“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.”
The most insidious of attacks by Satan in most churches today is the supplanting of theology with philosophy, and yet, this is not a new fight. The early churches had to fight against Greek philosophy, and specifically Gnosticism, for the first four centuries after Christ ascended to heaven. Theology comes from the words theos (“God”) and logos (“Word”), referring to exclusively to what God has said in the Bible. Philosophy on the other hand is speculation and human thought imposing itself on the Gospel, often leading to questions that should never be asked and drying up a Christian’s spiritual life and robbing them of their joy.
Generally, people who start taking up philosophy in the place of theology have the tendency to consider themselves superior, Paul stating in Colossians 2:18:
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
The apostle also said to the Corinthian Assembly, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Cor. 8:1), the word “edifieth” literally meaning “builds up.” This is the difference between a balloon and a building. The kind of knowledge of philosophy only puffs a man up, making him think of himself as superior than those on the outside of his small group or cult, having attained a knowledge that the vast majority of people lack, full of self-confidence and self-satisfaction. Consequently, these people typically have a carnal and excitable zeal that can easily draw unwary Christians to them. Yet, the apostle calls this a delusion, saying at the beginning of this chapter, “lest any man beguile you with enticing words” (2:4); it is a beguiling, a delusion. The true faith as found in the Bible, however, builds a man up solidly and establishes him securely.
What can we do, however, to safeguard ourselves from the subtle, attractive teachings of philosophy? Paul’s answer is the necessity of more knowledge, praying in Colossians 2:2-3:
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
If you are a person interested in mystical ideas, you need not go anywhere else, for in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Are you attracted to philosophies about the origin of evil, or the origin of the world? You need not go anywhere else but the Bible in which God has revealed everything we need to know about such topics. Although, you may be saying, “But I just can’t believe that a God of love would create Satan knowing he would fall and cause man to fall.” Or perhaps, “I just can’t believe a God of love would send anyone to hell.” Be careful, dear one, for the moment you ask such questions, you are speculating, ignoring what God has revealed in Scripture, and if you are a Christian, this can dry you of your joy in the Lord. There are certain things that we are not meant to understand, yet as a result of the fall, we all have “lusts of the mind” wanting to know everything. At some point, though, we have to give up on such a futile desire, resting in faith and being content with what God has revealed in the Bible, standing on what we do know.
The primary questions to ask about any teaching that presents itself to us, is what is the teaching based upon, and does it glorify Christ? This can be applied to every cult, every philosophy, and every worldview. Are your beliefs based directly on the New Testament teaching, derived at every point from Scripture, or is it the working out of your own ideas and understandings? Each of us must be very careful as this is a danger for all of us. If one’s philosophy about life works perfectly fine without Christ, it is a denial of Christ, as Christianity starts and ends with Christ. Christianity does not merely “lead to” Christ. The apostle continues in the chapter describing these people as, “Not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (2:19). The Lord Jesus is the Head and without Him is nothing. If there is any belief in you that creates a tendency to being puffed up, then crucify that belief at once.