2016-11-11 / Faith

Establishing a foundation for philosophy

By Caitlin Trude


BUILDING FAITH—The Rev. Tony Amatangelo is lead pastor at Life Spring Community Church in Moorpark. 
ACORN FILE PHOTO BUILDING FAITH—The Rev. Tony Amatangelo is lead pastor at Life Spring Community Church in Moorpark. ACORN FILE PHOTO Morality has become a gray area in today’s society, the Rev. Tony Amatangelo laments, and what’s true and what isn’t depends on who you ask.

“In our culture, the idea of there being any objective truth is oftentimes a foreign concept,” said Amatangelo, lead pastor of Moorpark’s Life Spring Community Church. “Our culture accepts that truth is relative from person to person, and that’s such a core philosophical mistake.”

Amatangelo said that’s just one common gap in modern thought that American philosopher and author Mortimer Adler addresses in his book, “Ten Philosophical Mistakes.”

“(When) I start talking to somebody and I realize there’s a fundamental philosophical error between us, I like to go back and get Mortimer Adler’s perspective on it,” he said. “I think Adler is one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. He takes each of these 10 philosophical mistakes and distills it down into something you can read really quickly.”

Published in 1985, “Ten Philosophical Mistakes” covers several topics including freewill, the power of words and semantics, the difference between happiness and contentment and humans’ purpose in the world.

The first “philosophical mistake” Adler dissects has to do with truth, Amatangelo said.

“When we talk about some of the great debates of our culture (such as) war, abortion, capital punishment . . . at the foundation of those truths is that there has to be an objective reality that is true,” he said.

Another philosophical error, the pastor said, is that many people choose to believe that morality is a societal construct defined by whatever the majority decides.

“(Many believe) there is no higher authority from which we draw our morality,’ he said. “Murder is only wrong because as a society we’ve decided it’s not in the best interest of society to murder people, as if murder is not inherently evil.”

He added, “There are some things that are inherently evil. Whatever society decides about it does not change the fact. (For example,) stealing is wrong. Some things are absolutely wrong and some things are absolutely right . . . but society doesn’t get to decide morality.”

Amatangelo said the topics Adler discuses are a source of inspiration to him as a church leader.

“Sometimes you have to go back and redevelop some (philosophical understanding) to have a discussion about it,” the pastor said. “I’ll take (Adler’s) quotes and really try to synthesize them into my own words and own ideas. A lot of (his ideas) make it into my sermons in one way or another.”

He also recommends “Ten Philosophical Mistakes” to anyone seeking to better understand core philosophical ideas.

“It’s a pretty thin book with thick concepts,” he said. “I’ve probably read it five or six times.”

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