“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
While the word “philosophy” may summon up any number of mental images, this word simply refers to a love of wisdom or “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.” (1)
You see, everyone has philosophies about life. In other words, everyone has a set of principles that guide their decisions even if they are not consciously aware of them. The problem is that any philosophy can be good or bad depending on its underlying wisdom or worldview. For example, Colossians 2:8 tells us that there are certain philosophies that are not only empty but deceptive.
We can illustrate this idea with a look at a few of the more common philosophies that “…conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ” (CEB)…
- You only live once.
- The ends always justify the means.
- If it feels good, do it.
- Follow your heart.
- If it feels right, it can’t be wrong.
The problem is that each of these philosophies begins with a faulty premise. For instance, some implicitly dismiss the existence of a Creator or equate the idea of “good” or “right” with nothing more than human preference. Others grow out of a kind of “wisdom” that presumes that people will never have to give an account for their choices in life. These are the kinds of philosophies that are certain to lead to eventual trouble.
So how can we decide what represents an empty and deceptive philosophy and what doesn’t? Well, a good standard for for separating the two can be found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs: “For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom. Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding” (Proverbs 9:10 TLB).
This tells us that our search for wisdom and knowledge should begin with an attitude of acknowledgement and respect for our Creator. Any quest for wisdom that begins with the presumption that God does not exist is one that neglects the warning given to us earlier in Colossians 2:4… “I am telling you this so that no one will be able to deceive you with persuasive arguments” (NLT).
The next portion of this three-part study on Colossians 2:8 will continue with a look at the differences between those philosophies that are Biblically valid and those that are not.
(1) Philosophy. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/philosophy (accessed: October 14, 2015).