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Quotes About Philosophy

Quotes about philosophy from throughout Christian History.


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Minucius Felix, A.D. 160-230

My friend Cecilius, let Socrates, the Athenian buffoon, confess that he knew nothing at all. Let all the philosophers go on deliberating. Let the great philosopher Simonides go on forever putting off a decision about what he believes.

   We despise the bent brows of the philosophers, because we know them to be corrupters, adulterers, and tyrants. They have great eloquence, but they're speaking against vices that they themselves live in.

   We, on the other hand, who do not carry our wisdom in our clothes, but in our minds, don't speak great things; we live them. We boast that we have found what they have sought for with the utmost eagerness but have not been able to find. (The Octavius )

Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190

But philosophy, it is said, was not sent by the Lord, but came stolen or given by a thief. It was then some power or angel that had learned something of the truth, but abode not in it, that inspired and taught these things. This did not occur without the Lord's knowledge, who knew before the constitution of each essence the issues of futurity, but it did occur without his prohibition. (Miscellanies I:17)

Tertullian, c. A.D. 210

It will be said that some of us [Christians] also depart from the rules of our discipline. In that case, however, we count them no longer Christians, but the philosophers who do such things still retain the name and the honor of wisdom. So, then, where is there any likeness between the Christian and the philosopher? Between the disciple of Greece and of heaven? Between the man whose object is fame and whose object is life? Between the talker and the doer? Between the man who builds up and the man who pulls down? Between the friend and the foe of error? Between one who corrupts the truth and one who restores and teaches it? Between its chief and its custodian? (Apology 46)

Unhappy Aristotle! He invented dialectics for these [heretics], the art of building up and pulling down, an art so evasive in its propositions, so farsfetched in its conjectures, so harsh in its arguments, so productive of contentions! Embarrassing even to itself, retracting everything, and really conclusively settling nothing! From where do those fables and endless genealogies, unprofitable questions, and words that spread like a cancer spring? From all these, when the apostle would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as the thing he would have us guard against. Writing to the Colossians, he says, "See that no one beguiles you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit" [Col. 2:8]. (Prescription Against Heretics 6)

The apostle ... expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against. Writing to the Colossians, he says, "See that no one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Ghost" [Col. 2:8, with the last phrase adjusted a little through a memory lapse or a purposeful adjustment of his own]. He had been at Athens, and had in his interviews become acquainted with that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth while it only corrupts it and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects.

   What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? What between heretics and Christians?

   Our instruction comes from "the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart" [Wisdom of Solomon 1:1]. Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. (Prescription Against Heretics 6)

Socrates Scholasticus, c. A.D. 450

Greek literature certainly was never recognized either by Christ or his apostles as divinely inspired, nor on the other hand was it wholly rejected as pernicious. And this they did, I conceive, not inconsiderately. For there were many philosophers among the Greeks who were not far from the knowledge of God ... By not forbidding the study of the learned works of the Greeks, they left it to the discretion of those who wished to do so.

     This is our first argument in defense of the position we took. Another may be put this way: The divinely inspired Scriptures undoubtedly inculcate doctrines that are both admirable in themselves and heavenly in their character: they also eminently tend to produce piety and integrity of life in those who are guided by their precepts, pointing out a walk of faith which is highly approved by God. But they do not instruct us in the art of reasoning, by means of which we may be enabled successfully to resist those who oppose the truth. Besides adversaries are most easily foiled, when we can use their own weapons against them.

     Should any one imagine that in making these assertions we wrest the Scriptures from their legitimate construction, let it be remembered that the apostle not only does not forbid our being instructed in Greek learning, but that he himself seems by no means to have neglected it, inasmuch as he knows many of the sayings of the Greeks. From where did he get the saying, "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow-bellies," but from a perusal of the oracles of Epimenides, the Cretan initiator? Or how would he have known " For we are also his offspring" had he not been acquainted with The Phenomena of Aratus the astronomer? Again, this sentence, "Bad company corrupt good manners," is a sufficient proof that he was conversant with the tragedies of Euripides. (Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus III:16)

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