Theology vs. Philosophy
While the technical definition of these words can be expressed in different ways, the widely accepted meaning of these terms when dealing with biblical doctrine is this:
Theology is the compiling of two or more facts found in the scriptures, and putting those facts together to reveal a specific truth.
Philosophy is a search for understanding of doctrine by chiefly speculative rather than observational means, or an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs where a specific fact is not stated in the scriptures. This practice is applied to many obscure passages in the bible where a fact is not stated, but a statement is made that does not give us a full understanding of what it means.
There are many theological concepts that are based on a philosophical interpretation of an obscure or hard to understand passage. This practice severely taints and corrupts the true practice of theology and can lead to beliefs that are far from the truth. If a theological concept is based on a root of philosophy, that theology is corrupted by speculation from the very beginning and cannot be trusted as a complete truth.
There are many obscure passages in the bible that can be understood by finding places where the same topic is mentioned and a fuller understanding is given.
Most of the doctrinal statements in the bible are repeated in many places. That makes it very easy for us to understand some of the points that God wants us to understand as important to Him. We can read and study the bible and apply true theology to gain a full understanding even if the way it is written based on the culture of the time it was written, or the difference in wording in separate passages makes it hard to understand when we only read one passage concerning that topic.
It’s very important that we don’t take an obscure passage alone, and try to understand it based on a speculative idea. We must dismiss entirely any concept based on speculation if we find another place in the bible where there is a conflict with that philosophical concept. And, if an idea cannot be proved by careful study of the scripture, then we should not trust that as a truthful doctrine because it is still a philosophical idea, rather than a theological truth.
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
The mystery of God?
Lot’s of people will try to say the bible cannot be understood unless you have someone to explain and interpret every word and every thought because they say it’s so deeply obscured by the miss-interpretation of words made by the translators, and the hidden meanings they say exist all over the bible They use this concept to fool others into believing their philosophical doctrines. I have to ask, why would God do that? Why would He hide the truth from those who truly seek it when He promised that we would find the truth if we seek it? I know that the mystery of God is used as the reason by most people, but I do not believe that the mystery of God is for the saints of God. The mystery is for those that don’t want to believe in God, or those that have doctrines they choose to believe for whatever reason, rather than seeking the truth whether they like that truth or not.
There are several places in the bible where God shows us that His people will understand, but others will not.
2 Cor 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Col 1:26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
The mystery of Christ was made manifest to the saints by the gospel; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
1 Thess 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Paul says that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, but only for those who are in darkness, not the saints of God. We will know and expect it.
Rev 10:7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
The mystery of God will be finished at the sounding of the seventh angel because the Lord will return and will set up the kingdom of God. There will no longer be any mystery at that time.
Mark 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Those that do not love God and do not have a love for the truth will not be given understanding of the mystery of the kingdom of God. It will be a mystery to them, but only a mystery to them, not a mystery to us.
Dan 12:10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand ; but the wise shall understand .
In the final days before the return of the Lord, the wicked will not understand, but the wise, the saints of God, will understand.
Eph 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ
We can understand that which is a mystery to unbelievers, by reading the bible.
God also gave us His word for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction…
2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
If that’s true, then why would God make it impossible for someone searching for these things to understand? No way. He did not. He gave us His word so we could understand if we sought it out.
When we have the Holy Spirit in us, we gain understanding through Him, and do not need another person to tell us what it means.
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
BUT! Here's the key! You must have a love for the truth and be willing to let the Holy Spirit lead you to it. If you search for proof of the doctrine you want to believe, you'll probably find it.
2 Thessalonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
We must love the truth so much that we're always looking for instruction and correction, not proof of our beliefs, when we study the scripture. We have to keep our desires and opinions out of it entirely! We have to push away what we think we know, and earnestly search for the truth whether we like what we find or not.
This isn't to say we shouldn't study the works of other people. But, we can't allow ourselves get sucked into a false doctrine. There are quite a lot of false doctrines that make so much sense if we allow the philosophical theologies to mingle with truth. We need to know the Word by reading and studying it and study the scriptures quoted by the author of any work in great detail to check it for speculative ideas and discard them. I use other peoples works to get ideas on new paths of study. But, I don't simply believe anything they say unless I study it out myself and prove it one way or the other with the scriptures.
One thing we need other people for, is to keep us in check to make sure we’re not following our own interpretation out of our own will and desires. It’s easy to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is of God sometimes when it’s really our own desire for it to be so. We have to make sure we don’t fall into that trap. We have to be careful we aren’t deceived by ourselves and that we truly listen to God and hear His voice and not our own. There is great deception in the world today. Read the bible yourself. Don’t rely on someone to tell you what it says. If we think something is of God, we can check against the Word of God and if it’s not in line with the Word, we can be certain it’s not of God.
God gave us His word that we might know and understand Him. We must stay away from philosophy and deceit. We need to read the bible enough, and study it enough that the theologies we learn are true and irrefutable.