Day 87: How Do We Recognize Enslaving Philosophies?

There are many false teachers and false teachings in our time. There have been untrustworthy leaders and teachers in every era of history since the beginning. We must be very careful not to get ensnared by these types of teachings that move us away from the foundation of The Scriptures and our focus on Christ.

Paul writes the letter to the Colossians in part to deal with some false teaching that had made its way into that group of Christians. Paul desire for this community to keep its focus on Christ and to continue in His Way, not the way of the false teachers:

Colossians 2:1–5
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for those who have not met me face to face. 2:2 My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 2:4 I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments that sound reasonable

This whole line of thinking can be summed up in one, amazing idea: All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden IN Christ. If we wish to be wise and knowledgeable about life, about reality, all we need is to know Christ better and more deeply. This is a theme that runs throughout the New Testament. 

There are, however, false teachers who seek to complicate the simplicity of this truth and present “arguments that sound reasonable.” Paul calls these “reasonable arguments” philosophies in Colossians 2:8. Philosophy is not a bad thing in and of itself. The word means “love of wisdom.” Humanity has been endlessly searching for wisdom that will make sense of all of life. The problem is that this wisdom is found only in Christ and people reject Him in their rebellion against the One True God. 

At the root of these “reasonable philosophies” are teachings that Paul describes as “man-made” or “self-made” religion (Colossians 2:23). These alternative “ways” are based in human traditions and demonic inspiration rather than the Truth that has been revealed to us in Jesus. We must be careful not to become captivated and enslaved to such teachings. Here Paul tells us several things about these enslaving philosophies:

  • Enslaving philosophies are empty, or hollow, which means that although they promise “wisdom” they have no basis in reality. They cannot deliver what they offer. 
  • Enslaving philosophies are empty, or hollow, which means that although they promise “wisdom” they have no basis in reality. They cannot deliver what they offer. 
  • Enslaving philosophies are deceptive/deceitful in that they lead us away from The Truth—The treasures of all knowledge and wisdom—that is in Christ.
  • Enslaving philosophies are based in human traditions which means that they are “man-made religions” (see Colossians 2:20-23). 
  • Enslaving philosophies are based in the elemental forces of the world which means that they are demonic.

One of the major topics that we will be exploring in this unit is the reality of the Spiritual World—the realm of the Lord God and angels and demons. As spiritual beings, there is a part of us that interacts with this realm. There are spiritual forces that are opposed to the One True God and all that He loves. As humanity rebels against the True God, in worshipping other “gods” they are actually being deceived by Satanic, demonic powers. Paul gives us some insight on this: 

1 Corinthians 8:4–6
…we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” 8:5 If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live.
10:20 … what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.

This is a topic that will be at the center of our discussions in this unit and we will deal with it in depth in coming sessions. 

Enslaving philosophies are not according to Christ. This is the summary of all of these false ways—they are not in line with reality that is defined by Christ Jesus.

Paul reminds us at the end of this passage that we who are In Christ have also been filled in Him. In Him, we have access to everything we need to live a life free from all the enslaving forces of this world. 

Take a minute to read all of Colossians chapter 2 in your Bible and think about all that Paul says there. Have you encountered teaching that would be similar to what Paul describes?

*You can find a complete list of all the MilktoMeat readings here.

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