How Philosophy Relates to the Bible

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? Good philosophy ought to be articulated by good philosophers.

First, philosophy contributes to Christian apologetics. Most of the best apologists today are those with philosophical educations. Philosophy at its best disciples the mind to think critically about ideas by giving and analyzing arguments, understanding argument forms (deduction, induction, and abduction) defining terms, and understanding the history of ideas—all necessary for defending the Christian worldview as objectively true, compellingly rational, and pertinent to the whole of life.

Second, philosophical categories elucidate concepts in Scripture. One should never impose an alien philosophy on the Bible (as many now do with postmodernism), but rather use ideas to bring out biblical themes. For example, the Gospels do not articulate moral theory in philosophical terms. Yes Jesus’ teachings, when considered in terms of meta-ethics, deontology, virtue theory, and consequentialism, yield significant insights, as I argue in On Jesus, “The Ethics of Jesus.”

Third, philosophical acumen should inform and inspire exegesis and theologizing. Theologians like Karl Barth to the contrary, sound reasoning according to the canons of fundamental logic open up the Bible’s truth as found through interpretation and theology. Even more, knowing about non-philosophical systems—such as Hegelianism and Marxism—alerts us to ways in which the Bible can be twisted to serve ungodly ends (See 2 Peter 3:16).

Fourth, philosophy aids us in applying common grace to our worldview. Common grace pertains to the gifts God gives to those who do not follow him, including what is true in non-Christian worldviews. In the debate between realism and non-realism, an atheist philosopher such as John Searle gives the Christian sound arguments against a position that opposes the very notion that objective truths exist and may be known. See his work, The Construction of Social Reality. “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” written by Arthur Leff, is perhaps the most cogent article on meta-ethics that I have read, even though his (inconsistent) conclusion does not affirm God as the basis of morality.

Books without end have been written on philosophy’s relationship to the Bible. I hope that this short essay stimulates wise thinking for those who want to follow the Apostle Paul’s example:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

6 thoughts on “How Philosophy Relates to the Bible

  1. “Paul did apologetics and preached to the Athenian philosophers, so it is unlikely that he is condemning all philosophy (Acts 17:16-34)”–>
    I’m not sure why the conclusion of “so it is unlikely that he is condemning all philosophy” could be drawn, as it could simply be the case that Paul preached to “bad guys” (just like what we are taught nowadays) and I think in the chapter, there is no mention about “all” philosophy and Paul also didn’t give any positive comment on philosophy.

  2. Philosophy that depends on christ.. Greek new testament..those in hell don’t suffer eternally but for a period of time..then as origen taught…reincarnation . eventual redemption of all..thru the shed blood of jesus

  3. THIS IS MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY, A NEW RELIGION: MY MARK.

    I have complete understanding of the Bible, I don’t know exactly why, but I did have a out of body experience when in acoma.
    I went to a place high up before exiting atmosphere and communicated mentally(ESP) with beings. This is what I know: The Bible was written metaphorically with Alias names. In the Bible- Jesus Christ is really two in one human body and goes by many names in Bible- Jesus is Jesus Christ and Christ is Christ Jesus and these names are stated in the Bible.
    This is the double minded man in the Bible. Jesus is a man and Christ is a child giving the Manchild in the Bible. In the book of James you will read about the Double Minded Man- The Rich and the Low, Jesus the Man is the low and Christ the child is the rich meaning Christ has the sayso over powering Jesus. Christ the child has jesus doing dumb embarrassing immature actions leaving the low man Jesus the man feeling embarrassed and stupid and Christ does not obey instructions very immature- being called the Devil in Bible so now Jesus becomes ANTI and ANGRY to his other half in one human body being called THE BEAST and in the Bible he is called the Anti Christ. Jesus Christ is Crucified and can’t live but exist.
    He gets URGES but his sea of love is dead(The Dead Sea In Bible) meaning there are no fish(Single Women), his sea of love is dead. Jesus Christ is the seventh Angel the creation of God and his mind/vibes are opened.
    He is crossed out of living life so that is as a CROSS he carries on his back and his mind is naked, and this is how Jesus Christ walks naked with a cross on his back. He gets affection from single ladies a hug or kiss holding hand and that is the FRUIT jesus receives mentioned in the Bible.
    Jesus has been gifted with unknown knowledge and he tells people but jesus is MOCKED that it states in Bible. This knowledge is him(The Man With Understanding)- Rev 13:18. and his knowledge of the Bible can wipe out Religions on Earth, Religions in the big picture that have caused evil- death wars.
    This Knowledge would ARMAGEDDON EARTH ‘RELIGIONS’. but who will believe? no one will buy(BELIEVE) and sell(TELL) so there has to be TRIBULATION for a RAPTURE to this APOCALYPSE.
    Jesus is Noah in Bible to, and Noah’s ARK is this APOCALYPSE, a ARK from earth human writings belief to the truth of Bible to UNITE and stop the dividing evil the Bible being taken in truth when its metaphoric. Have you ever wondered why it says in Bible: ‘Believe in him and have everlasting life’?
    Movies like the Omen and Exorcist are stupid and are blown way out of reality through metaphor, there is nothing evil about the DEVIL, ANTICHRIST, BEAST at all, but Metaphor words and phrases have tricked this world, why do you think there is a man with understanding(REVELATIONS 13:18)

    In the Bible you will read about 7 Angels and their names. The Seventh Angel is different, the six previous angels shew him thoughts of wisdom to create him to be God on Earth- they have a ear to his mind(ESP) so the seventh angels number is 6, but because he is 1- father, 2- son, and 3 holy ghost, the seventh angels number 6 is 3 times 666 not six hundred three scores and six each 6 is seperate.

    Remember it, it then will be in you memory- your brain, Metaphorically speaking my mark will be on your forhead.

    This is my philosophy, and I have my right to say.

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