Philosophy sometimes gets a bad reputation, even in Christian circles. As some critics might put it: Philosophy is an impractical and worthless way to spend your time. It might even undermine your faith.

In contrast, Ross Inman argues, “It’s hard to see what could be more practical than living philosophically as a Christian.” Inman is associate professor of philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book Christian Philosophy as a Way of Life: An Invitation to Wonder makes a clear, convincing case for the value of philosophy.

Inman’s approach presupposes a Christian worldview. His target audience, as he explains, is “Christians who are philosophical novices, those who are coming to the study of philosophy for the very first time.” He does not have in mind someone who is studying philosophy merely as a graduation requirement or for a GPA boost. Rather, he has in mind someone approaching philosophy as a fruitful way of life.

There is a long history of thinking of philosophy in this way going back to the ancient Greeks, among others. But Inman takes a distinctly Christian approach, spelling out three conditions. The first, he says, is committing to an existential map shaped by the Christian story. This means viewing Christian faith as the central resource for answering questions lying at the heart of philosophy, such as: What is real? What is a truly good life? And how does one become a good person?

Second, says Inman, practitioners of a Christian philosophical way of life should orient their lives around a Christian existential map. Their everyday practices should align with a vision of reality and the good life shaped by the Christian story.

And third, they should engage in grace-empowered, truth-directed practices. Inman notes that there were spiritual exercises, like self-examination and memorization, that characterized the life of philosophy in ancient Greece. But Christian philosophers of antiquity stressed that only God’s grace would enable the spiritual exercises to do their work.

Perhaps more than anything, the Christian philosophical way of life, when carried out well, is closely bound up with wonder. For Inman, wonder has two central features. The first is a “perceived vastness”—the experience of something larger than ourselves or the confines of our limited perspectives. The other feature is a “need for accommodation” of this new perspective. As Inman writes, “We are summoned to enlarge the narrow confines of our soul to make room for the new experience and perhaps even to correct the mistaken way that we once viewed the world.”

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Tying this back to Christian philosophy, he says, “We might summarize the Christian philosophical life as a life that is devoted to cultivating a deep sense of the wonder of it all, ultimately in light of the true meaning and purpose of all created things in Christ.” This leads him to make the bold claim that “only within a Christian conception of reality is the wonder-filled philosophical life possible.”

What about the practicality of philosophy? The practicality of something depends on its purpose. On this subject, Inman cites Tom Morris’s Philosophy for Dummies, where Morris argues:

Something is practical if it helps you realize your goals. If your goals include knowing who you really are, what life in this world is all about, and what’s ultimately important, then philosophy is eminently practical. If these things are not among your goals, well, then you need new goals.

Believers’ ultimate goals include being properly oriented toward God and neighbor, both cognitively (in truth) and affectively (in love). Philosophy can be greatly instrumental in achieving those goals. Thus for Christians, according to Inman, philosophy is perhaps the most practical way to live of all.

Inman’s discussion is compelling, but I want to offer two minor suggestions for improvement. First, I might have suggested that Inman do more to answer the question What do philosophers actually do? For instance, the first few chapters might have benefited from more detailed examples of common philosophical arguments or discussions, with elements of wonder and practicality highlighted.

Additionally, Inman tends to focus on philosophical questions about reality (metaphysics), knowledge (epistemology), and value (ethics). But philosophy, as practiced today, is extremely diverse in both the topics it considers and in its methodology.

So my second suggestion would have been to tackle questions like these: Would Inman’s arguments hold for the Christian philosopher who primarily works on logic and abstract proofs? What about the historian of philosophy, the philosopher of science, or the philosopher of language? In general, are some areas of philosophy better geared toward Inman’s discussion of wonder and practicality than others?

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On the whole, however, Inman’s book helps open up an exciting philosophical world to explore. From there, readers can go in a number of different directions in learning more about a Christian philosophical way of life. More historically, two good starting points are Augustine’s Confessions and Boethius’s On the Consolation of Philosophy. From the 20th century, C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity would be a great option. Among more recent choices, I would recommend C. Stephen Layman’s Letters to Doubting Thomas and Michael Murray’s essay collection Reason for the Hope Within.

Christian Philosophy as a Way of Life is excellent. As someone who has been doing philosophy professionally for over 30 years, I am not the intended reader. But I still learned a great deal. And it is very reassuring to see, in such a clear and compelling way, the case being made for what I have devoted my life to doing.

Christian B. Miller is the A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. His books include The Character Gap: How Good Are We? and Honesty: The Philosophy and Psychology of a Neglected Virtue.

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Christian Philosophy as a Way of Life: An Invitation to Wonder
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Book Title
Christian Philosophy as a Way of Life: An Invitation to Wonder
Baker Academic
Release Date
October 17, 2023
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