Ben Holloway

Philosophy for Ministry

Plato thought that philosophers should rule. In contrast, Christian philosophers ought to serve.

Throughout the history of the church, God has called Christian philosophers to help missionaries, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and counselors in all sorts of ways including the following:

  • Defending the Christian Faith against objections
  • Refuting false teaching
  • Thinking through issues methodically and rationally
  • Aiding the theological task
  • Building intellectual confidence
  • Integrating beliefs into coherent whole
  • Understanding nonbelievers

Christian Philosophers, J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig suggest that there are six ways in which philosophers can help the ministry of the church (Moreland and Craig, 16-19).

Apologetics – when an objection is made against Christianity it is almost always a philosophical objection or involves a philosophical assumption. Just consider the following objections: (i) there is no evidence for the existence of God (ii) miracles are impossible (iii) the presence of evil in the world entails that God does not exist (iv) How do we know that the bible is true? (v) How can Christianity be the only way to God? (vi) That might be true for you but not for me (vii) How do you know that Jesus was raised from the dead. All these objections require some philosophical thought to provide a good answer.

Polemics – the church is called upon to criticize and refute false views. One important way to refute erroneous views is by philosophical argument.

Expression of Image of God – If God has made us in his image and this entails that we think like him, then we should be trained to use our mental faculties to the greatest measure. Thinking rationally, ethically, and deeply about the most fundamental questions of truth, reality, logic, language, knowledge, and values is to use one’s mental faculties at the highest level, getting the most out of what God has given us (parable of the talents)

As a ‘handmaid’ to theology – In the academy, a Christian philosopher’s primary master is theology, the ‘queen of the sciences’. We serve by (a) clarifying concepts and statements, (b) “extending biblical teaching to issues on which the Bible is not clear/explicit, (c) enhancing the study of the Bible through aiding interpretation skills, and (d) aiding the reading of theologians who employ philosophy in their works.

Enhancing the confidence of the Christian in the world – (a) “Historically, philosophy has been the main discipline that has aided the church in its intellectual relationship with unbelievers. Because of the very nature of philosophy itself—its areas of study and their importance for answering ultimate questions, the questions it asks and answers, its closeness to theology—the potential of this discipline for enhancing the self-respect of the believing community is enormous.” (M&C, 18). This is as true now as it was in Justin Martyr, Origen, and even in Tertullian’s time! (b) Philosophical skills are very demanding! So, developing philosophical skills will give us more power to contribute to our own Christian community and more confidence in what we believe. 

Essential for integration – Integration is the act of blending, combining all our beliefs from all the disciplines into a coherent whole. In a whole host of ways, philosophers specialize in integrating beliefs into a coherent system.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.