Friday, January 03, 2014

Should Christians Not Study Philosophy?

When writing to the church in Colosse, the Apostle Paul wrote:

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" [Colossians 2:8].

Does this mean that the follower of Christ should not study philosophy?

In their book, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe explain:

"...the Bible is no more against philosophy than it is against religion.  It is not against philosphy, but against vain philosophy, which Paul calls "empty deceit" (v. 8).  Likewise, the Bible is not opposed to religion, but only aganist vain religion (cf. James 1:26-27).

Further, Paul is not speaking about philosophy in general, but about a particular philosophy, usually understood as an early form of Gnosticism.  This is indicated by his use of the definite article (in Greek), which should be translated "the philosophy" or "this philosophy."  So Paul was referring to this particular gnostic-like philosophy that had invaded the church in Colosse and involved legalism, mysticism, and asceticism (cf. Col. 2) and not to all philosophy.

What is more, Paul himself was well trained in the philosophies of his day, even quoting them from time  to time (cf. Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).  Paul successfully "reasoned" with the philosophers on Mars Hill, even winning some to Christ (Acts 17:17, 34).  Elsewhere he said a bishop should be able "to exhort and convict those who contradict" (Titus 1:9) and that he was "appointed for defense of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:17.  Peter exhorted believers to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).  Indeed, Jesus said the great command is to love the Lord "with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37)." [1]

So, it seems that Paul was warning the Colossians against being "taken" by deceptive philosophies and that is good advice whether you believe the Bible or not!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, p. 487-488.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Okay, so do you have any suggestions on how to get started on studying philosophy?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,
I would suggest reading The Last Superstition by Edward Feser. It is a breezy, humorous, and occasionally sarcastic introduction to classical thought as compared to modern relativism.

Chad said...

Hello Anonymous,

I would also recommend this book.

Godspeed