Question: I am curious whether Christians should study philosophy.
Answer: At some point, you may have heard it said, “Christians should not study philosophy because the Bible warns believers to beware of philosophy.” Colossians 2:8 describes it as “empty deceit” and of the “traditions of men,” or “worldly” and not of Christ. Some believe the very nature of its discourse will talk its followers right out of belief in God. Therefore, it is believed, that not only is the study of philosophy unbiblical. It leads one to skepticism. I was once told, “All you need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit.” Or “just have faith.”
However, this is not biblically accurate nor is it necessarily true. In the wrong hands, philosophy can be dangerous. But, in my experience, philosophy has brought me into a closer relationship with God. As the giver of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5), I can know Him more deeply and shed whatever intellectual barriers of reluctance obscuring a head-to-heart connection.
God is not anti-philosophy. God says, “Come, now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Furthermore, the Scriptures teach us to love the lord, God, with our minds (Luke 10:27); and to destroy lofty arguments raised against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). The Scriptures, in other words, command us to develop our God-given rational faculties and use it to live our lives wisely in pursuit of Christ. We learn from 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to persuasively answer for the hope that is in us. Believe it or not, this is the task of philosophy. Listen, now, to the voices of our past.
Great Christian Thinkers on the Study of Philosophy
C.S. Lewis states, “If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were educated. But a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”[iii]
Puritan, Cotton Mather once said, “Ignorance is the Mother not of Devotion but of Heresy.”[iv] This may not be about philosophy, specifically, but it is a charge against the anti-intellectual movement within the Church for all time. Therefore, the Church cannot afford to be ignorant regarding philosophy because philosophy leads to knowledge of God while the snake of heresy lies waiting to prey on the ignorant and twist the spirit of our devotion (truth)– for confusion and lies. Beware of those who try to reason you out of philosophy because their philosophy on Philosophy is philosophically ignorant. In their piety, they lead one not into devotion but heresy. Philosophy is a handmaiden for the truth about God.
The Philosophical Question about the Study of Philosophy
Notice, the very question itself demands the use of what it intends to refute. At its core, “why should Christians study philosophy?” is a philosophical question in nature. To answer a philosophical question, then, would require the use of philosophical reasoning. Therefore, to deny the use of reason would require the use of reason to successfully deny it. That is self-refuting. It is like saying, “never say never,” but only, “The reason we ought not to use reason is that there is no biblical reason for it.” False. In fact, we should study philosophy because philosophy informs readers of the Bible on how to interpret and understand the Bible. Have you ever considered the rules for interpreting literature? Philosophy guides the principles and methods we use of interpreting the Biblical text – a discipline called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is a philosophical enterprise. We couldn’t do theology, or any of the sciences for that matter, without philosophy. It is foundational to knowledge. Indeed, philosophy permeates every aspect of our lives and how we live it. Even if we don’t realize it, each of us has a philosophy about philosophy and whether Christians ought to study it. So, what is philosophy?
Quite simply, philosophy is the love of wisdom. In other terms, philosophy is learning how to think rightly and logically about what is, such as: what is real, what is true, what is beautiful, and so on. It is the pursuit of truth. Jesus, who is God, is the truth (John 14:7). Therefore, in my view, when one studies philosophy, they are in pursuit of God. What we decide about Him then becomes a matter of faith – to believe or not to believe.
I can go on, but the truth is that much has been written about whether Christians should study philosophy and why. I would be remiss not to direct you to some prominent voices of our own time and allow their work to guide you.
For Further Study
J.P. Moreland. Love Your God with All Your Mind. NavPress; Revised edition (September 4, 2012).
Geisler, Norman. Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars. Bastion Books. Matthews, NC. 2012.
Lewis, C.S. Weight of Glory. HarperOne; 1st edition (March 1, 2001). Originally published in 1965.
Moreland, J.P. Love Your God with all Your Mind. NavPress; Revised edition (September 4, 2012).
Potter, Doug. Twelve Things from Dr. G for His Students. Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/notes/1096515494112261/
[i] Norman Geisler. Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars. Bastion Books. Matthews, NC. 2012.
[iii] C.S. Lewis. Weight of Glory. HarperOne; 1st edition (March 1, 2001). Originally published in 1965.
[iv] J.P. Moreland. Love Your God with all Your Mind. NavPress; Revised edition (September 4, 2012). 16
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Jason Kline (aka, JD Kline) is an experienced chaplain and former pastor. Jason earned his Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University and completed Clinical Pastoral Education training through Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. Jason’s area of interest is on issues pertaining to moral injury and spiritual hurt. By his personal admonition, he notes that he does not write as a scholar but as a friend. His desire is to pass along what he has learned, as he contends earnestly for the faith. Jason works as an adjunct professor at Carolina Bible College and was trained through NGIM (Norman Geisler International Ministries).
Original Blog Source: https://bit.ly/3EtJphi