The Black Cuillin, Skye
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Simple Faith and Hard Going continue their conversation. SF asks what philosophy has to do with preaching.

SF: Gosh, imagine meeting you again! Where have you been?
HG: A pleasure meeting again, always a pleasure. I wasn’t far away, just down the road.
SF: Still doing philosophy?
HG: Of course, but it’s not that important.
SF: What do mean, not important? I thought we were going to discuss Dooyeweerd’s aspects!
HG: Can we leave that just now, there’s a possible misunderstanding I want to clear up. It’s been worrying me.
SF: Go ahead, tell me about it.

Faith and reason

HG: Well, you see, you’re a person of faith, I’m a person of faith. We both believe the Bible is God’s word, although it was a struggle for me, certainly, for many years. You see, I was using my reason, which is what philosophers do and I thought preachers should be answering my questions from the pulpit. But now I realise that it’s not the preacher’s job.
SF: So what’s the preacher’s job?

The preacher’s job

HG: Well, it’s not in the realm of ‘theoretical thought’, which can be very boring, as you know, but in the realm of what Dooyweerd calls ‘naive experience’. That’s the world of ordinary life experience to you and me. The preacher’s job is pastoral, to tell people the good news which God has revealed in the Bible; to apply the Gospel to real life. As Troost says: ‘In faith we know, even without academic study, that the meaning of our life is to serve and glorify God, to live in love for God and our fellow man. In principle this says everything about the meaning of human life.’
SF: So, sorry, I think I said this before, what point then is there in philosophy?
HG: It’s to understand why people think as they do and often nowadays reject the Gospel.
SF: You think their refusal has something to do with philosophy?
Loch Earn, Stirlingshire
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The spirit of the age

HG: I do. The spirit of the age. Things start with the philosophers , for example, Francis Schaeffer mentioned the key figures of Kant, Rousseau, Hegal and Kierkegaard. There are many others. Their ideas percolate to the art community, the media, films, literature and even into theology. They put their own gloss on things. Ordinary people soak up these ideas without even thinking.
SF: Do you mean that people can resist God, or ignore Him or what?
HG: Of course, for example, the more people believe in naturalism, in opposition to theism, the easier it becomes.
SF: Naturalism being?

Naturalism and science

HG: The belief that there’s no God, that everything can be explained naturalistically. The philosopher Alvin Platinga thinks the real conflict is not between science and religion but between science and naturalism. Naturalism is like a worldview, it apparently answers the big questions, but it has no scientific ground for that according to Platinga.
SF: I see, so it’s important to understand where these ideas come from because they’re so imbedded in modern life, but if it’s not the preacher’s job. Whose job is it then?
HG: The philosopher’s, of course, and the theologian’s to a lesser extent.
SF: And Dooyeweerd has done this, you think?
HG: Yes, I do. Philosophy can only deal with theoretical thought, of course, not faith. But he goes as far as philosophy can go and he points to why faith makes sense.
SF: Can we come back to the aspects some day? I’ve got a lot of questions.
HG: I’d love to.

Glendale, Skye
(Photo: Scott Murray)