Philosophy, as opposed to Theology and religion

The advent of Christianity seems to have unnecessarily dominated all ideals of philosophy, whose agenda is to grant understanding to humanity. Jesus, Himself, was the greatest philosopher who ever lived. Unfortunately, His followers, later, became imbued in religion, more than appreciating and understanding His teachings. It is the aspect of worship that threw Christians away from Christian philosophy.

Like Christianity itself, philosophy became vilified by zealous Christians, associating it with the esoteric Scholars of this world. Yet, Christianity also became vilified by the esoteric philosophers, associating Christianity with the religions of this world. Both Christianity and philosophy needed balance, in order to adopt freedom. The Collins Dictionary defines philosophy as follows:

“The academic discipline concerned with making explicit, the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs and investigating the intelligibility of concepts by means of rational argument concerning their presuppositions, implications, and interrelationships; in particular, the rational investigation of the nature and structure of reality (Metaphysics), the resources and limits of knowledge (epistemology), the principles and import of moral judgment (ethics), and the relationship between language and reality (semantics).”

Apparently, this definition does not contradict the teachings of Jesus. It can only be the zealots who assume that salvation is earned through religiosity. But religion can be described as another form of slavery. There is no freedom in religion, just as there cannot be freedom in ignorance. The beneficiaries of Christ’s miracles were not free unless acquiring the disseminated knowledge from His teachings.

The Greek philosophers of ancient times were not as great as Jesus was great. Yet our modern education is primarily based on Greek Philosophies. Those philosophers may have carried some belief in some deity, like everyone else. But their discoveries were through some scientific researches. The Christian Zealots of Galileo’s time could not come to terms with the scientific discoveries of Galileo.

I suppose, as far as those zealots were concerned, all knowledge ought to have come miraculously, more than logically. Yet, even where miracles are employed, the skeptical humanity chooses not to believe. In their religious posture, the Jews could not believe Jesus, even when His miracles ought to have proved His reality. They were obsessed with the past, rather than appreciating what was in their present time.

“So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’” (John 6:30-33) (NIV).

Those Jews had observed many miracles, proving that Jesus was the Messiah. They also had listened to His teachings, revealing actual truths about the God they had all along professed to believe in. But they still wanted to see a sign that identified with the past and not a miracle that identified with the present time.

We have to dig deeper, to find the actual problem that caused those Jews to remain unbelieving. They had the greatest philosopher in their midst, providing them with knowledge, directly coming from God. At one stage, Jesus indicated that their problem emanated from their being of an adulterous generation.

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’ He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’” (Matthew 12:38-40) (NIV).

Jesus was speaking to those of an adulterous generation, who could not understand the logically simplistic teachings of Jesus. They had the miraculous story of the Prophet Jonah, having been in the belly of the fish for three days. And yet Jonah went to preach at Ninevah, having spent three days in the belly of the fish.

A similar miracle was manifested in Jesus, buried for three days and three nights, before His resurrection. Great as that miracle ought to have been, to common men, those Jews could still not believe Jesus. All this proves that it is not miraculous signs, nor logical philosophies that make the unbelieving ones believe.

The blinding factor comes from the same source, as now enveloping the Theologians of our time. It is only recently, that I discovered why it cannot be possible for Theologians to understand the simplistic teachings of Jesus. This is when considering the time and effort, invested in Theological studies, by such Scholars.

“Jesus said, ‘For judgment, I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:39-41) (NIV).

It is most unlikely that this particular Scripture connects with Theologians? I would totally be surprised if it does. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Theology and Philosophy are not related. They are driven by two distinct factors:

“Into the High Middle Ages, Augustine’s views were widely defended. It was during this time however that St. Thomas Aquinas offered yet another model for the relationship between philosophy and theology. According to the Thomistic model, philosophy and theology are distinct enterprises, differing primarily in their intellectual starting points. Philosophy takes as its data the deliverances of our natural mental faculties: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. These data can be accepted on the basis of the reliability of our natural faculties with respect to the natural world. Theology, on the other hand, takes as its starting point the divine revelations contained in the Bible. These data can be accepted on the basis of divine authority, in a way analogous to the way in which we accept, for example, the claims made by a physics professor about the basic facts of physics” (1. Philosophy and Christian Theology) (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Apparently, the Thomistic model assumes that divine revelation has got nothing to do with the natural mental faculties. Such a theory is not divorced from those desiring to see miraculous signs, before believing in Jesus. Such viewpoint seeks to disqualify common sense, as premised on logic. It seeks to justify that complicated reasoning is more important than common reasoning.

When dismissing the Jewish narrative that Jesus was guilty of an offense, Governor Pilate was using common sense. He was not a believer but was using common reasoning when declaring that he could not find a justifiable reason for crucifying Jesus. (John 18:38).

As far as Theologians are concerned, ordinary men cannot understand, the things of God. Except by divine revelations, as contained in Scriptures. Their reasoning, therefore, seeks to advance a theory that Pluto should never be taken seriously, as not having used Scriptures. Neither should the pioneers of modern science, like Newton, be treated as having received understanding from God.

Interestingly, even among Christians, themselves, one cannot be taken seriously, as long as not coming from any of the esoteric Theological Colleges. This is exactly what disturbed the Pharisees, and the Jews. Those Jews could not appreciate that God’s truth could come from a man as despicable and uneducated as Jesus.

Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”  (John 7:14-15) (NIV).

There is nothing wrong with believing in the Bible. But a truthful person cannot fight against scientific discoveries, for instance. A true Christian is humble and willing to accept the truth, regardless of which angle that truth comes from. In His conversation with Pilate, Jesus said something that remains hidden from our beloved Theologians:

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this, he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:37-38) (NIV).

Jesus did not bring a complicated religion, as to require expositions from the esoteric Theologians. Jesus brought the simplistic, but philosophical principles enjoined in true love. His parables sought to show that simplicity. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan, as an example. What can be said to be religious about that parable?

While Jesus mustered the twelve, not a single one of those disciples had some esoteric connection. Most of His time was spent with the considered uneducated of this world. It was, actually, embarrassing to be associated with Jesus. This is why Nicodemus had to come to Him by night, rather than coming to Him, openly.

Currently, there is no other religion that attracts followers more than the Christian religion. Yet, also appearing as if there is no other religion with deceived people, more than in the Christian religion. This brings us to a simple anecdote: One is deceived when carrying an idea that he already knows everything about Christianity.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) (NIV).

There may not be any simpler Scripture than this one. But, perhaps there is no other Scripture, more despised than this one. This can be judged when observing what prevails in Christian communities. I can confess that in my Christian experiences, I have listened to the most wonderful and edifying preachers. Yet my only trepidation remains focused on the violation of this particular Scripture.

The teachings of Jesus are replete with emphasizing the idea of humility, more than anything else. Jesus specifically stressed this point to his disciples, when washing their feet. There is no record of any one of them having washed his dirty feet. But He washed their feet, including the feet of the man who was to later betray Him for crucifixion.

This is, indeed, profound, but making it the only reason why Jesus said, “narrow would be the gate that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13). During His conversation with Pilate, Jesus said: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37).

To be on the side of truth requires one to be a good listener, more than asserting one’s dogmatic position. That kind of listening is not found among ordinary Christians, obsessed with trying to “please” God. A nonreligious person like Pilate could see that Jesus was not guilty. Yet the religious ones passionately sought to please God by crucifying Him.

What is most amazing is that truth does not come from anywhere else, except coming from the person concerned. What is true, happens to be true to the one concerned. One does not need another person to decide on truthful matters.

Fundamentally, this statement cannot be easily articulated to ordinary Christians, who believe that truth comes from Pastors, or Bishops, superintending over their belief systems. Anyone opposing the Pastor is immediately labeled a renegade.

That, alone, makes it the only reason for the existence of thousands of denominations, and countless splinter groups. Such divisions are solely based on invalidating other people, in favor of the so-called authoritative Bishops. This was never the idea of Jesus who specifically instructed the proper conduct by His disciples.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12) (NIV).

One cannot be a truthful Christian, without approaching Scriptures with a philosophical mind. But I know that there are those fighting against advocating philosophy into Christianity. Yet, those on the side of truth cannot be intimidated by such conjectures.

From these viewpoints, one can see two factors, keeping people out of God’s Kingdom. Pride on one hand and self-abnegation on the other. Truthful people simply use their own reasoning capacity to decide on truthful matters. They may consider the opinions of others, but without abnegating their own opinions.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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