Colossians 2:8 Does Not Condemn Philosophy

By Evan Minton

Some well-meaning but very misinformed Christians discourage the study of philosophy on the basis of a verse in Colossians chapter 2. In Colossians 2:8, the apostle Paul wrote: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ.” This verse has become the chief proof-text for anti-philosophy Christians. In fact, even the famous reformed preacher John MacArthur argued against philosophy using this text. In The MacArthur Study Bible, he wrote “You know what philosophers are? They’re doodlers with words instead of pencils. They just make a whole lot of verbal squiggles. Colossians 2:8 says this: ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy.’” Unfortunately, this verse has been majorly misinterpreted.

Keep The Text In Its Context

When you look at the verse in context, what you find is that Paul wasn’t saying “Philosophy is bad”, but rather, he was warning his readers to be on the lookout for bad philosophies.

To really understand what Paul is talking about in this verse, one needs to move beyond the verse itself. One needs to read it in context. That means both the immediate context (the verses before and after it) and its cultural context…

Colossians 2:8 Does Not Condemn Philosophy