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. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. How could this pursuit ever result in being kidnapped? The Bible says that it is possible. The word “captive” in Colossians 2:8 could also be translated “kidnapped.” The word means to rob and carry off as booty, as a prey or as captive – just 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. False teachers were introducing elements of different religions to create a supposedly finesounding Christianity (Col. 2:16- 19) – which today is called the error of syncretism. 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.
The Bible is not criticizing philosophy as such in these portions 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, however, is that all philosophy which is not Christ-centered is hollow and deceptive. Therefore a Christian 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 have been deluded and kidnapped by hollow and deceptive philosophies. While false teachings of religious cults and extremist groups are often easy to detect – even by the average non-Christian – deceptive philosophy taught right in the classroom by respectable and scholarly teachers can sound logical and enlightening as well as intellectual. Under such conditions the Christian student is often tempted through peer-pressure to doubt and conform and think something like this: “Maybe my Christian friends are wrong after all. They mean well, but they’re naive. Surely my brilliant professor can’t be all wrong. Why do Christians think they have a corner on the truth?” Does this ring a bell with you? Let’s go back and think this through again before we dismiss all Christians as uninformed.
As mentioned before, 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 life all together – is totally dependent on his basic set or grid of presuppositions. The Christian world view is only one of many differing presuppositions concerning the universe in which we live, but the Christian world view is the only world view taught in the Bible. It is the only world view which is Christ-centered. The true Christian believes that even though his world view may not be accepted by the majority of people, even in so-called Christian lands – it is the only true world view because it comes from the mind of God.
As an illustration, consider a large jigsaw puzzle in which every piece of the puzzle represents a piece of truth. Like an interlocking puzzle, all truth should interlock. There is no piece of truth which is independent of all the rest of truth. Whether it’s truth in the area of mathematics, medicine, morals or whatever makes no difference – it must all interlock or hang together. Normally in doing a jigsaw puzzle we finish the outside frame first, and then we properly fit all the other areas of the puzzle into that framework.
This is also 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 incorrectly, then the other sections will not fit unless we force them in – known to us puzzle workers as “piece-pounding.” There’s a lot of “piece-pounding” that goes on in the area of philosophy. For instance, a brilliant non-Christian mathematics professor may have it far more together in his area of the puzzle than the average Christian could ever hope to in that area. But Professor Mathematics now forces his area of specialty along with other observed data into his 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 professor’s philosophy will have some forced pieces – weak links, holes or loose ends – that don’t really all hang together. In the final analysis, his philosophy is hollow! It may look and sound good at a glance, but it’s deceptive!
A Christian student may not have the brains of the non-Christian professor, and in terms of the illustration, he may not be very good in doing philosophical “jigsaw puzzles.” But he does have the right framework, because his 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 fit them into the right area of the puzzle in reference to the overall framework of the Christian world view. He doesn’t have to “piece-pound” – that is, distort, force or be intellectually dishonest.
The Christian world view really does hang together! It does not leave unfilled holes, loose ends, or tough questions unanswered – like evil, cruelty and suffering. 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 that a philosophy which is not Christcentered is hollow and deceptive because it “depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Philosophy which is based on human tradition is manmade 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 God and was communicated to man by the Word of God. Christians must be particularly cautious about taking ideas which originate in manmade world views and mixing them into the their world view, as was the problem in Colossae.
Consider the theory of evolution, for example. This theory comes out of the world view of naturalism, which holds that there is no supernatural realm – a presupposition of evolution’s world view. It says that humans are merely complex beings that have evolved from mere matter through eons of time.
Naturally evolution comes out of the world view of naturalism. But evolution does not come out of the Christian world view naturally. It must be mixed in through the concept of theistic evolution (evolutionary creationism). Is it biblical, or merely an intrusion of a foreign idea into the Christian world view? Take a hard look at the evidence before you risk being taken in by a philosophy which may have its roots in some human tradition rather than Scripture.
Philosophy which is not Christcentered is hollow and deceptive – not only because it is manmade, but also because it depends on “the basic principles of the world” (Col. 2:8). What does this mean? There are several interpretations for this phrase, but it seems that the overall idea is that world views that are not Christcentered 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.
Colossians 2:9 emphatically states that Jesus Christ is God: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” If this is so, then He is the center and focus of this universe, as Romans 11:36 says: “From Him and through Him and for Him are all things.” Any philosophy which is not Christ-centered is bound to be hollow and deceptive because Colossians 2:3 tells us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Twice, in Colossians 2 Paul warns us: “Do not let anyone judge you” and “Do not let anyone disqualify you” (16,18), because you won’t buy into their world view. Don’t be shortchanged by allowing yourself to be kidnapped through hollow and deceptive philosophy.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org