On 'philosophizing'

To philosophize, Woodhouse says that the act is more like learning to become a surgeon or a racecar driver (50). Like those activities, to philosophize takes practice in order to fine tune your skills. Personally, this reminds me of my experience in learning how to make bread. First of all it took a desire to learn how to do it. Secondly, it took several attempts before I learned how to feel what properly kneaded dough feels like. As in philosophy, learning how to make good bread involved caring about the process and the end result. It also involved some study and some apprenticeship. The process of philosophy is to care about discovering truth (Woodhouse, 51). The end result is finding truth and in order to be effective, we must care about truth and be willing to practice our pursuit.

Woodhouse’s suggestions on preparing to philosophize apply to theological discourse. These suggestions are having the courage “to examine one’s cherished beliefs critically, “a willingness to advance tentative hypothesis” and to react to philosophical claims, no matter how ridiculous they seem, and to have “a desire to place the search for truth” above “winning” or “losing.” There must also be a desire and “an ability to separate one’s personality from the content of a discussion (50). This involves a degree of humility that must be present in any effective discussion whether it takes place among married couples, friends or in a Bible study.

For instance, if we are in a Bible study in which the topic is creation, not everyone is going to agree that God created the world in six 24 hour days. An effective teacher will not squelch opposing views, but will encourage reasonable discourse. He or she should allow students to arrive at their own conclusions rather than accuse those who disagree of a lack of faith or condemn them to hell. If the teacher believes a literal interpretation, that is fine. He or she should present his or her view logically and let the class discuss the issue. “Philosophy (and even theology) is not about winning points or arguments…it is caring about truth…” (51).

The statement “’I like this view’ is never a good reason in philosophy” especially applies to theology. One should never base Scriptural opinion on a good feeling because feelings can deceive. The pursuit of truth, the examination of the context of Scripture and of the writings of people who have studied deeply, and study of opposing views are paramount to good theology. Again, this takes humility. We do not know everything. It is important to remember in philosophy and in theology that life and God are bigger than our own point of view.