Beware Of Philosophy -- By: Greg Bahnsen

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 27:2 (Spring 2014)
Article: Beware Of Philosophy
Author: Greg Bahnsen


Beware Of Philosophy

Greg Bahnsen

Newport Christian High School has something virtually unique among the various private, Christian schools around the country. It is an extraordinary feature of its required curriculum—a prerequisite for high school graduation which few other schools enforce. NCHS is unique in that it offers a philosophy course for its high school seniors.

There was a time when nearly every college and university required its students to take at least one introductory course in philosophy. Sadly, many colleges have lately altered such “old fashioned” notions about education and dropped their philosophy prerequisites for graduation. Not surprisingly, America’s colleges have been turning out graduates with little interest or proficiency in clear thinking, consistency, cogency, and depth of insight regarding a world-and-life-view. Those who graduate from Newport Christian High School are already a step ahead of many students from colleges which have amended their curriculum to suit the times.

But are they a step ahead with philosophy? An often abused text from the New Testament might suggest the opposite, at least upon first reading. In Col 2 Paul writes: “Beware lest there be anyone who robs you by means of his philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the elementary principles of the world, and not after Christ” (v. Col 2:8)—robs you, that is, of “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” which are deposited in Christ (v. Col 2:3). With this kind of warning in the New Testament, why would a Christian school want to require the study of philosophy? It might seem that we should rather avoid philosophy!

Wikimedia Commons

Bust of Aristotle, a copy of one done by Lyssipus around 330 BC. The archetypical “worldly” philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle laid the philosophical foundations that were to varying degrees embraced by other well-known philosophers who followed after him, such as Kant and Hegel.

A closer and fairer reading of Paul in Col 2 will correct our misunderstanding, however. We notice, first, that Paul does not prohibit the study of philosophy; rather, he warns us about it. Likewise, parents will warn their teenagers about the dangers of driving, without prohibiting the use of the family car. Philosophy, like cars, can be used in a constructive or in a destructive manner. Paul warns against the destructive potential of philosophy.

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