Spoiled Through Philosophy
(Colossians 2:8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Saints must be ever wary (“Beware...”) of potential dangers which could handicap or overthrow their faith. We are to beware of false prophets (MAT 7:15), of men (MAT 10:17), of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (MAT 16:6), of self-promoting scribes (MAR 12:38), of covetousness (LUK 12:15), of dogs, evil workers and the concision (PHIL 3:2), of falling from stedfastness (2PE 3:17). This is but a sampling of the brigands that lurk in the bushes along the narrow way that leads unto life. In our featured text, Paul focuses on another danger to beware of: philosophy and vain deceit. Philosophy (the critical study of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them) has its merits but also its snares, particularly when it is “...after the tradition of men...” Jesus said the traditions of men make “...the word of God of none effect...” (MAR 7:13) and (through their being codified) invalidate efforts to worship God (MAT 15:9). Philosophy which under the guise of expanding knowledge and honing critical thought undermines Biblical faith is a very real danger. Many are the saints who have had their faith made shipwreck by professors of worldly wisdom. Believers brought up in Christian homes too frequently go off to college where they are subjected to powerful, sometimes dogmatic “wisdom of this world” influences and shortly abandon their faith. Paul declared that the world “...by wisdom knew not God” (1CO 1:21) and warned of “...oppositions of science falsely so called” (1TI 6:20). Sadly, this scenario is not confined to secular institutions. Many professed Christian colleges and seminaries are rivaling secular schools in the body count of this spiritual warfare. For various reasons, God-fearing youth enter the halls of academia (secular and Christian) believing they have God's infallible, inspired word in hand but come out convinced that 1) there never was such a thing, or 2) such a thing only existed in original autographs which are long extinct, or 3) God's word isn't preserved in the letters, words and grammar: it's in general themes which constantly evolve with the times. Since faith comes by the word of God (ROM 10:17), education which denies there is a preserved word of God is destructive of faith. Regardless of their chosen names, by the measure of Almighty God, faith-destroying schools should all be named, “Millstone College.” See MAT 18:6. There is something very deceptive about an institution which purports to be a facilitator of faith while it systematically through worldly wisdom undermines faith. It is for good reason that Paul here exhorts us to beware of philosophy and vain deceit. Pilate's philosophical question, “...What is truth?...” (JOH 18:38) echoes down through the ages. Man's clever speculations and ruminations about truth, good and wisdom, though mentally provocative and ever so impressive, are poor substitutes for God's wisdom as revealed in His Son and His word. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men...” (1CO 1:25). The philosophical Greeks of Paul's day whom God had not called sought after wisdom and deemed “Christ crucified” foolishness (1CO 1:22-24): they could not see God's wisdom in it (1CO 2:6-8). In His dullest of moments (if one may speak as a fool), God outshines the brightest men or angels. The apostle who under divine inspiration penned our featured text was himself in times past a zealous, intelligent devotee of the crafty wisdom of the rabbinical school of thought. He was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel (ACT 22:3), a degreed doctor of the Pharisees (ACT 5:34). Paul had become a master in that Jewish sophistry and “...profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals...” (GAL 1:14). But after Paul was forced to measure worldly wisdom against the foolishness of God (i.e., Christ crucified), he counted all of his religious and philosophical genius as dung (PHIL 3:7-8). So should our assessment be of philosophy which spoils faith in God and His word regardless of its source, its credentials or the multitude of its proponents and adherents. No matter how diligently one polishes dung, it is still dung.