So I had this class back in college. I can't remember the title exactly, but it was something like "Communication Rhetoric." Being at that time only a twenty-year-old, future homeschooling mom, I wasn't familiar with the term 'rhetoric.' But it was a head-banging, frustrating study of modern 'philosophers' who poured all their energy into talking about precisely nothing. If it wasn't required for my major, I would have dropped it. As the only believer in the class, I just couldn't figure out what anyone else found so compelling in all this navel-gazing...
...which brings me to Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner.
That was painful.
What I have a problem with is not the study of philosophy. That is a worthy pursuit for people who want to understand the course of our culture, who want to love God with all their mind. What I have a problem with is a study of philosophy which is not grounded by Truth.
But first, let me tell you about the other problems I have with Sophie's World. As a novel, it falls flat. The plot is so bizarre, it feels like something from the Twilight Zone. The characters are dislikable. Sophie is bratty, disrespectful, and rabidly feminist. Alberto is supposed to be mysterious, but he's just moody and strange, with a disturbing infatuation for the UN and one-world governments. Sophie's mother, the only authority figure, is daft and out of control of her household.
Alberto takes Sophie on a trip through history, highlighting major philosophers along the way. In fact, the book covers everyone from Democritus to Freud. (Just shoot me now.) He serves up every philosophy with equal respect, as if every philosophy has an equal shot at being Truth. I guess that's what one should expect from a book on philosophy written in a post-modern age.
This is ghastly stuff. And ghastly stuff needs the grounding of God's Word. Sophie's World has the wrong starting point. Don't get me wrong; there are a few bright spots in this history. Socrates gave us the Socratic discussion. Aristotle gave us classifications. The Reformation responded well to the humanist Renaissance. Descartes argued for an innate understanding of a Supreme Being. There's also Kant's Categorical Imperative. (But, um, I think Jesus got that one first.) Then we head downhill again with Hegel, Marx, Darwin, and Freud.
That's the story from the ground.
But from 10,000 feet and a God's-eye-view (thanks to the Scripture), we get another picture.
Man has always wrestled with the questions, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" But the answers are already there for us. We have the general revelation of Creation and Conscience; we have the special revelation of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. And the real 'lover of Wisdom' will go where the wisdom actually resides. Almost to a man, the philosophers in this book resisted real wisdom: beginning with the fear of the Lord. These men aren't lovers of wisdom; they are fools.
When Darwin tells us we all came from a common ancestor rather than a sovereign Creator, he denies Imago Dei. And we should understand that abortion and euthanasia are just Darwinism taken to its logical conclusion. When Hume says that we should let experience define reality for us, we should respond that the heart is deceptively wicked above all things. When Freud tells us to blame our environment rather than our depravity, we should remember that it was in a perfect Paradise that Adam fell, and the entire human race with him. When a man like Pablo Picasso paints a picture and culture calls it 'art,' we have the hopelessness of nihilism to thank.
How does one arrive at a place of understanding about who we are and why we are here if we don't acknowledge Him who is the First Cause and the Final End? We don't. And they didn't. Centuries of philosophy and they are no closer to Truth.
As ironic as it may sound, I'm more interested in my children learning to love Wisdom because, in the end, I don't care if they can identify a 'fragmented world view' nearly as much as if they can identify a fallen world, corrupted by sin, and redeemed by the Cross.
In the end, I'm looking to raise REAL philosophers, not fools.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..." Romans 1:18-22
*For a grounded study of philosophy, I recommend:
The Consequences of Ideas by RC Sproul and
Understanding the Times by David A. Noebel