On the Dangers of Philosophy, Religion, Theology, and Apologetics
by Christian Thomas Golden
I like to read. I like to write. Sometimes I might come across as a “Christian Existentialist.” Other times, I sound like an apologetic. Many times, I probably just sound like some sort of confused man anxiously grasping at straws. Once in a while, I might even sound a bit like a theologian.
These are all uninformed, uneducated guesses. Nonetheless, I’ve read quite a bit (albeit, incompletely) that leads me to believe I might sound like a sort of “jack-of-all-ideas” (master of none).
Now, I’m not trying to go all “hipster” on whoever you are, my reader (and I’m certainly not saying anything that hasn’t already been said over and over again by various people of much more influence [and with much more experience, education, and training] than myself). Still, allow me to explain what I believe are the dangers/perils of subscribing to any philosophy, religion, theology, or any other label/title.
I’ve been driven by labels, titles, categories, ideals, theories, and the like throughout my life. Looking back, I see it most prevalent in my late teens, early twenties.
In my teens I was driven by (1) a sort of Gothic image (always wearing red and black clothing with dragon designs and dismissing/criticizing all things to the contrary), (2) metal music (dismissing/criticizing all other music), and (3) my reputation as “that crazy kid” (a defense mechanism against bullying whereby I allowed myself to simmer in judging others).
In my twenties my obsession over ideals transferred to things with more of a “righteous” appearance: contemporary Christian music, smile, talk more (be more friendly), judging no one (assuming the best of everybody), rejecting any negative/uncomfortable thing that “tried to come against me.”
I do not doubt that I still do (and always will) be driven by labels, titles, ideals, categories, and the like. I just hope that as I grow older, this will become less.
“36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Now, to be sure, that is an ideal. However, it is also the ideal. It is the way of life from which one’s thoughts, feelings, words, and actions spring. Even if I do not follow this commandment perfectly (for no one can), my thoughts, feelings, words, and actions spring forth from my imperfect relation to that ideal.
What does this have to do with the dangers of philosophy, religion, theology, the apologetic mode of thinking/writing, and all other labels, categories, and titles?
This love that God has called us to is to be the root of all we are. Once we subscribe to (root ourselves in) any label, title, or category, we tarnish the ability to successfully complete God’s calling in our lives as written above.
Even if I simply say, “I am a follower of the greatest commandment,” we might not mean anything by it.
When asked who I am, I say, “Christian Golden, what’s your name?” I then am whatever’s within me. For all of my outworkings are reflections of what’s within me.
Labeling is a two-fold danger: (1) it can give the illusion that I am what I am not [whereby I might even deceive myself], and (2) it can give the illusion that I am not what I am [again, potentially deceiving myself].
I will leave you with a few related scriptures:
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
“20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”