Toward a Baptist View of Metaphilosophy: An Analysis of E. Y. Mullins, John Newport, Richard Cunningham, and L. Russ Bush

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Toward a Baptist View of Metaphilosophy: An Analysis of E. Y. Mullins, John Newport, Richard Cunningham, and L. Russ Bush

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Title: Toward a Baptist View of Metaphilosophy: An Analysis of E. Y. Mullins, John Newport, Richard Cunningham, and L. Russ Bush
Author: McDonald, John Daniel
Advisor: Cabal, Theodore J.
Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze how four Southern Baptist scholars: E.Y. Mullins, John Newport, Richard Cunningham, and L. Russ Bush, understood--whether explicitly or implicitly--the nature of philosophy. Three issues will be explored as a result of their metaphilosophical views. First, what is the relationship between faith and reason? Second, is a Christian philosophy possible? And third, what role does philosophy serve in the life of the believer?

Chapter 1 sets the historical context regarding the issue of metaphilosophy. Philosophy has been traditionally understood as the love of wisdom. However, since the Enlightenment and the dawning of modern Western philosophy, how thinkers understood the nature of philosophy changed dramatically. As the natural sciences progressed rapidly in the advancement of knowledge, thinkers increasingly viewed philosophy as being in need of change regarding its method and purpose. By the time of the twentieth century, philosophy's identity was in a state of confusion and uncertainty.

Chapter 2 analyzes the metaphilosophy of E. Y. Mullins. For Mullins, philosophy investigated the foundational questions of human existence and operated autonomously from science and religion. The data of philosophy included all of life, including the findings of the various fields of knowledge, and sought to unify all truth into a cohesive unit. The value of philosophy is found in its ability to go beyond the descriptions of science in order to interpret the world in which one lives.

Chapter 3 analyzes the metaphilosophy of John Newport. According to Newport, philosophy is identified with worldview--the structure of one's beliefs about the world. One's worldview affects how one lives and operates within the world. Philosophy includes not only the analytic task of critiquing and clarifying ideas and beliefs, but also the synthetic task of incorporating beliefs into a coherent structure. Philosophy also involves analyzing the key-principles that underlie one's belief structure--those principles that are basic to an individual. Philosophy, or worldview, is valuable to the individual by helping one to make sense of life and to avoid bad decisions.

Chapter 4 focuses on the metaphilosophy of Richard Cunningham. Cunningham views philosophy as one's attempt to understand his experience in all its facets. It is a deliberate action on the part of the individual, one that leads to the development of his worldview. Philosophy involves the traditional tasks of analysis and synthesis, and its value is found in its ability to afford one to live more effectively.

Chapter 5 presents the metaphilosophy of L. Russ Bush. Bush's definition of philosophy is methodological in nature as he views philosophy more as an activity than as a way of life. One employs the laws of logic and other philosophical tasks when analyzing one's own or competing worldviews in order to judge between their similarities or differences, and their strengths or weaknesses. In a day and age where many individuals lazily accept their beliefs without deep reflection, philosophy helps one to hold to beliefs that are more consistent and it helps one to better dialogue with others of differing worldviews.

Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation by highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the four thinkers presented in the preceding chapters. Suggestions are provided on how to strengthen a Baptist view of metaphilosophy in light of the weaknesses provided. Finally, the current state of philosophy in the Southern Baptist Convention is provided.

Date: 2014-05-16

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