Definition: The word philosophy is derived from Greek roots that mean “love of wisdom.” As used here, philosophy is not built on acceptance of belief in God, but it tries to give people a unified view of the universe and endeavors to make them critical thinkers. It employs chiefly speculative means rather than observation in a search for truth.
How can any of us acquire true knowledge and wisdom?
Prov. 1:7; Ps. 111:10: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge . . . [and] of wisdom.” (If the universe were not the product of an intelligent Creator but only of some blind, irrational force, then no unified view of the universe would be possible, would it? Nothing that would qualify as wisdom could result from a study of something that was itself irrational, could it? Those who attempt to understand the universe or life itself, while endeavoring to leave God and his purpose out of account, meet with constant frustration. They misinterpret what they learn and misuse facts that they glean. Leaving out of account belief in God destroys the key to accurate knowledge and makes impossible any truly consistent framework of thought.)
Prov. 2:4-7: “If you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment. And for the upright ones he will treasure up practical wisdom.” (Jehovah provides needed help through his written Word and his visible organization. An earnest desire and personal effort, including the use of one’s thinking ability in a constructive manner, are also necessary.)
Is it realistic to expect to find absolute truth from this Source?
2 Tim. 3:16; John 17:17: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” “[Jesus said to his heavenly Father:] Your word is truth.” (Is it not reasonable that the Creator of the universe would have full understanding of it? In the Bible he has not told us everything about the universe, but what he has had recorded there is not speculation; it is truth. He has also stated in the Bible what his purpose is for the earth and for mankind and how he will accomplish it. His almighty power, superlative wisdom, flawless justice, and great love guarantee that this purpose will be fully accomplished, and in the best possible manner. His qualities thus assure us that his statement of purpose is completely dependable; it is truth.)
What is the origin of human philosophies?
They come from people who have limitations: The Bible informs us: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) History testifies that trying to ignore that limitation has not produced good results. On one occasion, “Jehovah proceeded to answer Job out of the windstorm and say: ‘Who is this that is obscuring counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins, please, like an able-bodied man, and let me question you, and you inform me. Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding.’” (Job 38:1-4) (Humans by nature have limitations. Additionally, their experience in life is relatively brief and is usually confined to one culture or one environment. The knowledge they possess is thus restricted, and everything is interconnected to such an extent that they constantly find aspects that they had not adequately considered. Any philosophy that they originate will reflect these limitations.)
They are developed by humans who are imperfect: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Prov. 14:12) (Because of such imperfection, human philosophies often reflect a basic selfishness that leads perhaps to momentary pleasure but also to frustration and much unhappiness.)
They are influenced by demonic spirits: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) “The one called Devil and Satan . . . is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Rev. 12:9) “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) (Philosophies that encourage people to disobey God’s wholesome and upright requirements reflect such an influence. No wonder that, as history testifies, human philosophies and schemes have often brought grief to large segments of humankind.)
Why is it an evidence of clear thinking to study the teachings of Jesus Christ instead of human philosophy?
Col. 1:15-17: “He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth . . . All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things and by means of him all other things were made to exist.” (His intimate relationship with God enables him to help us to learn the truth about God. Furthermore, as the one through whom all other things were made, Jesus has a full knowledge of the entire created universe. No human philosopher can offer any of this.)
Col. 1:19, 20: “God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him [Jesus Christ], and through him to reconcile again to himself all other things by making peace through the blood he shed on the torture stake.” (Thus Jesus Christ is the one through whom God has purposed to bring all creation back into harmony with himself. To Jesus, God has also entrusted rulership over all the earth, as shown at Daniel 7:13, 14. So our life prospects for the future depend on getting to know him and responding favorably to his instruction.)
Col. 2:8: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (What a sad mistake it would be to choose such deceptive human philosophy in preference to acquiring true wisdom as a disciple of Jesus Christ, the second-greatest person in the universe, next to God himself!)
How does God view the “wisdom” offered by human philosophy?
1 Cor. 1:19-25: “It is written: ‘I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectual men I will shove aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness [as it appears to the world] of what is preached to save those believing. . . . Because a foolish thing of God [as the world views it] is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God [as the world may see it] is stronger than men.” (Such a viewpoint on God’s part is certainly not arbitrary or unreasonable. He has provided in the Bible, the most widely circulated book in the world, a clear statement of his purpose. He has sent his witnesses to discuss it with all who will listen. How foolish for any creature to think that he has wisdom greater than that of God!)