the term before them, but the Stoics considered it to be an ultimate reality. To use a philosophical word, they considered the Logos to be a metaphysical truth.
Thus, when the Apostle John begins his gospel he states, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God….And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14). Like Paul, John used a framework his readers would understand to introduce them to the living Son of God: The Word Incarnate.
To be continued.