Kontemplation is King
(Don’t you hate it when people misspell just to be alliterative?)
On the matter of God’s existence, theists and atheists would likely agree that if there is a supreme, supernatural creator, he is not physical at all but instead an unembodied mind. If this is true, and God does exist, then because we are minds as well, albeit embodied ones, it seems rational to believe that one of the best ways to apprehend truths about God is through concentrated and deliberate thought about him. That’s a philosophical endeavor and one of the reasons, as I suggested yesterday, that philosophy may be preeminent of all the academic disciplines.
The Greek word “philosophia” means love of wisdom. In the New Testament, the only use of the word appears at first read to put philosophy in a bad light. In his letter to the Colossians Paul says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”1 In context, especially how he goes on in this verse to further describe what he is warning against, it’s clear he’s referencing a particular use of philosophy, one that was man-centered instead of fully incorporating and elevating knowledge of the divine.
But in the Bible we are encouraged, even expected, to love wisdom…to engage in philosophy. Proverbs 8 is a prime example, where wisdom is personified calling out to all who would listen to get wisdom, describing it as more precious than gold, silver, or jewels. Almost every one of the 31 Proverbs speaks of the value and supremacy of wisdom, which is to be expected since it is categorized in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. And in the New Testament as well, where wisdom is identified with Christ2, we are taught that though much of what constitutes as worldly wisdom is to be largely rejected, the wisdom of God is to be sought and received.3
So when we ponder, contemplate, and cogitate existentiality, what can we learn? Well, if one is unaccustomed to concentrated thought, and I suppose even if one is naturally contemplative, the first thing you might learn is that you’re hungry or need to use the facilities. But if you take care of those issues and return to the thinking position, there’s quite a bit you can deduce about the reality of God from philosophical propositions alone. Philosophical arguments for the existence of God take a variety of forms, all logical and coherent whose conclusions follow necessarily from the premises. Whether or not you accept the truth of the premises will determine whether the argument works for you.
Five of these deductive arguments for God’s existence are:
- The Cosmological Argument from Contingency
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument based on the Beginning of the Universe
- The Moral Argument based upon Moral Values and Duties
- The Teleological Argument from Fine-Tuning
- The Ontological Argument from the Possibility of God’s Existence to His Actuality
Philosopher William Lane Craig has an excellent and extensive overview of these arguments on his Reasonable Faith website here, where he also responds to objections to them from atheists like Richard Dawkins. It’s worth a read. I find them intriguing and thoroughly compelling.
I’ve never formally studied philosophy but I am the contemplative type and the discipline has long piqued my interest. Some of the concepts can be quite difficult to grasp but others are accessible to all in their most basic form. As a young adult and before I became a follower of Christ, I bought a book on ten philosophical ideas, or something like that. Never did get through it. When I as a new believer was confronted with some of the worldly, naturalistic employs of philosophy, I threw the book out, thinking that philosophy was antithetical to my faith. It’s not. Philosophy is a tool, if you will, for discovery, just like the scientific method is. And far from being a sinister stratagem of Satan (which is not what I thought, but…close), philosophy, the love of wisdom, is a primary way we come to know God. And more so, it’s how we love him with our minds.4