When Philosophy Hates Wisdom

October 19, 2017

Colossians 2:8

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a real irony when philosophy hates wisdom. After all, you know what the word means. Philo means love and sophy means wisdom.

I have spent about half of my life inside the cavernous confines of academia. I do not eschew scholarship but highly value it; however, I find much that poses as scholarship to be an endless exercise in the deceptive vanity of competitive speculation. Most of our universities have long since abandoned the quest for godly wisdom as have sadly so many of our seminaries. Twenty-five years ago I found one of the good ones and never left it.

All of this to say I think I get what Paul is getting at here.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

Paul has already appealed to the word, “wisdom” three times and will do so twice more before the letter is signed. (1:9, 1:28, 2:3, 3:16; 4:6) The wisdom of the world can be very seductive, inviting the mind on a noble quest that turns out to be a hall of mirrors. I have witnessed too many people get caught up in it, turn away from God, shipwreck their faith and in its place develop an impenetrable cynicism of resistance. It parades itself in age old mantras like, “Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.”

I remember as a young university student being baited toward the alluring abyss of atheism. I providentially came across Francis Bacon’s piercing quote, in his essay, “Of Atheists,” “It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”

Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. I love how Paul put it to the Corinthians:

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

We need not become anti-academic and we certainly need not despise learning and the quest for knowledge. So often Christians can be bullied with the attack of being narrow minded as though open-mindedness were somehow a more virtuous option. What we must have is sound-mindedness. This way is found in Jesus, who is our wisdom and who would lead us into a wisdom worthy of our highest love and most noble aspirations—indeed the very mind of Christ, the living way of the holy Cross.

Giving Paul the last word

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

. . . 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who is our wisdom. Grant me the gift of the mind of Christ that I might be able to discern wisdom and to know what is true and best in all situations. Lead me in the way not of higher learning but of the highest learning. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Have you ever been caught up in or taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy?
  2. What does it mean to you that Jesus is your wisdom?
  3. What do you make of the distinction between narrow mindedness, open mindedness and sound mindedness?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. “Bless the Universities with prudence, unity, and holiness. However the way of truth be evil spoken of; may they walk in it to the end”–John Wesley, “A Collection of Forms of Prayer For Every Day in The Week”.

    Wesley includes a similar petition just about every day.

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