The Consequences of Ideas

by R.C. Sproul

One has to give only a cursory examination to Western thought for the past two or three thousand years to see that ideas have been greatly shaped by philosophers. The men themselves did not always know to what extent they were shaping the minds of their own and future generations. Sproul takes us on a journey of twenty-five hundred years and shows how great thinkers have shaped modern thought. The author hopes that a clearer understanding of the evolution of ideas will enable modern Christians to more ably defend the truth of the Word of God.

Beginning with Thales of Miletus (c. 600 B.C.), Sproul discusses the influence of Pythagoras, Zeno, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Although greatly differing in their ideas, the goal of each of these philosophers was the ultimate meaning of reality (truth). Aristotle perhaps shaped the ancient world more than the others because he was the private tutor of Alexander, the Greek conqueror. Influenced by Aristotle's tutelage Alexander impressed Greek language and culture on all the lands he conquered.

Augustine and Thomas Aquinas contributed to a philosophy of the Christian religion. John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant contributed disparate ideas in the era known as the Age of Reason. Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche spawned philosophies that greatly contributed to communism and Adolph Hitler's World War II.

Two of the most influential modern thinkers were Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud. The former, with his theory of evolution, revolutionized scientific thought. His ideas have also been applied to the social sciences in what has come to be know as social Darwinism. The latter, Sigmund Freud, with his teachings on the role of the unconscious, initiated changes in psychology, theology, and law.

Readers with a philosophical inclination will want to more closely examine Sproul's entire book. The careful reader will discover many ideas that Christians find objectionable have their roots in a philosophical system we have inherited from the past.