How Philosophy Relates to the Bible

by Douglas Groothuis

Philosophy is feared by many Christians, especially as they heed the Apostle Paul’s warning concerning a false religion tempting an early Christian fellowship:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:6-8).

Paul did apologetics and preached to the Athenian philosophers, so it is unlikely that he is condemning all philosophy (Acts 17:16-34). Our passage makes clear that Paul is drawing a contrast between a false philosophy about Christ and the gospel. He adjures his readers not to be ensnared by false and deceptive philosophy, not philosophy itself. Paul even quoted two Greek thinkers to make his case. If the Bible does not foreswear all philosophy, how might this ancient discipline be brought to bear on the Holy Scriptures. But what is a philosopher? I wrote this in On Jesus:

I propose that the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a philosopher (whether good or bad, major or minor, employed or unemployed) are a strong and lived-out inclination to pursue truth about philosophical matters through the rigorous use of human reasoning, and to do so with some intellectual facility.

These philosophical matters are, in broad categories, metaphysics (the study of what is), epistemology (how do we know?), and axiology (the theory of value, moral or otherwise).

C. S. Lewis wrote in “Learning in War Time” that “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” Good philosophers should employ good philosophy. How might good philosophy contribute to the mission of God in the world?


How Philosophy Relates to the Bible | Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D.