Since Scripture warns us not to be taken captive “by philosophy and empty deceit” (Col. 2:8), should Christians avoid the study of philosophy? Today, hear how R.C. Sproul interacted with this question during one of our Q&A sessions.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Throughout his ministry Dr. Sproul regularly had events where he was taking live questions from his students and during one of those events he was asked, "Should Christians study philosophy?" This week we're featuring his answer.
R.C. SPROUL: When I was a philosophy major myself, when I was an undergraduate in college, I received all kinds of flak from my Christian friends who thought it was a leap into godlessness to busy my mind with godless philosophy. And there was no end to the citations from the sacred Scripture about "Beware of godless philosophy." But I came to the conclusion that you can't beware of something that you're not first aware of it.
I talk about having been converted to Christ in my freshman year in college. I was a brand-new Christian. I had to take introduction to philosophy as a requirement to satisfy social studies and so on. I was completely disinterested in it. I sat in the back of the room, and instead of listening to the lectures, I was reading Billy Graham sermons because that's what interested me. I wanted to know the Bible and nothing else but the Bible.
One day, my professor, who was the head of the philosophy department where I went to school, who actually was a Christian, was giving a lecture on Augustine and Augustine's doctrine of the creation of the universe. Where Augustine talked about God's creating ex nihilo through divine fiat or the divine imperative by simply saying, "Let there be," and reality came into being. I was so moved by that lecture that, maybe it was an impulse, but I went from that lecture room downstairs to the registrar's office and I changed my major to philosophy. And that changed the whole course of my life and of my ministry, because the study of philosophy helped me first of all understand the whole aspect of critical analysis and how to be alert to logical fallacies and problems of that sort. And to learn the whole history of theoretical thought, much of which has been used to help convey the truth of Christianity to the whole world.
In the medieval university, it was said that theology was the queen of the sciences and philosophy was her handmaiden. Well, that's been true in my experience and in my teaching. I've been very blessed to have been able to have that background in philosophy to help me understand so much of what is involved in theological reflection. Now, at the same time, there's much of philosophy, particularly contemporary philosophy, that's a barren wasteland. But it's a good thing to understand it and not be intimidated by it. The one book that I read that I don't read critically, in that sense, is the Bible. Because when I read the Bible, the Bible criticizes me; I don't criticize it. But when I run into all kinds of apparent theologies, like liberal theology, I immediately see the philosophical assumptions and presuppositions that undergird and have prompted these deviations from historic orthodox Christianity. So it's been a very great blessing for me to have had that background in philosophy, so I commend you for it.
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