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Check Your Philosophy

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.
-Colossians 2:8

 

When I was a child growing up in a rural community only an hour south of here, Evansville was endeared to me by the three television channels I could receive from the roof-top antennae on my house. Evansville’s TV stations, 7-14-25, gave me a window to world news, weather reports (I still love a good snowstorm!) and the ability to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Especially during the school year, a highlight of my week was watching the offerings of “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday evenings before I went to bed. Shows like “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” and “The Swiss Family Robinson” fueled my imagination for years.

My favorite Disney movie has always been “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Not only did it speak to my love of cars, but it left me terrified of the villain, “Child Catcher.” I’m not alone. As recently as 2005, “Child Catcher” was voted in a BBC poll as "the scariest villain in children's books.” I still agree. What’s more terrifying to a child than a scary figure dressed in black being commissioned by a government to enslave all the children of the land?

It is the image of “Child Catcher” that comes to my mind every time I read Paul’s word to the church in Colossians 2:8. He says “Don’t let anyone catch you with empty philosophies.” This word was used in Paul’s time when speaking of slave raiders that would come into an area and capture people. Instead of lollipops, the enemies of the church at Colossae were using philosophical and mystical additions to the gospel as their bait. 

The term “philosophy” can have a negative or positive connotation depending on the character of the philosophy. Notice how Paul calls it “empty philosophy” which he sets in contrast to the “fullness” that comes when you have Jesus. In this case, much depends on our understanding of the term’s usage in Paul’s writing. If by philosophy we mean the search for clarity and understanding regarding the whole of reality, then the Christian must be a philosopher. Paul is not laying down a wholesale condemnation of the study of philosophy. Our faith develops through the process of thinking about what God reveals to us. This is both good for us and right. 

Our quest, however, must always submit to the guidance, limitation, and criticism of the light of divine revelation. If by philosophy we mean human speculation regarding the basic questions of life without due respect for the revelation of God, then the Christian is right in appealing to Paul’s warning to the Colossians specifically. The philosophy coming into Colossae will corrupt the gospel. Beware of this sort of philosophizing. It is not only the nonsense of men (browse any talk show or bookstore), but it is also the doctrine of demons, according to Paul. This is a great warning for us, and is even more terrifying than Child Catcher.

 

Categories: Adult Ministries, Student