The Denison Forum Podcast Episode 9: How we should think

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The Denison Forum Podcast Episode 9: How we should think

February 21, 2022 - Denison Forum

The Denison Forum Podcast Season 1, Episode 9 show notes


Release date: February 21, 2022

Summary: Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the thinking of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and the progression of Western philosophy, which has culminated in the post-truth culture we find ourselves in today. 

Show notes: Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman open by explaining Jim’s role as a “cultural apologist.” After a detour into different approaches to preaching, they state that, in a general sense, all of Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato, Aristotle, and Kant (riffing off of the quote by Alfred North Whitehead).

Plato began by claiming that the soul exists before the body and that the material world is fundamentally flawed. It is a “shadow” of the real things, which are “spiritual” or “mental,” and the purpose of physical life is to purify one’s soul. Additionally, according to Plato, if we wanted to study apples, we would think about “appleness.” We wouldn’t study it by looking at apples in the physical world. This Greek categorization of the spiritual and “everything else” is what led to the “Sunday versus Monday” Christianity, which Jim expounds upon. 

Then, they delve into Aristotle, who opposed his teacher. Aristotle said that to understand things we should look at the material world. To study an apple, we need to look at apples themselves in the physical world. 

They then leap centuries to consider how Plato and Aristotle respectively influenced different applications of the church. While you can loosely trace Plato’s influence to modern Protestantism, you can trace Aristotle’s influence to the Catholic church. 

At this point, we can say that Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century was trying to exercise his thinking to unite these two ways of thinking. The “empiricist” (focus on the physical) and “rationalist” (focus on the rational) were raging in debate at this time. Kant, in trying to marry these two ways, ended up saying that we cannot know the “thing in and of itself” either rationally or empirically. This kind of subjectivism swept Europe. America, however, was somewhat protected from these ideas by “commonsense realism,” which Mark and Jim discuss more. 

They then speculate into the two paths Europe and America took in history, given these two opposing views. For instance, Kant’s focus on “duty for duty’s sake” became a potential grounding for the German people’s acceptance of the horrors of Nazism. Recently, this subjectivism, which has become relativism, reached America, which Jim talks about as our “post-truth” culture. At this point, they turn to more recent thinkers like Marx, Freud, and Darwin, discussing how they have continued to influence our thinking until we have become “sexual, economic animals.”

How do we not allow ourselves to be influenced by these ideas in our culture? 

We must pray without ceasing, be aware of Jesus’ presence, and renew our minds by taking them captive to obey Christ. Regular Bible study is critical to making sure we submit to the ultimate truth, revealed by God. Only he can be the ultimate standard of objective truth. 

P.S. Jim’s most pivotal book to date, The Coming Tsunami, is now available on Kindle, hardcover, and Audible.

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts 

Jim Denison, PhD, is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church. 

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