Beware Of Philosophy: A Warning To Biblical Scholars -- By: Norman L. Geisler

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:1 (Mar 1999)
Article: Beware Of Philosophy: A Warning To Biblical Scholars
Author: Norman L. Geisler

Beware Of Philosophy:
A Warning To Biblical Scholars

Norman L. Geisler

The exhortation of the apostle Paul to “beware of philosophy” (Col 2:8) is as urgent today as it was in the first century, if not more so. And this is not only true for Christians who call themselves philosophers but for those who do not, especially for biblical exegetes.

I. Philosophies Of Which To Beware And Why

Although the context of Col 2:8 probably has reference to a proto-gnostic type of philosophy at Colosse that had a disastrous mix of legalism, asceticism, and mysticism with Christianity, 1 the implications of Paul’s exhortation to “beware of philosophy” are appropriately applied to other alien systems of thought that have invaded Christianity down through the centuries since then.

There are many current philosophies of which we should beware. But first I will touch on some of the more damaging ideologies in the past few centuries. Among them few have been more destructive than naturalism, both of the metaphysical and methodological varieties.

1. Naturalism. Naturalism is the philosophy that denies that there are supernatural interventions in the world. It is at the root of modern negative biblical criticism which began in earnest with the publication of Benedict Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in 1670.

Spinoza argued that “nothing then, comes to pass in nature in contravention to her universal laws, nay, everything agrees with them and follows from them, for … she keeps a fixed and immutable order.” In fact, “a miracle, whether in contravention to, or beyond, nature, is a mere absurdity.” The noted Dutch-Jewish pantheist was nothing short of dogmatic about the impossibility of miracles. He emphatically proclaimed, “We may, then, be absolutely certain that every event which is truly described in Scripture necessarily happened, like everything else, according to natural laws.” 2 His

* Norman Geisler, dean at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC 28270, delivered this presidential address at the 50th annual meeting of the ETS on November 19, 1998, in Orlando, FL.

naturalistic rationalism led him to conclude that since “there are many passages in the Pentateuch which Moses could not have written, it follows that the belief that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch is ungrounded and even irrational.” 3 Rather, Spinoza insist...

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