Philosophies Men live By but Don’t Realize It

Surely it can’t be coincidence or accident that in God’s so-called silent years when He only spoke by the written Word and the visible Word of Old Testament Sacraments that the great philosophers did their speaking?  Between the Word of the Lord coming to Malachi and John the Baptist Socrates (469-399 B.C.), Plato (427-347 B.C.), and Aristotle (384-322) B.C. filled the “void.”  Most don’t give these philosophers or their respective philosophies much consideration outside of their one college required course on the subject.  For my part, I agree with Pasternak in Dr. Shivago.  Philosophy is a great condiment, but it makes a lousy entrée. Now, however, it’s the main course of modern life, yet most don’t know it.

Take self-esteem.  Before the 70s, it was not a quality men generally lived by or aspired to.  Now lack of self-esteem or even low self-esteem is the sine qua non of most social, psychological, and even spiritual problems.  Most of us assume that the discovery of the pivotal, even primal, roll of self-esteem has some scientific basis – even if be in the so-called soft science, psychology.  Nope; its roots are in philosophy.

Nathaniel Brandon became known as the father of the self-esteem movement in the 70s and 80s.  What I didn’t know was that at age 19 he became the protégé of philosopher Ayn Rand who was 25 years his senior.  When he was 24 they became lovers and that affair, with the full knowledge and “acceptance” of their spouses, lasted for 14 years (Ayn Rand and the World She Made, 376ff).  So the “profound” psychological truth, self-esteem, is rooted in the philosophy of radical individualism espoused by Rand.  Self-esteem is not an objective fact discovered by psychology but a philosophical goal of a particular philosophy.

Take evolution. It’s not kept in place by errant science but errant philosophy.  Thomas Kuhn’s seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions shows that in order for any new scientific discovery to be made there has to be a paradigm shift.  In order for that to happen the outliers in any scientific experiment, the facts that don’t fit the current paradigm, become so numerous they cannot be ignored any longer.  Evolutionists reject the outliers in their theory:  The fossil record that reveals no “missing” links.  The law of biogenesis that says life must come from life.  The empirical data that show things are winding down not building up.  Finally, their philosophy rejects the possibility of the divine, of the supernatural, of mankind being anything more than chemical combinations.

And philosophy has won.  Jacques Barzun in his encyclopedic work From Dawn to Decadence after briefly going over the conflict between Luther and Erasmus says Erasmus won (16).  It is his approach to life and truth that has prevailed. He certainly has in the visible church.  Toleration, open-mindness, and lack of assertions characterize the visible church.  Churches practice open Communion with confessions of faith that directly contradict their own because they are not sure their confession is true or that another’s is false or that truth can be known at all.

Of course this philosophy doesn’t come from the big three mentioned at the beginning.  This has come from the moderns and post-moderns, and these philosophers have done far more damage in the church in this age where God’s Word can sound from pulpits, radios, TV, computers, and cell phones then the big three ever did in the silent years.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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