“Philosophy vs Misosophy”: Paul’s theology and my (admittedly peculiar) terminology

Christians believe that the ultimate truth is a divine person. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” says Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of the heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1), is the express image (eikon) of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).

He is also the Word (logos) of God (John 1:1) as well as the wisdom (sophia) and the power (dunamis) of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus Christ is before all things (ta panta), and by him all things cohere (susesteken) (Colossians 1:17). Every human being is surrounded and penetrated by creation, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

Because that which may be known (to gnoston) of God is manifest (phaneros) in them (enautois); for God has made it evident (ephanerosen) unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-19

This is our epistemological situation with respect to God. We either responsibly affirm or ignobly suppress God’s plainly evident existence in creation. Reason is a tool, not a court before which God may appear as a defendant.

Philosophical theology as it is practiced rejects the epistemological situation as Paul described it.

With its presumption of autonomy philosophy—again, as it has been practiced in the main—at enmity with the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). To pretend indifference to Christ is pretend indifference to the only Wisdom worth having; to hate Christ is to hate wisdom, that is, to hate the One in Whom all the treasures of wisdom are hid (Colossians 2:3); and to hate wisdom is to love death (Proverbs 8:36). (See my previous post, I believe that I may avoid absurdity and foolishness.)

If those who subscribe to the intellectually “fatal conceit” of the autonomy of foolishness (moria) rather than wisdom (sophia) in their thoughts, then a Christian has a prima facie reason to discriminate between the pursuit of truth inspired by the fatal conceit (“philomoria” or “misosophy”) and that pursuit flowing from the opposite, vital conceit (“philosophy”).

Paul’s contrast between “philosophy and vain deceit according to the elements of this world” and philosophy “according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8) corresponds to the one I draw between the fatal and vital conceits.*

No one may cavalierly tamper with established usage, and Christians should generally continue to use “philosophy” and its cognates in accordance with such usage. But they may also reserve the right to qualify that usage.

For between the philosopher and the misosopher there is antithesis.

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions (antitheseis) of science (gnōseōs) falsely so called (pseudōnymou). 1 Timothy 6:20

* I’ve taken the term “fatal conceit” from the title of a 1988 book, allegedly authored by Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992) but heavily edited, if not actually written, by W. W. Bartley (1934-1990). It refers to the assumption that Hayek imputed to socialists: civilizations, like natural languages, are (or at least can be) the results of planning rather than of evolution. I use “fatal conceit” in a broader sense, one that covers Hayek’s evolutionary sociology no less than its dialectical rivals.