Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10; New Living Translation)
Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense. It abounds. It did in ancient Colosse. It does today.
Some people like an intellectual joust. They enjoy debating and arguing. They thrive on the stimulation of apologetics and philosophical conversations. They derive a certain satisfaction from mental gymnastics.
Nothing has changed. Men and women have worked this way for millennia. And the Apostle Paul knew it well. But he evaluated “empty philosophy” as coming from two possible sources: prideful human thinking and/or subtle spiritual forces.
I don’t know that we can always identify the source of “empty philosophies or high-sounding nonsense.” It probably doesn’t matter. It’s the outcome that matters: Captivity. Are we captured by these things or by Christ?
In the early 19th century, a revival movement swept across the western frontier (as it was then) in the United States. The Restoration Movement called people and churches to unity. The leaders declared that creeds had hurt the cause of Christ more than they helped. Let’s have “No creed but Christ.” They urged people to abandon denominational tags and just call themselves Christians: “Christians only, but not the only Christians.”
The vision caught on like wildfire; a breath of fresh air swept through the musty denominations of that day. But then some of those same Movement leaders, urging people to stand on Scripture alone, began to publicly debate their doctrinal conclusions. I suspect that those lengthy debates (sometimes days in the delivery) marked the start of the decline of the Movement, primarily because intellectual wrestling (like all competition) ultimately produces winners and losers, not disciples.
I’m not suggesting that we check our brains at the door; that Christianity is either mindless or unreasonable. Not for a moment. C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Colson and so many others have provided extraordinary examples of Christian thoughtfulness.
Faith does not require closed minds. At the same time, however, if we settle for a Christian system or a doctrinal model that explains God and the universe quite nicely, we may partially satisfy a religious curiosity within us but we will never satisfy the longing of the soul for union with the divine.
Ultimately, our lives thrive when Christ Himself captures us, not when we finally work out how to explain Him. We experience freedom when the Lord of all creation seizes our affections and claims us for His own and we “abide in Him.”
I fully support deep teaching and Christian higher education, but when the mind gets exalted over the heart, it tends (at times) to also usurp Christ from the throne. May our words this week reflect humility, wisdom, and the language of divine intimacy; something the Apostle Paul seemed to urge from the Colossians, too.