Colossians 2:8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ."
Whoever heard of being kidnapped through philosophy? We've heard of people being brainwashed or programmed to swallow the doctrines of revolutionary movements, but never through the free study of philosophy! Why, philosophy is the love and pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. How could the pursuit of wisdom ever result in a kidnapping? But the Bible says that it is possible to be kidnapped through philosophy. The word "captive" in Colossians 2:8 could be translated "kidnapped." The word means to rob and carry off as booty or as a prey or captive--like kidnapping! Thus the Bible indicates that it is possible for someone to be carried away from the truth into the slavery of error through philosophy. The Colossian Christians were strongly warned to be on their guard against such a possibility. Because the letter to the Colossians is the Word of God, this warning is for all growing Christians. We are not only told to be careful that no one deludes us with persuasive arguments (2:4), but also that no one actually kidnaps us through philosophy. Now the Bible is not knocking philosophy as such in this portion of Scripture. Neither is it condemning all philosophical studies. It is not saying, for example, that a Christian student should not sign up for a course in philosophy. What the Bible is saying here, however, is that all philosophy which is not Christ-centered is "hollow and deceptive." Therefore a Christian student should continually be on guard when he or she does study philosophy, because it is usually written or taught from a non-Christian perspective--and here is precisely where the danger lies. Many unsuspecting students (and others, too!) have been deluded and kidnapped by hollow and deceptive philosophies. These deceptive philosophies are not just the false teachings of the "Moonies" or other cults and extremist groups. Those false teachings are often easy to detect--even by the average non-Christian. But deceptive philosophy can be taught right in the classroom by respectable and scholarly men and women. It can sound logical and enlightening as well as intellectual. Under such conditions the Christian student is tempted (as well as peer-pressured) to doubt and conform. His thought patterns may be something like the following: "Maybe my Christian friends are wrong after all. They mean well, but they're naive. Surely my brilliant professors can't be all wrong. Since when do Christians have a corner on the truth, anyway?" Does this ring a bell with any of you? Wait! Let's go back and think this through again before we dismiss Christians as uninformed people who have committed intellectual suicide! As mentioned above, the danger connected with philosophical study lies in the perspective or standpoint from which things are viewed. Each person has a set of presuppositions concerning the universe. This is his world view and the basis of his philosophy. These presuppositions constitute something like a grid in the person's mind through which all observed and experienced data is received--and interpreted! Thus a person's philosophy (how he puts it all together) is totally dependent on his basic set or "grid" of presuppositions. Now the Christian world view is only one of many differing basic sets of presuppositions concerning the universe in which we live, but the Christian world view is the only world view which is taught in the Bible. The Christian world view is the only world view which is Christ-centered. Thus the true Christian believes that even though his world view is a minority world view, (the majority of people, even in "Christian" lands, do not accept the Christian world view), it is the only completely true world view because it comes from the mind of God. Perhaps an illustration would be helpful at this point. Consider a large jigsaw puzzle in which every piece of the puzzle represents a piece of truth. Like an interlocking jigsaw puzzle, all truth interlocks. There is no "piece of truth" which is independent of all the rest of truth. Whether it's truth in the area of mathematics or medicine or morals or whatever makes no difference--it must all hang together. Normally in doing a jigsaw puzzle we finish the frame first, and then we properly fit all the other areas of the puzzle into that framework. This is the way we all formulate our own philosophies. The framework is our world view or set of presuppositions. All the bits and pieces and sections of truth that we accumulate are fitted in and oriented with respect to that framework. If our framework is distorted or put together wrongly, then the other sections will not fit unless we "force" them in. (This is known to puzzle people as "piece-pounding"!) There's a lot of "piece-pounding" that goes on in the area of philosophy. A brilliant non-Christian mathematics professor, for instance, may have it all together in his or her area of the puzzle (in fact, far more together than "Joe Average Christian" could ever hope to have it together in that area!). But Dr. Mathematics now "wedges" his area of specialty along with his other observed data and experience into his own framework of presuppositions. The resulting philosophy may appear to fit together--especially to the student who knows that the professor is a respected authority in his field. However, somewhere along the line this non-Christian professor's philosophy will have some "forced pieces" or weak links or interstices (holes) or loose ends, so that it doesn't really all hang together. In the last analysis, it does not have a solid base--it is hollow! But it looks and sounds good--it is deceptive! A Christian student may not have the IQ or brains of the non-Christian professor. In terms of the illustration, the Christian student may not be very good at all in doing philosophical "jigsaw puzzles," but he has the right frame! The Christian's set of presuppositions comes from the Bible, and not from his own ideas (which could be biased). As he picks up pieces of truth (some of which he may not understand very well), he can at least put them into the right area of the puzzle and properly orient them in reference to the overall framework of the Christian world view. He doesn't have to "piece-pound" or distort or fudge or be intellectually dishonest. And the Christian world view really does hang together! It does not leave loose ends dangling, or avoid the tough questions like evil and cruelty and suffering. Check out some of the other world views and see how these questions are left up in the air. How do the world views of naturalism or existentialism answer these questions, for example? The Christian world view gives answers for such things as miracles and occult phenomena, guilt, love, beauty and everything else that a world view must account for if it is going to hang together. Do other philosophies give satisfactory answers in these areas? Colossians 2:8 tells us why philosophy which is not Christ-centered is hollow and deceptive. It "depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Philosophy which is based on human tradition is man-made philosophy. And who is to say which man is right? On the other hand, the first basic presupposition of the Christian world view is that its philosophy originated in the mind of Godand was communicated to man by the mouth of God. Growing Christians must be particularly cautious about taking ideas which originate in man-made world views and mixing them into the Christian world view. Consider the theory of evolution, for example. This theory comes out of the world view of naturalism, which holds that there is no supernatural--a basic presupposition to this world view. It says that we humans are but complex machines that have evolved from mere matter through time and chance. Evolution comes out of the world view of naturalism quite naturally! But evolution does not come out of the Christian world view naturally. It must be mixed in through the concept of theistic evolution. Is theistic evolution biblical, or is it merely an intrusion of a foreign idea into the Christian world view? Take a good hard look at the evidence before you risk being taken in by a philosophy which may indeed have its roots in human tradition rather than Scripture. Philosophy that is not Christ-centered is hollow and deceptive--not only because it is man-made, but also because it depends on "the basic principles of the world." What does this mean? There are several possible interpretations for this phrase, but it seems that the overall idea is that world views that are not Christ-centered are too small. They may be adequate and true in some areas, but they are not large enough to account for all the data of the universe and they are not large enough to explain or give an adequate basis for what is included in them. The world view of secular humanism, for example, is not large enough to give an adequate philosophical basis for the fact that man is moral. If Jesus Christ is God, as Colossians 2:9 emphatically states, then He is the center and focus of this universe. "From Him and through Him and for Him are all things" (Romans 11:36). Any philosophy which is not Christ-centered is bound to be hollow and deceptive. "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). Don't be short-changed by allowing yourself to be kidnapped through hollow and deceptive philosophy.