Friday, August 30, 2019

Does Colossians 2:8 Condemn Philosophy?

        "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8)

        A number of well-meaning Christians understand these inspired words of the Apostle Paul to be a disapproval of us engaging in philosophy. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that it does not take into account the context in which this verse was written.

        Earlier within the context of his epistle, Paul said that we are to teach and proclaim the gospel in a state of wisdom (Colossians 1:27-28). He emphasizes properly knowing the mystery of God, which is the Person of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:2-3). Philosophy necessarily involves the acquisition of wisdom.

        There exists good philosophy and bad philosophy, with the former being in accordance with biblical doctrine. In other words, philosophy is not to be developed apart from or against the content of divine revelation. So, what type of philosophy was the Apostle Paul speaking against? Colossians 2:8 give us the answer: "according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."

        Paul was exhorting the church in Colossae not to be deceived into embracing various customs and practices that were rooted in Jewish and pagan mysticism (Colossians 2:16-23). In so doing, he was very much setting forth a philosophical proposition. The truth of the matter is that there no escaping philosophy. Everybody does it. Consequently, those who oppose philosophy are living by a self-defeating philosophy.

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