Beware of Philosophy…….right?

In the Bible, Colossians 2:8 tells us “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy…” This is wise advice, for many destructive heresies have crept into the church through philosophy. Norman Geisler documents a long list of philosophers who have done great damage to Christian teaching and Christian influence on society. Starting with Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes, the damage really got going with Benedict Spinoza, then continued with David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Georg Hegel, and others. The false teachings were brought into the church by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Soren Kierkegaard, who influenced Julius Welhausen and Rudolph Bultmann, both grandfathers of destructive biblical criticism who gave outright denials of the historical accuracy of the Bible. The fruit of this teaching is people like John Spong, who in our days has denied every essential tenet of Christianity, yet still refers to himself as Christian. So one could make a case that the majority of false teachings in the last 500 years were introduced into the church by philosophers. I support this conclusion, and feel it is true.

Philosophy has done great damage to the church. So much damage that we now have Christians who go off to secular colleges, study philosophy from atheist professors, and end up denying their faith. The damage done by philosophy is so great that I maintain the problem is bigger than the philosophers. The problem is that we don’t recognize bad philosophy when we see it. Christians have shied away from intellectual discussions for so long that when someone introduces a destructive heresy, they don’t recognize it. As Geisler pointed out,  before we can “beware of philosophy” we must be aware of philosophy.

The problem is that philosophy involves using wisdom, and we can’t avoid using wisdom. Hopefully, we’ll use Godly wisdom instead of human wisdom, but in our sin-damaged minds, it’s difficult to separate God’s wisdom from human wisdom, especially if we consider all truth to be God’s truth. For example, Rene Descartes was a tremendously influential philosopher. But he did his work trying to support Christian teachings. Soren Kierkegaard did tremendous damage to the church, but in his mind, he was trying to correct a problem in the church and get the church back to what he felt were biblical teachings. The church listened to these men, and did not have enough biblical and intellectual foundations to be able to refute them, so the damage was perpetuated.

With the large number of people who have been deceived by philosophy, the answer is not to shy away from philosophy. The answer is to learn what it is, then learn the truth that will refute it. I admit a large number of people have been deceived by philosophy, and it has done great damage. They have been deceived because they don’t study the nature of philosophical argumentation so that they will recognize the false teachings when they see it. As Dave Hunt once said, if a witch doctor wore a native costume with a mask and a rattle and came dancing down the center aisle of the church, we would recognize him for what he is and throw him out. But if he puts on a coat and tie and stands in a pulpit and couches his lies with God-words, we don’t recognize him and are deceived by him.

So the answer is to be aware of philosophy by studying it and knowing what it is, and being able to refute its false teachings.

But someone will say,’why can’t we just use the bible?’ The answer is that philosophy is sort of like gravity……it’s all around us and we can’t just deny that it is there and pretend to not be influenced by it. For example, logic and reason are part of philosophy. Neither you, nor anyone you know, nor anyone you ever heard about, ever came to be a Christian because they thought it was illogical and absurd. Every one who ever accepted the teachings of Jesus and became a Christian did so because somehow, some way, they felt it was a logical, reasonable thing to do. Well, are we do deny logic and reason merely because these things are taught by philosophers? Do we want to be unreasonable, illogical people? No, for the Bible commands us to be thinking people, and assumes we will use the brain that God gave us to make logical conclusions. Even quoting a bible verse to refute a philosopher involves 1) understanding the bible verse, 2) understanding the philosopher, 3) making a logical argument that uses Godly wisdom to refute human wisdom. This is philosophy.

So certain aspects of philosophy we cannot avoid.  Christians in past centuries did not study it and were deceived by it. We cannot let this continue, and, as C. S. Lewis said, “Good philosophy must exist because bad philosophy must be answered.”

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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2 Responses to Beware of Philosophy…….right?

  1. Anima says:

    You recognize two types of wisdom, the wisdom of man and the wisdom of god, with the implication that man’s wisdom is flawed an ultimately wrong. I would contend if such was the case that it is not wisdom so much as it is belief. Must there be two wisdoms? It seems to me that there is one wisdom and man is trying to pursue it as much as possible and it would make equal sense that God already has it. In the matters that God’s way is higher than our way wisdom should be sufficient enough to result in ambiguity. Given this is the case how then is it philosophy should be hostile to God? Philosophy does nothing more than embrace the mind that we have, wherever you might belief it comes from. Furthermore you should embrace and promote philosophy because if God is evident and concretely provable no product of the mind other than philosophy will show it. Finally, what is that religion has to beware of from philosophy?

  2. Portal says:

    Hi Anima, hope you are doing well. This is an old post, so I may not get a response, but regarding your post: I believe it depends on what you mean by philosophy. Philosophy can either lead to understanding or deception. You could argue that true philosophy never leads to deception. But empty philosophy (whether intentionally or not) encourages others to follow a fallacy. Whatever label we place on it, all philosophy is an expression of thought. This is my understanding.

    Pilate asked Christ, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). I think this question is one that is being asked in many different contexts, and coloured with many different intensions. This question continues to echo throughout human history. My understanding of truth involves 1 Peter 2:22-25. Christians may be wary of philosophy because it can be used to deceive. However, it is important to discern. I assume it is important to ask questions. In this regard I believe there is a difference between an empty philosophy (one that lacks a foundation of truth) and a philosophy that strives to find truth. However, a lot of philosophy claims to strive to find truth? And here is a dilemma. I perceive the difficulty is that one persons understanding of truth is another persons assumption of deception.

    And in this context the responsibility is given to the individual to actively and honestly reflect, study and search for truth, wherever that many lead. Even if it leads to somewhere that is inconvenient or unpopular this doesn’t mean that truth is not worth pursuing. I believe that if you are turned towards truth, then you are going the right direction. And the only way to search for truth is by actively seeking truth. And “true philosophy” (one with this genuine agenda to seek truth) is what I understand to be the opposer of empty philosophy. (Since “empty” suggests that something can be filled).

    Maybe we should just scrap the loaded labels of philosophical underpinnings and just identify what I had earlier called “true philosophy” as “thinking honestly for ourselves and following truth whatever the outcome” (long label I know). I believe this “thinking honestly for ourselves and following truth whatever the outcome” is what separates empty philosophy from “true philosophy” or however you decide to refer to it.

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