What ought Christians do with philosophy? Isn’t this contrary to theology and explicitly warned of in the Bible? This is particularly poignant in the letter to the Colossians 2.8.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementry principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
βλεπετε μη τις υμας εσται ο συλαγωγων δια της φιλοσοφιας και κενης απατης κατα την παραδοσιν των ανθρωπων κατα τα στοιχεια του κοσμου και ου κατα χριστον
Now, of course, for a better and full exegesis be sure to grasp the whole context of the letter. Paul is warning the Christians in Colossae of philosophy and being distracted by and importing inappropriate concepts into their Christian beliefs. The first key word to focus on here is φιλοσοφιας (root: φιλοσοφια), which is the Greek word for philosophy here. Philosophy literally means the love of wisdom. In this passage the word is used either of zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge. Used once in the NT of the theology, or rather theosophy, of certain Jewish Christian ascetics, which busied themselves with refined and speculative enquiries into the nature and classes of angels, into the ritual of the Mosaic law and the regulations of Jewish tradition respecting practical life.
This type of philosophy Paul is referring to is of a vain folly. Paul uses the word ‘empty,’ κενης (root: kenos), to explain what he means. This type of philosophy is that which is empty and devoid of truth–it contains nothing. Compare this passage to Col. 2.23,
These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
and 1 Tim. 6.20:
O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge.”
So what does this mean? This means we need to have a philosophy according to Christ. Our knowledge, metaphysics, and axiology must be conformed with Christ. It’s impossible to be anti-philosophy. Everyone has a philosophy. How do you know what you know? That’s epistemology, a branch of philosophy. What is God and what is reality? That’s a metaphysical question, which is philosophy. What is right and wrong? What is beautiful and what isn’t? Again, these are axiological questions—philosophy. The Bible isn’t telling us to not be philosophical; rather, it’s telling us to have the right philosophy and worldview. In the words of Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, “The man who says he has no need for philosophy is the man who is most likely to be deceived by it.”
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