Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective (A Review) by Dr. Tommy Davis

In his book, Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective, George Knight presents several schools of thought in the philosophical arena that momentarily puts the reader in a particular train of idea.  It is sometimes deliberate for someone to misrepresent another’s positions, however, but Knight avoids this and attempts to place the reader within the worldview of the noteworthy philosophers, all the while hoping that readers would evaluate these from their own presuppositions.

One of those philosophical concerns that Knight describes is Realism which is the most common form of rational subjectivism.  Knight says that realism, is to a certain extent, “a reaction against the abstractness and otherworldliness of idealism.”[i]  Realism focuses on what is comprehensible by the senses.  This concept appears to substantiate what is reality as opposed to what is imperceptible.  According to Knight, this world view finds its genesis in the philosophical outlook of Aristotle[ii] who was a student of Plato who gave rise to the idealist perspective.  Aristotle had parted with the Platonic Academy by focusing on the material, that which is observable matter.  Thus, Knight says, “Aristotle held that the basic constituents of every object were form and matter.”[iii]  Aristotle is also credited with the early development of what we now call the social sciences.

There are three philosophical concerns that Knight examines relative to realism.  The first is the reality of things as seen by the realist.  Knight discovers that the realist does not see ultimate reality in the realm of the mind.  Rather, the realist sees things in the physical world in which people live.  Despite the presuppositions of the mind, the realist understands the universe in terms of operating “according to natural law.”[iv]  Thus, realism has contributed much to what we call modern science.

Second, the realist arrives at conclusions based on actual observation.  The epistemology that the realist incorporates allows for the suppression of personal biases in light of the perceptible laws of nature.  Some observations are unavoidable by indicating a fixed order.  To the realist, when one examines the universe, it is operating according to a preset method that commands an adjustment in our hypothesis if a previous conflict existed.  This adjustment is based on interpreting the relationship of objects to the knowers.

The axiological attitude of the realist is that value must base itself on concrete findings comprehended in nature.  The realist concludes that the law of nature is a fixed system; the values we derive as a result of natural phenomena must also be permanent.

By examining the realist perspective, it is important to see what it has to offer relative to the Bible.  All systems of philosophy have some form of virtue but often fall short when observed under the microscope of divine revelation (the Bible) because its objectives are often misapplied.  Even though objects exist independent of the mind, its acuity is still dependent on factors stored in the graphical context.  Many have attempted to define truth from the standpoint of subjective experience.  They arrive at “truth” by examining what is observable through a realistic lens.  This is what contemporaries call Science.   In other words, through empirical investigation, they conclude that certain elements of observation deserve the correct conclusion that can be expressed as truth.

Since realism is directed by the natural laws of nature, supposedly irrespective of human perception, this philosophic doctrine purely rests on how we understand it or else we could not make a credible determination relative to its existence.  This is a contradictory in terms because even though matter does exist independently of awareness, we still create rational positions as a result of our comprehension of it.  This is why realism falls short of anchoring itself as an absolute source of knowledge.  The Scriptures record some very interesting phenomenon that gives evidence that experience is not always a credible resource for understanding.

In Jesus’ first recorded miracle, He turned water into wine (see John 2:7-9).  To the realist, this presents a problem.  First, the realist observed the water and determined that it was water.  Then when the water was turned into wine, the realist also observes it and finds that wine is really in the water pots.  Based on the presuppositions of the realist, the controlling criterion calls on him to rule out the supernatural.  This miracle contradicts his philosophical thesis.  Since there is no scientific theory to explain how wine got into the water pots, the realist reserves his answer but rules out the supernatural.

Sadly, this is the aim of liberal theologians who reject the supernatural and posit naturalism into the biblical text.  The liberal theologian, who has accepted the position of the realist, do not see the ten plagues that struck Egypt (see Exodus Chapters 7-10) as a divine sanction against the false gods of the Egyptians.  Rather, they determine that these events are natural, but unusual occurrences rather than supernatural.  Water was not really blood (Exodus 7:14-25), and Locusts of colossal proportions were really migrating creatures (Exodus 10:4-19).

We all have within us some measure of realism.  But realism should not stand alone in determining truth and value.  If realism is not subjected to theological accepted truths as revealed from heaven, then our comprehension of the material will only magnify error.  When evolutionists examine fossils in rocks, they tell the truth by admitting that there are no transitional remains.  By rejecting a universal flood (supernatural), and the creation account (revelation), they create false drawings that would persuade fellow realists that mankind descended from monkeys.

Also, realism can provide an opposite extreme by appearing as authentic, or in the case of mental illness, the misidentification of reality.  We have all heard the phrase “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  There is a reason for this particular disguise because if the final determinant is expected reality, the wolf would have plenty of meals before the realist began to avoid “sheep.”

There is hope for the realist.  God knows that evidence can persuade at times.  Therefore, he doesn’t mind providing it.  It is then up to the realist to subject his reason to credible demonstration.  In performing His eighth recorded miracle in the Bible, Jesus cured a man in the synagogue who had a withered hand (see Matthew 12:13).  This would have confused the realist because clear observation would have it that Jesus performed a healing contrary to a fixed system of beliefs.

Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, wanted to see evidence of Jesus’s resurrection in addition to the evidence of His crucifixion. At this point, Thomas was a realist.  He said, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).  In the case of Jesus, He suffered a real and personal death.  He was so clearly crucified that the marks would indicate that it was really Him on the cross.  Therefore, when Jesus appeared, He said to Thomas: “Reach your finger here and look at my hands; and reach your hand here and, and put it into my side” (John 20:27).  His doubt may be justified given that magicians roamed the territories displaying acts of wonders.  Remember, in the presence of Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron demonstrated the miracle of changing a rod into a serpent (Exodus 7:10).  Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated this supernatural event.  Thus, to Thomas, seeing the evidence (natural) allowed him to accept the supernatural (resurrection).

Realism, then, is not devoid of virtue, but must cooperate with the obscure and other branches of philosophy and exist subjective of the Scriptures.  The grave is empty, and the heathen guards who stood there is further proof that the disciples did not steal Christ.  Observable evidence also reveals that Christ changes lives and the Gospel has never been known to fail.

Substance can exist irrespective of our existence, but revelation allowed us to identify the purpose of both.  The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Therefore, an all-powerful God created material first, but not without purposefulness.  Subsequently, when mankind was created, he was designed to comprehend God’s handiwork or matter would exist to us as meaningless.  Our deduction in philosophy must presuppose an Eternal God, despite concrete visuals, hence, I agree with the scriptures that exclaims, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of the things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

[i] George Knight,  Philosophy & Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1980), 46.  Idealism, as explained by Knight is a system of thought that emphasizes the existence of ideas, thoughts, minds, or selves, rather than material objects and forces.  Idealism holds that objects cannot exist independently of conscience.

[ii] Aristotle (384-322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and physician born at Macedonia. At 18 years old he went to Athens and studied under Plato.

[iii] George Knight,  Philosophy & Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1980), 46.

[iv] Ibid, 47


  1. Introduction Christian Philosophy…

    […] is a contradictory in terms because even though matter does exist independently […]…

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