With this question I regard the general makeup of philosophy. Many claim that both philosophy and Christianity contradict and therefore cannot coexist. I do not mention this to ask, 'can a Christian study philosophy,' because it obviously is possible. Many philosophers have made themselves famous by finding clever ways to isolate and hide evidence of a God and the discoveries by them is what is fundamentally taught, so I ask, is it okay for Christians to study philosophy?
Let's take a look at Paul.
The book of Acts details the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem into wider Judea and Samaria, then off through Syria, Asia, Greece, before it concludes with Paul preaching the Gospel in the capital city of the Roman Empire. If we follow along with the way the Christians are preaching the Gospel, we find that once they start talking to Gentiles the references to the Hebrew scriptures drop dramatically.
When we arrive at Acts 17, Paul is standing in the Areopagus, preaching the Gospel to Greek philosophers. He doesn't quote the Law or the Prophets or the Psalms, because they have (little to) no experience with the Hebrew scriptures. Instead, Paul quotes (from memory!) passages from Aratus' Phaenomena and Epimenides' Cretica (Acts 17.28).
And when we read Paul's personal letters, we find: he paraphrases the thought process found in the Jewish book Wisdom of Solomon (Romans 1.18-32; and probably in several other places), he cites Menander's Thais (1 Corinthians 15.33), and again from Epimenides' Cretica (Titus 1.12).
These were works of drama, poetry, and wisdom, both Jewish and Gentile. Paul certainly didn't agree with everything he found in those books, but he had no problems reading them and assimilating some of, in his mind, their best points. And really, Paul's magnum opus, his letter to the Romans, functions as a philosophical argument.
Yes, Christians may study philosophy.
Even when a philosophy is contrary to Christianity, it is often good to study it, so as to be able to understand what other people think. Such philosophies may also have valid points, despite some erroneous parts.
For example, Marxism, which is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity because it is explicitly materialistic and promotes a violent class struggle, still raises important concerns that need to be taken seriously. (For instance, it correctly says that it is unjust for those who possess the means of production to exploit their workers. However, it misidentifies what constitutes this exploitation, or alienation.)
More importantly, a good philosophy (especially one based on the metaphysics of being) is essential for the correct understanding of Christianity. The early Church Councils used the terminology of Aristotle to help formulate our beliefs in the Trinity and in Christology. (Concepts such as ousia and hypostasis--translated in the West as substance and person--come from Aristotle.) Many of the Church Fathers, both Greek and Latin, skillfully used Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy to their advantage.
Naturally, philosophy can be misused: it was an exaggerated adherence to middle Platonism that led Arius to deny the divinity of the Word (the Second Person).
However, there is no fundamental conflict between faith and philosophy. Philosophy should be used critically, but it can be a great help to understanding the Faith.
All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].
- You can do anything you want - but is it productive?
12 But about going further [than the words given by one Shepherd], my son, be warned. Of making many books there is no end [so do not believe everything you read], and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13 All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.
- This speaks for itself.
For this world’s wisdom is foolishness (absurdity and stupidity) with God, for it is written, He lays hold of the wise in their [own] craftiness;
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.
Solomon was wise by inspiration, yet he had to make a search to collect the proverbs which we can stand by as being God's own direction. Yet to do that, no doubt he himself had to wade through a lot of philosophical trash of his time.
Daniel ( Known for having sharp wisdom ) had been instruction in the wisdom/philosophies of the Chaldeans (some of their contributions to worldly wisdom still have value), yet it's obvious Godly wisdom was Daniel's foundation. He was also inspired.
Luke ( Christian example ) was a physician and no doubt had access to all sorts of his own modern day resources of philosophy, practical or not. Yet the same as the above two, Godly wisdom was the main determinant in his understandings.
Apostle Paul (Christian Example) most certainly knew a great deal in philosophy of every sort (he was able to quote a poet of his time for an example) yet its obvious he relied on God's wisdom to determine fact from foolishness.
Many things taught as fact today are indeed hollow philosophies, and some things we are required to be exposed to. But with God's wisdom as the standard of judgement (and an honest approach on a student's part) it should be easy to separate the pearls from the garbage among today's "philosophies".
Many, many, many people make the mistake of not using mental discipline when looking through beliefs/philosophies and tend to go with whatever is fun or attractive. Conversely if you avoid bias and make an honest search, you could easily follow the paths of the good example such as the ones stated above.
It is really a myth that philosophy is explicitly anti religious. Sure there are non or anti religious people among them but I'm not convinced they are more or less than any other profession. Do not think Phil people are really like the Movie God is not dead. It is not like that at all.
If you want to defend the Christian world view in any academic setting a good education in the Philosophy of Religion will be a great asset.
It is also worth noting that at least to William Lane Craig mind there has been a great Renaissance in the philosophy of religion in the US in the last 50 years. He often mentions it that just 50 years ago it would have been unheard of for there to be professional philosophical journals dedicated to the Philosophy of religion and now there are several. He often cites this as evidence for a religious renaissance.
He also tells the story in one of his old podcasts where he was approached by Rutgers. (A school that to be fair is very liberal.) They asked him if he would write a book for them to use in a general religious type of class. Maybe as an introduction to the Philosophy of Religion type of class.
He said "You betcha I will" and did it. Afterwards he told the people at Rutgers something to the effect of "This is a very conservative view of Christianity." to Which they replied "We know that is what the people want."
So I would just like to say that not only should a person who wants to make it his life's work to minister in some fashion or another be open to a good philosophy education but also that you may now find it a much more easier task as what was the case when WLC or Alvin Plantinga was looking into further education.
Rom 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
Jas 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
If your part of a group that forbids you from studying any topic not expressly evil (we are commanded to be simple concerning evil) then you should leave.
Christ is a philosopher His teachings majored in ethics just as much as they did pneumatology. That is to say modern philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Marx and ect are all imperfect human beings and not the God head bodily. Some of their humanistic statements are flawed possibly even evil. Its up to you to discern by the power of the Holy Spirit (read your inner intuition) based on the Bible whats good and whats bad.
Mat 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
For instance as per the above verse Christ believes the ends justifies the means in some situations and modern ethics does not.
1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Ethics and other parts of philosophy are good hold to it. (Through ethical behaviour comes not salvation though.)