Some Information about a Philosophy Class
This is a class in philosophy, attempting to introduce the subject to students. Very often people enter a philosophy class thinking of it as strange and forbidding territory. I can understand these concerns on the part of students. Perhaps it would be helpful to clarify what, at least to my mind, a philosophy class is supposed to be about.
The textbook emphasizes that philosophy has to do with developing and articulating a world-view. Based on many years of teaching philosophy, I find this concern well-placed.
I am myself a Christian and my philosophical career has been centered around thinking things through from a Christian perspective. I have taught in both a Christian setting and a non-Christian setting, but most of my student career and my teaching career has been in secular institutions. I often find that in a non-Christian setting students seem unaware of the fact that they have a world-view, or else they haven’t really thought very clearly about what their world-view is and how to make it a consistent one. So you find people drawing from one source here and one source there whenever it suits them. In a Christian setting you will still find some of that as well. But the main issue that I believe I should try to come to terms with in dealing with Christian students is the fact that they have learned certain ways of talking about what they believe which are common in churches but have little meaning to anyone outside of four walls of the institutional church. One church outsider came to a church and was asked “Are you under the blood?” which prompted him to look up at the ceiling to see if there was some red liquid coming down. Consider even a phrase like “Christ paid the penalty for our sins.” What penalty? What sins? And how could Christ pay it, if we incurred the penalty?
Missionaries often spend years studying the peoples of the countries in which they minister, hoping to understand the thought-forms of those peoples, so that they can learn to present the Christian message in a way that is meaningful to the people of that culture. Yet, I think, a lot of Christians have no idea how their world-view differs from the world-views of others, or how to ask the questions a non-believer would ask.
While I am myself a Christian, the goal of this class is not to make Christians of everyone. I might personally hope for that result, but it isn’t my job. My job is enable people to discover what their own world-view is, so that they know what they believe, know why they believe it, and know how to explain the difference between their own views and those of others. The should be able to understand the reasons supporting their own world-view, and the reasons that could be used to criticize their world-view.