Book Review: The Philosophy Of Jesus

The Philosophy Of Jesus, by Peter Kreeft

This is a good book, even a great book, but not a perfect book.  This author [1] gets as close to one can of a great many truths about God as one can as an unconverted Catholic, but the fact that he is a Catholic means there are at least a few matters here that are irritating to many readers.  For one, he considers John Paul II to be among the most insightful believers in recent memory for some platitutdes about the importance of Christ and the culture of life.  For another, more seriously from the point of view of a philosopher, the author makes some serious errors of non sequitor when it comes to the nature of God.  The author argues from the premises that God is loving, lover, and beloved and also a family that therefore God is a closed Trinity, which simply does not follow in any way shape or form.  Likewise, the author’s Catholicism is a problem when he talks about supposed saints like Augustine, Francis, and Ignatius of Loyola, none of whom would have met the biblical standard of sainthood.  Given my warm and favorable feelings for the book as a whole, I figured it was necessary to state my concerns and objections about the book forthrightly at the start, in order not to lead anyone astray by too warm of a recommendation.

The contents of the book are organized very logically.  After introducing four elements of philosophy and commenting on the reality of Jesus Christ as a philosopher through an appropriation of the arguments of C.S. Lewis in one of his letters, the rest of the book is organized into four chapters where the author looks at his view of Christ’s metaphysics, epistemology, anthropology, and ethics.  The author is at pains to remind the reader that Jesus Christ was a Jew and that had implications, although the author himself appears to be ignorant of the implications of the Jewishness of Jesus Christ and that following Jesus authentically would involve a great deal more obedience to God’s laws in the Torah than he appears conscious of.  As kyrios of the Sabbath [2], Jesus Christ is not honored by worship on the Lord’s Day as is so common among Hellenistic Christians like the author.  Nevertheless, in under 200 pages and told with verve and enthusiasm, this book ought to be something of interest for a wide variety of philosophically inclined Christians, especially if they do mind the way that the author brings in his characteristic concerns about the culture of life as opposed to our society’s culture of death, especially as it relates to sexual morality.

Ultimately, this is an attempt to view Jesus Christ from a philosophical Catholic perspective.  I find elements of this view appealing, and other elements less so, but I am aware that there are many who would find this particular book quite appalling in contrast, whether that is liberal Catholics or those who view everything that is written by a proud and enthusiastic and loyal Catholic as being beyond redemption.  If this book is missing something of the Holy Spirit in its inspiration, it is certainly an able and brave cerebral account of Jesus Christ according to the standards and language conventions of philosophy.  The author does a great job at writing in philosophical language and showing how Jesus Christ’s thought and practice met the standards of the academy, despite the fact that it is not culturally fashionable to say so.  There is something refreshing in the author’s willingness to engage in an apologia of the intellectual value of Christianity and a refutation of the way that Christianity is often perverted and corrupted through its adoption to ungodly ends and human ambitions.  If this book is not perfect because of the author’s perspective, it has a valuable and worthwhile purpose to those of us who are both Christians and intellectuals.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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