The Apostle states here, “See to it that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception….” Are we being instructed that as Christians we should not study philosophy? If this is true, why would God give us a mind and command us to think (Matt. 22:37) and reason (1 Peter 3:15)? Is this a contradiction in the Word?
If we look at the Word of God, we will find that it is not against religion, although there are many warnings dealing with vain religion. In the same way, the Bible is not against the study of philosophy, it warns believers against “empty deceitful” philosophy.
Paul is not writing to the Colossians and warning against philosophy in general, but the early form of Gnostic philosophy infiltrating the region. In the passage here, the Greek definite article ho which can be translated as “the” or “this” shows that it is not a generality that Paul is addressing but a definite, particular part of philosophy.
A true philosopher is a seeker of truth. The Greek word philosophia literally means a “lover of wisdom.” Paul here in this verse delineates that the philosophy that he is warning them against was men’s ideas, it was “not according to Christ.”
If one studies the life of the Apostle Paul, it becomes evident from his writings that he was well-trained in the philosophies of his day, he would even quote from them at times.(Consider Acts 17:28; Titus 1:1 - 2) He “reasoned” or debated with the philosophers on Mars Hill, even bringing some to Christ. In Philippians 1:7 he said that he was appointed for the defense of the Gospel (1:17). Peter told us to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Jesus commanded us to love the Lord with “all your mind.”
God does not advocate ignorance at any point in His Word, however, He does warn us frequently against the false wisdom of the world. Because many have taught young believers not to study the field of Philosophy, there has arisen a paucity of committed Christian Apologists. If we wonder why the field of philosophy seems so infused by paganism, it might be because of the lack of those who can give a defense of the truth. So, should a Christian study philosophy? Yes, but carefully comparing it to the truth that comes only from God and His Word.
Prayer: May I walk in wisdom. Father, there are many false teachers out there. Give me the wisdom to see the truth and to live by the truth. Help me to study what is right and to understand correctly the philosophy, so-called, of man versus the true philosophy that comes from You and Your Word. Amen.