Monday, September 28, 2015

What I read on my summer vacation: Philosopher's edition

When I was in college, the last class I would have picked for an elective was philosophy. Who needed to learn about a bunch of dead Greek guys sitting around in their togas pondering the meaning of existence? The subject seemed boring and highly impractical. As a Christian, thinking also seemed to be at odds with spirituality, so I never thought much about what I believed and why, let alone what others believed.

When I went through a personal crisis in my 40's, a crisis of faith soon followed. Where was God in all of this? What was He really like? Why was this happening to me? These were philosophical questions even though I did not know it at the time. Thankfully through a new church and exposure to sound Biblical teaching, I regained my bearings. At the same time, I realized that I sorely needed to know what I believed and why I believed it.  In short, I needed to become a Berean, which meant learning how to think as a Christian.

So here are a few books that I read this summer to help me discipline my mind in this way:

Prelude to Philosophy: An Introduction for Christians - Mark W. Foreman
If Christians are to be people of the truth, we need to be wise about what goes in our minds. As we seek to share the truth, we also need to be careful to convey our beliefs with clarity and without manipulation. Thus in the first half, the book covers the importance of thinking critically about what we believe and its importance specifically for Christians. In the second half, the reader is introduced to principles of logic and argumentation. This was a very enjoyable read and not dry at all. The author is a professor of religion and philosophy at Liberty University.

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments - Ali Almossawi
A fallacy is a misleading or unsound argument. I've used them without realizing it, and you may have, too. So what better way to learn what they are and how to avoid them than through clever illustrations with furry critters? A version of the book is available online.

With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies - S. Morris Engel
This is a much more thorough treatment of informal fallacies and argumentation than the previous book. I'm still working my way through, but this book has given me a lot to consider and challenged me to be as logical as possible when trying to make a point. I was pleasantly surprised to find cartoons from the Far Side as examples of the different fallacies. This is a college text so the latest edition is a bit pricey, but it's possible to find less expensive, used copies of earlier editions.

The Consequences of Ideas - R.C. Sproul (audio/video series)
Sproul gives a great overview of the history of philosophy from ancient Greece to the present. Whether we realize it or not, we are influenced by schools of thought from the past. Therefore, it can be very helpful to be able to recognize the source of ideas, both the good and the bad. In my opinion, Sproul can make any subject interesting, and this is no exception.  Keep an eye on the Ligonier $5 Friday specials to get these lectures on sale.

No comments:

Post a Comment