The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David, 1787
The whole counsel of God is not solely political, nor is it solely theological, nor solely philosophical, nor solely literal, nor solely metaphorical, nor solely ontogenetical, nor solely naturalistic, nor solely national, nor solely transnational, etc.
The whole counsel of God is the compatibility of all these. Without the whole counsel of truth, then we will operate in a partial understanding. This partial understanding may be necessarily subjective, but ultimately the concern is that there be an understanding about the whole counsel of God. I am not arguing against the relative demand of subjective understandings, however, I do believe that we must revisit the totality of God’s counsel so that we can better keep in mind the nature of truth.
Civilizations have risen and fallen throughout the span of human existence. What does this mean though? What have these civilizations offered? Well, I can tell you that these civilizations, great in their grandeur, have offered a significant natural representation of the whole counsel of God, and more specifically in the formulation of America. The apologist Ravi Zacharias writes in his book Light in the Shadow of Jihad, “[Jerusalem has offered the moral conscience; Greece (Athens) has offered the philosophical backdrop; Rome has offered the legal and political frame; and London has offered the cultural ethos that carried into America’s early years” (29). Knowing this then, why do so many Americans seem to operate without compatibility–insisting that one of these frameworks is to be so highly elevated while denying the necessity of the others? This understanding of compatibility is the desirable impression of education in our society. Without this understanding of compatibility, then we may very well be subject to fits of inadequacy, misunderstanding, and unnecessary fervor. Christ himself appears to be this understanding by positing himself as the answer and the ultimate incorporation of all these components to the whole counsel of God when he says: “I am the way [Roman political strategy], the truth [addressing the Greeks in their search for truth], and the life [addressing the moral conscience of dead religion in Jewish custom]” (John 14:6).
Lately, it has seemed to me in my awakened dreams and passions of good, that American society has chosen to neglect the philosophical and thus, I am stirred to raise awareness about this particular framework. Philosophy is the personification of wisdom, and not merely the love of wisdom. While theology may be the “Queen of the Sciences,” philosophy is the resolute and steadfast Handmaiden of Theology–inseparable, unwavering, and devoted to the pursuit of truth. Just as St. Augustine, while reading Cicero’s Hortensius, was stirred to an honest love for wisdom, so too do I hope that our society might be awakened, and rekindled for wisdom, and thereby put off the vitriol sentiments that are often associated with the study of philosophy–especially within the Christian Church.
Do you see? Philosophy is a component of the whole counsel of God; how does it operate then? Philosophy challenges the presuppositions of man in their dogmatism: it is the act of critical thinking; much like how Jesus challenged the religious dogmatism of his day (Mark 7; Matthew 15). Philosophy is an essence of godliness that instills in us the yearning for meaning. Philosophy appears to be understood in the Biblical Scriptures as having feminine characteristics, and is personified therein (Prov. 4:13). The medieval philosopher Boethius noticed this, and gave sight to her beauty in his Consolation of Philosophy where she “appeared standing above [Boethius], a woman of majestic countenance whose flashing eyes seemed wise beyond the ordinary wisdom of men” (3). One should ask, since wisdom is personified in the Scriptures, is that not a call to adore such? To venerate such (my Roman Catholic friends might be attentive at this point). Surely, within the abiding covenant of Christ we can rest in such adoration– given that our hearts are holy-sanctified by the Spirit. Please take heed to understand the essence of this exhortation. Principally the essence of this exhortation is to give an exhortation to philosophy as that necessary component of the whole counsel of God, and thereby sanctify its rightful, and dare I say, holy place.
Interestingly enough, the role of philosophy seems to also be a primary importance in education. Many are unaware that the natural sciences themselves were fashioned by the philosopher Aristotle, and therein he accentuated the purity of philosophy as the foundation for all academic pursuit. Furthermore, the majority of educational exhortations in the Scriptures are from the known Books of Wisdom:
For wisdom [is] a defence, [and] money [is] a defence: but the excellency of knowledge [is, that] wisdom giveth life to them that have it. Ecclesiastes 7:12
How much better [is it] to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! Proverbs 16:16
Take fast hold of instruction; let [her] not go: keep her; for she [is] thy life. Proverbs 4:13
The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding. Proverbs 9:10
What are the downsides to philosophy? Clearly the apostle warns the Church, “not to be deceived by vain [hollow and deceptive] philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). However, exposing this passage in its literal context is important. First and foremost, the early Church, especially those inhabited by Greeks, were prone to the peripatetic nature of philosophy during that time i.e. an appearance of godliness in the Greek philosophers whilst they remained not in profession of the saving power of Christ. That “vain philosophy, which depends on human tradition…rather than on Christ” was precisely the type of pagan philosophy that depended upon itself rather than upon Christ; in no manner do we find such aforementioned pagan philosophy good, for such philosophy was bred adjacent to the sound doctrines of the Christian Church (e.g. Gnosticism, Arianism, Modalism, etc.) However, this warning is NOT a reason to avoid philosophy, nor is it a reason to not engage in philosophy. The apostle Paul is NOT telling Christians to avoid philosophy, but rather not to be deceived by vain philosophy; the apostle Paul might as well be saying “gird up the loins of you understanding” and develop yourself so that you will NOT be deceived by any sort of philosophy (1 Peter 1:13). As one of my dear professors has mentioned: we cannot escape philosophy because immediately after such an apostolic exhortation to not be deceived we might then ask “what is vain philosophy?”
Given the nature of the current political climate, I cannot help but think that there is not enough philosophical undertaking going on. To be quite honest, there isn’t even high-level rhetoric going on–the general theme nowadays is one of misinformation, a severe lack in wisdom, and, adequately enough, an ignorance on display that is so apparent and egregious that there is seemingly no wisdom to be found in it, of consideration, that is.
I’d like to propose one solution: ask questions. Do not assume your understanding of the mind of another, rather seek the truth in the dialogue through asking questions, challenging understanding, and pursuing the Heart at which the relativity of ideas resides. Plato said that “philosophy begins in wonder,” and as true as this statement is, we would be wise to engage ourselves in the act of wonder and enchantment for the sake of returning back upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the apostles, His prophets, and the inspiration of Holy Scripture.
All my love in Christ,
Lance H. Gracy