After all, the very word means love of wisdom, and the Bible speaks a great deal about the importance of wisdom. For instance, God gave us Proverbs “to know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:2-4). Indeed, “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square,” but because “fools hate knowledge” and refuse to listen, God will “laugh” when “terror” and “calamity” comes on those who “ignore” His “counsel” and “reproof” (Proverbs 1:20, 22, 24-27). Both the Old and New Testament extoll the virtue of godly wisdom. Thus, according to the simple meaning of the word, God would have all of us to be “philosophers.”
At the same time, the musings of philosophers through the ages have not always displayed what Scripture calls wisdom. And despite their long history, atheistic philosophies remain unable to answer the most basic questions about God and reality as they propose answers to ultimate questions that dishonor and discount God. Why, then, did something so noble and necessary become such a problem?
In short, philosophy is done by finite and fallen people. And, by nature, the unredeemed seek independence from God and pursue explanations about reality that exclude its Creator and Sustainer. They seek answers to ultimate questions by rejecting the ultimate answer. Yet, the explanation of reality and answer to the big questions stare every philosopher in the face, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:19). But they “became futile in their speculations” (Romans 1:21), even as they remained “without excuse” for not honoring God or giving Him thanks (Romans 1:20, 21). “Professing to be wise, they became fools” and “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:22, 25).
God gives wisdom through Jesus Christ, in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). The philosopher or culture that seeks to suppress the nature and work of Christ will never be wise.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10).
Philosophy, per se, poses no problem for humanity and the believer. Rather, philosophy apart from Christ, “according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world” constitutes the problem. True and life-giving wisdom, along with answers and explanations concerning reality, remains elusive apart from the One who created and sustains it, the One to whom we owe all love and honor, apart from whom we would have nothing, on whom we depend for all truth and knowledge of all things, including our meaning, purpose, and how we should live.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).
So, while we marvel at the brilliance of philosophers identifying and wrestling with the ultimate issues of knowledge, ethics, and reality, we do well to avoid the deadly mistake of trying to interpret the universe apart from the One who created and sustains it, the One who gives it meaning, and the only One who can ultimately explain it. He has gone to great lengths to purchase our wisdom in the Son, who suffered infinite wrath that we might have forgiveness of sin, eternal life, and answers to the deepest questions of life. “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
True spirituality should never be anti-intellectual or adverse to rigorous study of difficult issues. Yet, true wisdom begins with Christ and understands our dependence on Him for all things, including knowledge and truth. Therefore, brethren, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.
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