Philosophy

Should Christians avoid philosophy? Is the practice of philosophy one of the dark arts, like sorcery? To answer this question, one might quote Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits [or principles] of the world, and not according to Christ.” That is, in fact, the only verse in the Bible that uses the word “philosophy,” although Acts 17:18 does mention the philosophers addressed by Paul in Athens.

If philosophy is worldly and evil—part of the human world that is opposed to God’s Truth—then Christians should indeed beware. One cannot walk through mud without getting dirty, and one cannot dabble in worldly affairs without becoming tainted by the sins of the world. Yet many things in the world are good and God-pleasing when used rightly but dangerous and harmful when used wrongly. Water sustains life, but it also drowns. Fire keeps a person warm, provides light, and cooks food, but fire can also destroy property and cause great harm to the human body. Money can be used wisely to serve God and to help one’s neighbors, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (I Timothy 6:10). Before rejecting all philosophy, a Christian must ask what is meant by philosophy and whether it is all the same. When Paul writes to the Colossians about human tradition and about elemental spirits or principles, is he hinting that some sorts of philosophy are dangerous but that a different philosophy might be beneficial? Is it possible to have a philosophy that is, as Paul says, “according to Christ”?

I maintain that Christians can be philosophers. Christians can read what philosophers have written, can evaluate those writings, and can benefit from those writings without being harmed. Christians can sort through the concepts and the methods of philosophy, approving what is used “according to Christ” while setting aside what comes from merely human tradition or from elemental principles of the world. For the God who created us gave us minds to think, minds to question, minds to explore and learn and grow. In his teaching, Jesus did not hand out answers to every question. Often he arranged that those who heard his teachings had to think about them, consider what he said, and put his words into perspective. God thinks, and people are made in his image. We are meant to think. Philosophy proposes questions and seeks answers. So long as the questions and answers do not separate the thinker from Christ, the Lord cannot disapprove of our philosophical efforts.

We ask many questions. “Why am I here? What should I be doing? What is this world around me? Can I trust my senses and what they tell me about the world, or is there more around me than I can see and hear and feel? How does it work that a series of sounds or marks on a page or screen can transmit thoughts from one mind to another? And what is it that makes some sights and sounds and scents and flavors more beautiful than others?”

We ask questions, and we search for answers. We search in our own minds and experiences. We search the opinions of other people we trust. We search the opinions of recognized experts, and then we think some more. The same apostle Paul who warned us about philosophy also encouraged us to think. He wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). That is how the Bible instructs Christians to think. And that, my friends, is philosophy. J.

37 thoughts on “Philosophy

  1. I absolutely agree!! Great post! You can be Christain and a philosoper. I think we are meant to investigate, question and seek answers and this within itself can in turn make our belief systems even stronger.

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  2. Is not the bible the reflective on philosophy, Psalms! You define yourselves as Christians! Your time on earth and the rotation of your chosen, food, drink and entertainment define you as so much more! Philosophy is setting out outside the boundaries of religion and reflecting on life and its values for the individual! Reading between the lines and rewriting the subjugation and empowering yourself! If you define yourself by religion alone you are the prey, unable to protect yourselves from those who categorise and define!

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    • I’m not sure if I understand your point well enough to agree or disagree. The teachings of the Bible help inform the philosopher; I would not say that philosophy steps outside of religion (although I know of philosophers who would agree!). Christians and other religious people categorize and define those things they encounter in the world as thoroughly as any secular philosopher. Jesus Christ himself taught his followers that life is more than the food we eat and the clothes we wear. J.

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      • The Bible presents world outside Eden, it’s pitfalls, what you encounter once you have perceived the knowledge! The world is set to devour the innocent! If the world is not set to those religious parameters! If we allow the religions to sit as scholarly reflections! sit centrally to see them as parables, encouragements and warnings! The philosophy is the same irrelevant of religious category! It stands outside and reaches for the ideal for all! Christ threw down the tables in the churches for their focus on money over the welfare of his community! the whole problem was his refusal to focus on the capital, more on the welfare of his people!

        A book written by disciples who were set as his voices, but failed to protect him from those who would do him harm! A self fulfilling prophecy for the idealist to fail under the hands of the dictator, his teachings are philosophy as were his lessons! A balanced equal world outside the hegemonic portrayal of the world! A false focus showing his good nature not as in gods image became his demise! As God is vengeful, acting to take those by their signatures as it should be, as would sit lucifer and all other angels!

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    • I cannot disagree. But that leaves a responsibility for thinkers of Christian philosophy to find ways to speak the Christian message in the grammar and vocabulary of competing philosophies, in order that thinkers/believers can understand one another. J.

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      • If more Christian’s lived their lives using religion as a philosophy rather than a strict rule book used to perpetuate personal beliefs unto other people I think the world would be a much better place

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      • “Using religion as a philosophy” will not work–my life must flow from the life of ‘Christ in me.’ I’m responsible to him, to take on his disposition via personal relationship.

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      • Keanna and Arnold: you both make good points. Christians living the ethical teachings of Jesus would be an effective missionary message to the world, perhaps more so than merely sharing the commands of God. But Christianity consists of more than commands or ethical teachings. Christianity is a living relationship with Jesus Christ, trusting his Gospel promises and not seeking to change ourselves or others using only the Law of God. In that sense, Christianity is more than a philosophy, being a relationship with the One who calls himself the Truth. But being shaped by the power and grace of Christ, not only in speech and behavior but also in thoughts and “philosophy,” the members of Christ become a world-changing power today while we wait for the final Revelation of Christ on the Day of the Lord. J.

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  3. I don’t mind reading this but at the least, I would have to agree. I was compelled because similar to yours, I love philosophy and I am a Christian. I honestly have the boor of Jordan Peterson who admires Carl Jung an early 20th century psychologist who I learned to had been reinforced to some demonic doctrine propagation through his thoughtful work like Ennéagramme, 16 Myres-briggs personality type, and many more that suggest a dualism approach to being. I agree with all of what being said in your post. I am a philosopher myself because I think in a deeper level and I can freely choose to call myself philosopher without being harmful and ungodly. Right? Albeit, one of the teaching of God is to avoid invérifiable philosophy only construed by human intellect and not of God’s mind.
    Thanks for posting your opinion about it.

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  4. Often, people have different definitions of a word. Philosophy often means different things to people. When people called Socrates a philosopher, I never understood that, for he spoke of things he observed, listened to, and understood. He was a man of strength and common sense.

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    • The definition does indeed matter–which, in itself, is a philosophical observation. My next post on the topic will try to approach a definition. But, for the time being, I think we can stick with the description offered in Philippians 4:8. J.

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  5. Check out the etymology of Philosophy. It complements scripture and shows that “mans philosophy & philosophers” are folly. And that only Wisdom as written in the scripture book of Wisdom can give one not only Wisdom, but spiritual truth. Definitely deep what you wrote. It’s so refreshing to see others searching for answers we all seek your so right when we seek wisdom we find God. 💗 (the KJV decided that book wasn’t of value) 🤦🏽‍♀️

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    • Of course, “love of wisdom.” But God’s foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom. Moreover, in the Old Testament (and in the book of James) “wisdom” begins with the fear of the Lord and is akin to what the apostle Paul called “faith.” Faith is a far different thing from the Sophia that some contemporary philosophers worship. J.

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      • True. It’s actually speaking about “Wisdom” coming as the 🕊 and as The Holy Spirit – Coming as the breath of life- the jews call it the Rau Ha Kodesh (ghost or holy ghost) interesting enough there is a spirit that moves through us & gives us sometimes even the very words to say like Christ said I speak of The Father it’s the air that moves within or is without. God says it’s more precious than gold or any treasure to him. 💗

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      • Wisdom Chapter 6: 17
        * For the first step toward Wisdom is an earnest desire for discipline;i

        18
        then, care for discipline is love of her;

        love means the keeping of her laws;
        To observe her laws is the basis for incorruptibility;
        19
        and incorruptibility makes one close to God 💗✨🕊

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  6. You’re off to a good start, Salvageable! I love philosophy and I’m not even very good at it.

    I suspect Paul was speaking of the specific tribalism of the philosophers of the day, of the Stoics and the teachings of Epicurus, not the entire concept of philosophy. But I do think that there can be danger there and that for some people, perhaps they should set philosophy aside for a while. I’m not sure who I’m even speaking to, but things like nihilism can lead some to despair or confusion.

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    • I’m sure you are right. Defining the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, for example, Paul had to set aside the Stoic concept of an immortal soul so he could defend God’s plan for His people. Philosophy without Christ can indeed result in confusion, despair, and other bad stuff. J.

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  7. Good post and I agree. While some may feel it is dangerous to engage philosophical ideas, I think it is more dangerous not to engage. Too many people simply don’t realize what ideas a shaping their lives.

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    • That is indeed a benefit of philosophy–to stop and consider our thoughts and words and to see what has influenced them. Many things that people take for granted in their minds and conversation has come from a philosophic trend which they may well oppose. J.

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