Is Philosophy Dangerous For Christians?
by J. Chandler Arnett III
Have you ever tried reasoning about things in the Scripture and try to go deeper into the truth of a topic only to have your conversation partner quote a portion of the Bible to you and then act as if that should end the discussion? If you have then you will recognize the following:
“Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit… (Colossians 2:8)”
The implication being that philosophy is bad or dangerous and that we shouldn’t go chasing after “speculations.” What I want to explore in this article is that this sort of mind set is not only in opposition to the Bible, but that it is crippling the church at large as far as our effectiveness not only to reach out to those who aren’t Christians (as it makes Christianity seem deeply anti-intellectual and irrational when the Bible paints the opposite picture) but also to the overall growth of us as Christians as well. Before we can examine whether the charges stick as far as philosophy being dangerous we need to first briefly examine what we mean by the word philosophy.
What Is Philosophy?
There are many definitions given for philosophy, but in its original sense it is the combination of two Greek words, philo and sophiawhich combined mean “the love of wisdom.”1 Philosophy seeks to answer life’s Big Questions (such as, “Why are we here?” or “Does God exist?” or “Can we know such things?”), but that is certainly not all it seeks to do, as Stephen B. Cowan and James Spiegel put it:
“Philosophy is properly about more than acquiring an intellectual grasp of answers to life’s Big Questions. It is about gaining insights which culminate in a life well-lived. Good philosophers not only think well but live virtuously.”2
Another definition that I really like for philosophy is from one of the greatest living Christian philosophers, Alvin Plantinga, who describes philosophical reflection as…
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