Beware of Philosophy!

It is not uncommon to find people who are afraid of philosophy. Philosophy makes people question things. When people question things they start believing new things. It can be dangerous to believe new things. Besides, philosophers are weird. They stand out from the crowd. They are picky about what they say and write and do. Philosophers look at the world in a different way from most other people.

Christians are often afraid of philosophy. The reason for this is that they take their beliefs so seriously. It is sinful to question God and His Word, and philosophy can lead people to do exactly this! Many Christians think that the Apostle Paul also wrote against philosophy.

8 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.
Col 2:8 (ESV)

Paul wrote in Colossians 2.8, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy”. When somebody is taken captive it means that person is trapped. Philosophy can trap people. Paul knew this and so he warned the Colossians about this danger. It is important that we do not stop reading the verse.

8 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.
Col 2:8 (ESV)

Paul not only warns us against philosophy, but also warns us about being taken captive by empty deceit. When Paul wrote “empty deceit” he just meant meaningless lies. There is a philosophy and an empty deceit that it is possible for Christians to become trapped in. Philosophy and empty deceit can trick us, even if we are believers. Notice that the verse still does not end.

8 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.
Col 2:8 (ESV)

Now we know that Paul was not necessarily warning the Colossians about all philosophy. Paul warned the believers in Colossae about philosophy that was according to human tradition. This means that humans made this philosophy up and passed it down. The important thing to understand is that this philosophy, which was a human tradition, was according to the elemental spirits of the world. The elemental spirits, or first principles, were things that worldly unbelievers took as being basic to their understanding.

8 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.
Col 2:8 (ESV)

Whatever it was that the people in Colossae were adopting as their basic principles of thought, it was not according to Christ. Unbelievers were making worldly assumptions based on human traditions passed down outside of the Word of God. Paul warned the Colossian believers about being taken captive by these anti-Christ thought patterns. There was, just as there is today, anti-Christian philosophy. Paul wrote to beware of this philosophy, philosophy that was not according to Christ. The implication is that there is a philosophy according to Christ.

Paul did not write against all philosophy. He merely wanted believers to beware of anti-Christian philosophy. There is such a thing as philosophy, or love of wisdom, or thinking, which is according to Christ. We as believers are to think in terms of Christian principles rather than worldly principles. There was and there still is a Christ-philosophy and an anti-Christ philosophy. These two views of the world are found throughout Scripture. A person is either for Christ or against Christ. This is true regardless of what topic we are on. Christ is Lord of all, not some. Christ is Lord of mathematics, engineering, philosophy, reading, lawn care, grass, cattle, people, nations, and everything else. There is not an inch of ground in the universe that Christ is not Lord over. In everything a person does, he or she is either for Christ or against Him, submitting to His Lordship or not submitting to His Lordship.

Christ was described by Paul as the One “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Col 2:2-3 (ESV) In case you missed it, Paul wrote that every piece of wisdom and every piece of knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ. If every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden in Christ though, how many treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found outside of Christ? The answer, of course, is “none”. Everything anyone could ever possibly need is found in Jesus Christ and there is nothing found outside of Him. Jesus Christ is Truth (John 14.6) and so if someone is to know something then that person must know it based upon Christian principles. Remember what was already discussed about what Paul wrote? There is a Christian way of thinking and an anti-Christian way of thinking. One leads to true knowledge and the other one drags a person into vanity and deception, respectively.

Of course, Paul did not make this up himself. Paul was moved by the Holy Ghost to write what he did. The words of Paul in his letter to the Colossians are the very Word of God. However, God had already moved other men to write down the same description of two ways of thinking hundreds of years before Paul even lived.


3 Comments

BK

Good point, Chris.

Interpreting Col. 2:8 as a warning against philosophy in general not only demonstrates a poor reading of the text, it implies that Paul is warning us to avoid the unavoidable.

We can never be free from (i.e. non-captive to) philosophy, as we all necessarily operate from within a given philosophy. Our reasoning process is ultimately tied to that philosophy (whatever it may be), and so we are most certainly “captive” to it.

BK

Mitchell LeBlanc

“Besides, philosophers are weird.”

=*(

BK

You know he’s right, Mitch 🙂


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