Just like science, philosophy has been violently seized by secularists and then promoted as being incompatible with Biblical Christianity – to the point where many believers have bought into the lie and condemned philosophy as a branch of secular humanism. However, historically Christian attitudes towards both fields weren’t always antagonistic. Furthermore, this contrarian attitude isn’t Biblical and would be foreign to Scriptural figures like the apostle Paul.
Typically, brethren who have been convinced that the Bible condemns philosophy, will point to Colossians 2:8 and 2 Corinthians 3:6. However, a closer examination of definitions and context will lead us to conclude that God’s Word doesn’t censure philosophy, it actually encourages it.
Dear reader, notice that when Paul warns the Colossians to beware of their being “spoiled”, in the King James Version, or “cheated”, in the New King James, through philosophy, the verse doesn’t end there. He continues clarifying that the philosophy they must avoid adopting is one that is “according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ”. The last portion of the idea is of utmost importance because it highlights the differences between the knowledge and wisdom that is Christly from secular knowledge (which is not knowledge at all but godless dogma).
If this weren’t the case, Paul wouldn’t have written earlier in his letter that it is necessary for Christians to attain all of the “riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
Again, Paul implores us to gain wisdom and knowledge from Christ and not from the world. Yet, what of the word “philosophy”? Doesn’t the term, in and of itself, denote a purely secular understanding of everything? Not at all. Consider that the word literally means “the love of wisdom”. Therefore, what matters is the type of philosophy one adopts, either anthropocentric (man-centered) or theocentric (God-centered).
In the same vein as Paul, Noah Webster – an expert linguist and as proficient an expositor of Biblical truths as there has ever been – saw no daylight between Christianity and philosophy. He writes:
“The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness. True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.”
Additionally, it is important to note that if the Bible were actually against proper philosophy, God wouldn’t have inspired the entire book of Proverbs (which teaches that sound knowledge emanates from the fear of God). Nor would the Lord have inspired Paul to continually exhort believers to increase in the “knowledge of God”.
Lastly, what of the “letter” that kills in 2 Corinthians 3:6? Many have defined the term as meaning the acquisition of knowledge in general. However, definitions and context, again, clarify the text for us.
Within the third chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he expends a good amount of ink highlighting the differences between the Old and New Covenants. It is within this context that the word “letter” in verse 6 must be defined. Also, the original Greek term for “letter” is gramma (γράμμα), which means “a letter, a document, an epistle, sacred writings”. It becomes evident that Paul is alluding to the Law and not the zeal of wisdom and knowledge. (For further clarification of this particular text, read Romans 7:7-12)
In conclusion, philosophy and Christianity are not diametrically opposed to one another – as a matter of fact, Christianity inspires a zeal for truth through wisdom and knowledge. What Christians must do in the modern age is retake what is rightfully ours from the hands of the seditious, men who twist what is Christianity’s in order to subvert the faith.