D.A. Carson tells us that in the ancient world philosophy was not merely academic, but was more of what we would call a worldview - how to live (hear his teaching here). The basic ideas of the Epicureans (live for pleasure and vent your passions) and the Stoics (Restrain your passions and embrace reason) are still with us today. In fact, worldviews, or philosophies, that do not line up with the gospel are all around us in our current culture. And they are not silent! Indeed, they are even militant. From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed unbiblical ideas, worldviews, philosophies are shot at us like bullets from every media source imaginable.
This poses a danger for the Christian who would keep his life grounded on Christ and Scripture. Paul gave this warning:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8, ESVSo what is the believer to do? Christ would NOT have us retreat from culture. He doesn't want us hiding from sinners. How can the doctor, cure in hand, run away from the sick? It is our mission to be in the culture with Christ's gospel. So we cannot board up our houses and turn off our power in an effort to keep sinners from 'infecting' us. Paul did not stick his fingers in his ears and run away from the philosophers.
Rather, Paul was able to hear their ideas without embracing them. He was full of Scripture and full of Christ. Paul had his gospel filter up. All ideas, worldviews and philosophies must pass through the gospel filter and be examined in the light of God's word.
What a need for the believer today! We cannot - EVER - take a vacation from Scripture-saturated thought. We can never receive media to be mindlessly entertained. The gospel filter must always be up. Paul warned us about being taken "captive through philosophy" which is "not according to Christ." These worldviews are flying at us, attempting to 'convert' us, as we read the paper and watch tv, as we view movies and read blogs, as we browse the internet and watch the evening news. We must be aware of these worldviews, and we must test them according to Scripture. Christians must think.
And as we understand the worldviews of our surrounding culture (without becoming deceived by those worldviews) we can use those worldviews as launchpads for the gospel. Paul did this by accepting the philosophers' invitation to speak to them at Mars Hill. He did not once quote the Bible. Rather he quoted their own poets! But the truths of Scripture permeate his address (Acts 17:22-31). He was familiar with their worldview without embracing their worldview. He was in the culture but not of it. His gospel filter was up, and he preached the word of God to an unbelieving audience.
Is your gospel filter up? Are you mindlessly drinking in the worldviews coming at you each moment? Maybe you are hiding from these worldviews to remain 'holy.' This is not what Jesus did, nor is it what Paul did. Live in the culture. Examine it through the filter of the gospel. Cling to Christ. And look for ways to share the gospel in the culture around you.