History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 4


Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 4
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Pre-Socratic Philosophy

Part 3

V. Worldview Thinking

A. Introduction

B. Four Points

1. Everyone has a worldview.

2. Very few know they have a worldview.

3. Most do not know what their own worldview is.

4. The worldview of most is a conceptual disaster.

C. Five Questions

1. God?

2. Ultimate Reality?

3. Human Knowledge?

4. Ethics?

5. Human Persons?

D. How many worldviews are true? One, God's.

E. Examples of How Worldviews Work

F. Four Tests of a Worldview

1. Reason

2. Outer Experience

3. Inner Experience

4. Practice

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Dr. Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson Transcript


Now before we consider the last. Major thinker of the Pre-socratic era. We're now going to look at another body of material which will set the stage for what follows. And let me clear the blackboard or the whiteboard, and I'm going to give you a little chart that will explain the organization that we'll follow for the rest of today. What we have told you so far is as follows. Point A The significance of my birthday came May 25, 85 B.C. Then we've also given you a brief overview of some of the names and ideas of what we call the Pre-socratic and oh, how I wish that some of you at least would be motivated to go to a library and pick out a book that gives you the full detail of the Pre-socratic. The first time we taped this course for extension students was ten years ago. It was my first semester here. I had retired from my 27 years at Western Kentucky University. I was 55 years old, came here and taught this to a bright group of students. In fact, Maryland, Jeffco, there are no Dean of women was a student in that first class, and she laughed louder than anybody else at my jokes. And I knew she had a great future. Okay. And here she is back on the 10th anniversary, but that it's now time to replace that tape because I now have written my own textbooks for this course. And they're better than the textbooks I used ten years ago and lots of other things. What we're going to do next is turn to the material in Chapter one of life's ultimate questions. I hope I can do this quickly. I hope I can do this in 10 minutes. Chapter one of Life's Ultimate Question.


That chapter is titled World View Thinking. I don't know how much attention you have paid to the notion of world view thinking, but it's been an important part of my teaching and my writing for a long time. In fact, just about every set of lectures I ever give centers on the notion of worldview thinking. I've discussed it in a number of my books WorldViews in Conflict, Faith and Reason. I do think my discussion of worldview thinking in chapter one of the intro book is the best job that I've done. I would also say this if any of you find it relevant, nothing did more to help me organize my thinking on worldview thinking than a number of trips that I took to the Soviet Union in 1991 and 1992, where I had the opportunity to present the differences between the Marxist Leninist worldview, which is naturalism, which we'll talk about in greater detail before this particular class is over, and the Christian worldview, the challenge of being able to talk to thousands of Soviet, Russian and Ukrainian graduate university graduates about the difference between the worldview in which they had been indoctrinated by their Marxist-Leninist superiors and the Christian worldview. That's an opportunity that that doesn't come very often in life. And while, in fact, in the beginning of my book, WorldViews in Conflict, my preface begins by talking about how exciting that first opportunity was. Now you're able to read this chapter one for yourself. So I'm not going to stand here and go over every single detail in that chapter. What I'm going to do instead is cover one basic highlight of that chapter in about a ten minute presentation, and then you can get the rest by reading chapter one carefully. So that's what I want to do.


Then we will begin our investigation of six major worldviews. And the first world view we will study in detail is the worldview called naturalism. That's the worldview that I was dealing with in Russia and Ukraine. But that is a worldview that exists in in a variety of forms. And as I've implied already, the basic worldview of the most of the pre-socratic was a naturalistic worldview and the basic competition to the Christian worldview in the United States of America today is another form of naturalism. Well, let me let me qualify that There are worldviews in California that nobody can explain. The typical worldview of a Californian is can be reproduced by taking a bowl of oatmeal and throwing it against a wall. It's got about that much structure and cohesiveness. Okay, Now I just preached in California. We could do go and I said that and I got a few laughs. They must have been Republicans. Okay, now I've got here. And remember, you're going to read the rest of chapter one yourself. Here is my definition of a worldview. Now, a lot of people have started to write books about worldview, thinking I wasn't the first Gordon age Clark may have been, but here is the best definition I know of a worldview. It is simpler, it is clearer. It is easier to remember than anybody else's definition. A worldview is simply the sum total of answers that people give to the most important questions in life. Take all of the important questions in life that you can think of. Put your answers to those questions together and that's your world view. Now, while this is on the screen, some observations. First observation. Everybody has a worldview, unless they're in a mental institution or unless they're a member of the U.S.


Congress or, you know, things like that. Everybody has a worldview. The world views of children are in the process of development, and the world views of children will tend to reflect the worldviews of their parents if their parents are sober and living a respectable life. A worldview of children will respect. What they learn will will resemble what they learn in school, and heaven help them if they're being trained by the public schools of the United States. Okay, so everybody has a worldview. Another point, hardly anybody knows that they have a worldview. Now I go around the world talking about world views, and I am just absolutely. Frustrated by the discovery that nobody can understand how a person's thinking and behavior is absolutely under the domination and control of whatever their worldview happens to be. At the moment, people don't know this. Moreover, not only do people not know what world views are, people have no comprehension of what their own worldview is. When I taught philosophy at a state university, one of my objectives, one of my hopes was that by the time the course was over, my students would at least have a better idea of what their own worldview was and would begin to understand what was wrong with their worldview. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't. Another point the worldview of most people is a conceptual disaster. It is intellectual anarchy. There is no rhyme or reason to a worldview. As people go through life and pick up one thing and won't from here, from a television program, they pick up another attitude from the movies. What a place to get your worldview. They pick up something else from a psychology course. What a place to pick up. And then a sociology course.


And none of it fits. Part of their worldview may include the belief that human beings are free. Now, this might be the first time you've noticed me moving my hips. Let me explain why that happens, because I don't do it intentionally. Any time I talk about something that's stupid, my hips move, right? And obviously, if I'm talking about something that's stupid, it's somebody else's beliefs, okay? It's not my own. You'll never see my hips moving when I'm talking about my ideas. All right. Now, ask yourself this question. If this is Nash's definition of a worldview, it's the sum total of a person's answers to the most important questions in life. What would a truly brilliant professor put on the screen next? Amen. Amen. You got it, brother. The next overhead would tell you what are life's most important questions. Now, let's just see if that's what I do. Oh, what do you know? There they are. There they are. Now what I give you here are five big questions. There are. There are more parts to a worldview than these five elements. The five major questions of life are generically God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and human persons. Now, let me tell you something else. As your textbook goes through the six sample WorldViews, naturalism, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus Augustine Aquinas, we look at all five issues. We tell you what Plato believed about God, what Plato believed about ultimate reality, what Plato believed about human knowledge and ethics and human persons. You're going to say, Wow. Quoting Robert Schuller again. You're going to give us Plato's whole worldview. Yes. And at no cost. You also get Aristotle's whole worldview. And you want to know something else, even though you won't say along the way. Along the way, you're going to get my worldview.


And before the course is over. If you pass the course, you're going to find that your worldview begins to look a whole lot like mine right now. Because if it doesn't, if it doesn't, you're in real trouble. Not for this course you're in. Okay. Question. How many worldviews are true? One. Just one. Whose worldview is the true worldview. And if you answer Nash, you're wrong, okay? The only worldview we'd better care about is God's worldview. God knows all truth. You, our test, our our objective in life. Our duty in life is to do everything we can to make sure that our personal worldview and the worldview of our families, especially our children, matches as closely as possible with God's worldview. Now, how do we do that? Well, a major part of the Christian worldview tells us that God has revealed propositional truth to us. In what source Scripture. If you don't believe in the revelation, divine revelation, or propositional information from the mind of God to the mind of man, your worldview is wrong. And that's one purpose of this book. Now, don't let the cover confuse you that this cover has been changed. But I love this cover. I love this cover. Do you see the sun? Do you see what appears to be a bird? Any idea what kind of bird that might be? Try a dove. Okay. And you notice how that dove looks like a book. I tell you, I'd like to meet the artist that drew this cover. You need the spirit in the word to know the truth about the worldview that God has made available to us. But what about human speculation? Well, yeah. The world is full of human speculation, and we're going to be looking at the best worldviews that human beings have come up with on their own.


Plato's worldview can be pretty impressive, but when you know the details of it, it's a disaster. All right. He leaves major questions unanswered. In fact, he doesn't even ask the questions. Let me make one more comment here about God. You're going to say, well, what about an atheist? Don't we have to say that in the case of an atheist, he has nothing that occupies the place of God in his system? No, not at all. Everybody has a God. There really is no such thing as an atheist. An atheist is simply a person who says, whatever my supreme being is, it's different from what you Christians and Jews believe in. Well, so what? A person's God is whatever is most important to that person at this particular moment. So there are no atheists. There are no atheists. And people's answer, well, there's no need to go into any more detail about these five points, because that's what we're going to be doing for the next several weeks. Okay. Now, a couple of more pictures. Here are three examples of how worldviews work. The only one I need give you now is the example of a pair of spectacles. Here, let me. Let me pick up this book. Open it up and take off my glasses. All right. I am looking here at a page where I can read. I can make sense of absolutely nothing. I suppose this is a book called Life's Ultimate Questions. Now, even though I cannot read a single word on these pages because I know the author, I believe that whatever it says here is brilliant. Okay. But I can prove that supposition by putting on my spectacles. And all of a sudden what was unclear, what was vague, what was out of focus.


Is now intelligible. Pardon me. This is. Well, this is good. I had read this page in a couple of days. Wow. Did I write this? Yeah. There are no quotation marks, so I wrote it. A world. Most people are going through life trying to make sense of reality, but they're looking at the world through the wrong spectacles. And thus nothing fits. Nothing makes sense. And one of our purposes in life. And listen. Worldview thinking plays an important role in evangelism. When you're telling people about the gospel, you're trying to give them a worldview that will, for the first time in their lives, make sense. A worldview also functions as a map. What we have on the screen is a map of Ohio. Pardon me. There's Cleveland. Do you know if you enter the city of Cleveland, you're going to see a road sign that reads like this. Welcome to Cleveland, the birthplace of Ron Nash. The mistake on the lake. Okay. Imagine taking your family to Cleveland for a vacation. All right. But because. You're a little foolish. You decide to guide yourself around the city of Cleveland by using a map of the city of Pittsburgh. If you do that, no one will ever hear from you again. You will disappear. You might end up where Jimmy Hoffa is. That would be more likely the case. Most people are going through life using the wrong map. They're heading in the wrong direction. They don't know what they're lost. Use any other analogy that you wish. Okay. WorldViews overlap in several ways. These two worldviews could represent Saint Augustine and Ron Nash. Boom. Here are two worldviews that agree on a number of important issues that could represent Aristotle and me. And then finally, here are two people's worldviews who have absolutely nothing in common.


And that would include the next group of people. We're going to talk about the naturalists. Okay. A naturalist worldview has no point of contact with the Christian worldview until these people cheat, which they do all the time. Finally, and I'm skipping a lot of stuff because I'm fact this is a sermon that I'll give in California next weekend after this. No, this weekend I fly out there. I'm leaving out a lot of overheads because of time. There are ways of testing a worldview, ways of testing a worldview. And here are four of the tests. Don't ever believe the nonsense that one world view is as good as another, that a worldview is simply a perspective on life, and that one perspective is as good as another. No, there are ways of testing worldviews, and here are four tests. One of them is the test of reason. That means the law of non contradiction. I'll be saying more about that logical test in the weeks to come. Any set of beliefs that contains a logical contradiction contains an error somewhere. Logical inconsistency is a necessary test of any collection of beliefs. You've got a contradiction in your worldview. You've got an error in your worldview, and you better root it out. The test of our experience, our worldviews ought to fit what we know about the world outside of us. Okay. This may dismay some of you. Maybe I should find a better example, but I'm. Some of you are falling asleep. And the best way to wake you up is to get you mad. Okay. I happen to believe that the universe was created a long time ago. Maybe ten, 12, maybe 15 billion years ago. And one of the reasons I believe that and I you know, if you want to start an argument with this, wait until we turn off the tape.


And one of the reasons I believe that is there are just too many things about the planet on which we live or the universe in which we exist to believe that this was all created 6000 years ago. For me at least, and I'm not teaching, I'm not saying this. I never say anything dogmatically. I never do that. I'm just offering this as an opinion. Okay, An opinion. The test of our experience, our universe is a whole lot older than ten or 1000 years ago. And that is consistent with Scripture. Listen to me. Always. Always. Ladies and gentlemen, whatever I say, whatever I believe, whatever I teach, if it contradicts Scripture, then I am wrong. But there are times, you know, when we have to interpret scripture. And one of those issued literal 24 hour days? I don't think so, but I'm not here to try and change your thinking on that. All right. I'm just the test of inner experience. A worldview should not only fit what we know about the world outside of us, it should also fit what we know about the world inside of us. When I give the longer version of this, and as I will in a California church this weekend, I put out, I talk about naturalism, which is stuff that we'll talk about eventually, although it's looking more and more like it'll be next week or the week after that. But I quote a statement from a famous American astrophysicist named Carl Sagan, who for many years had a public television show. Carl Sagan was, during his lifetime, the quintessential naturalist. He was using public television to to attack the Christian faith. He was using public television to present and propagate and evangelize people in his anti-Christian worldview.


And every worldview ends up sooner or later being religious in nature. So Carl Sagan is most famous for his statement that goes like this The universe is all it is or ever was or ever will be. Carl Sagan. I wish I could say it with his. His voice. Okay. Carl Sagan was diagnosed with a form of Lou Gehrig's disease. And I read somewhere where just before his death, he called his son over to his bedside. His son would have been eight or nine or ten years old. And Carl Sagan put his hand on his son's head and said, I love you, son. And listen, I do get kind of emotional at and I did when I read it, because I can imagine a father saying goodbye to a beloved son. But here's the problem, friends. When your world view is that of naturalism, and we're going to talk more about that as we proceed here. A naturalist really has no right to say that because the kind of love that Carl Sagan was professing for his son is a kind of love that does not and cannot exist in the context of Carl Sagan's worldview. Couple of weeks after reading that story, I had dinner at the Outback Restaurant in Dunn on Red Bug Road with Hugh Ross, who's a Christian astrophysicist, and I mentioned that at you. Ross, incidentally, has written a number of books. Some of them are very good. And I, I mentioned that to you, Ross, and he said, Well, you don't know the whole story about Carl Sagan's death. I said, No, why don't you tell me? He said, Well, do you see Carl Sagan as as I am was an astrophysicist. There are only about 20 astrophysicists in America or some number like that.


And he said, We make up a community, we go to the same meetings. All of us are friends. We know each other, and many of us are Christians. And when the word leaked out that Carl Sagan was dying, one of our Christian asks, one of my Astro physicist Christian colleagues sent an email to Carl Sagan that went like this. He said, Dear Carl, I understand that you have a big test coming up. I hope you're studying for that test, and I hope you're going to pass that test. Now, I trust you get the evangelistic thrust of that message, especially since this message was coming from someone who would frequently witness to Carl Sagan about the Christian faith. A few weeks after that, Carl Sagan sent an email out to all of his astrophysicist friends, and it went like this. It was one sentence that said, Please pray for me. Very few people in the world know The Carl Sagan asked for prayer before he died. Now, let me tell you something. No naturalist, which is the next world view we're going to look at. No naturalist believes in prayer. That is incompatible with a naturalistic worldview. So when a Carl Sagan. Asks people to pray for him. What he's indicating is he has recognized the deficiencies of his naturalistic worldview. I don't well, I'm assuming he understood what was going on. So I don't know. I'll tell you what these three internal questions are or tests are. One of them is love. Love. What is the only kind of love that can exist in a naturalist universe? Answer Erotic love Eros. The Greek word Eros. Sex. But the kind of love we're talking about here is the kind of love that Carl Sagan displayed for his son, the kind of love that every naturalist will want to experience sometime in his life.


It's the kind of love that's reflected in the bird and in the Greek word. In the Greek word, a God pay self-sacrificing love, the kind of love that a father has for a son in which he's willing to die for the son. That's the kind of love Carl Sagan had for his son. Carl Sagan would have been willing to die for his son. But you can't find that kind of love in a naturalistic universe. And I'll give you more reasons why the next time we meet. Second is the sense of duty, of obligation, the inescapable conviction that there is a moral law that binds each of us is, even though we want to ignore it or deny it, read C.S. Lewis as mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis says every time two people disagree. They are both appealing to the same moral standard, and they don't quarrel about whether or not that standard exists. They quarrel about whether or not their behavior actually violated that standard. The moral law, a sense of duty. And then thirdly, the sense of guilt. Now, are there people who never experience guilt? Well, eventually, ultimately, Adolf Hitler reached that place. I guess Joseph Stalin reached that place. Fidel Castro has reached that place. Some members of Congress have reached that place. Okay. Hardening your heart. But I believe that sooner or later there would come a time you've all seen Schindler's List, Spielberg's great film about the Holocaust, and that little girl dressed in the red coat. I guarantee if Adolf Hitler could see that movie today, he would weep. To see what happened to that little girl in the red coat. And he would feel guilt about the little girl and the red coat. And if you don't know what I'm referring to, rent Schindler's List and look for the red coat in a black and white film.


A human being who is incapable of experiencing guilt has ceased being a human being. So those are the inner test. Now, is there an element of personal relativity there? Yeah, people will disagree. Finally, the test to practice a worldview is no good if you can't live it and live it consistently. And the trouble with anti-Christian worldviews is that all of these non-Christians end up cheating because sooner or later they can't be consistent. If they were consistent, they'd all end up in jail. Or they'd all be subordinates under Joseph Stalin and in Stalin's Russia. All right. They'd be out murdering people, killing people. You can't live a worldview consistently unless you're a Christian. Now, if you want more, think detail on that. You think it through for yourself. Okay. And maybe you'll discover that there are things you're doing in your life that aren't consistent with the Christian worldview. But maybe you're not. Maybe you're guilty about those things. Maybe you're not happy about those things or whatever else. So everybody has a worldview. We're not on our own. There are ways in which we can argue for the superiority of one worldview or argue against the rationality and the adequacy of other worldviews.