To a great extent, evangelical Christianity is not as much characterized by good, straight thinking as it should be. The result is that many of us face the possibility of being subverted by some of the strange philosophies that are taught today. With this in mind, we will begin our study with the second chapter of Colossians. Colossians is one of several new testament books that was written as a polemic against heresy. First Corinthians was written against the heresy of phenomenalism, and Galatians deals with the heresy of legalism—the idea that we are perfected by law-keeping. In Colossians we find an argument against salvation by intellectualism. The problem of the Colossians was that they had “nosis”—knowledge—but they didn't have “epinosis”—full knowledge. The apostle Paul attempted to persuade these people to turn from a preoccupation with intellectualism to realize that divine truth, as it comes from the Lord, far surpasses the knowledge obtainable on a horizontal, or earthly level. Paul writes to them with this in mind.
Our text begins with a verse six of Colossians chapter two:
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 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. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.
Our key verse is Colossians 2:8, one that we should commit to memory: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy in vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” The apostle Paul wrote this first because that was a real danger to the Colossians, and it is still a real danger today. We have a kind of “pseudo-intellectualism” that is growing and spreading throughout the world, and its advocates disregard spiritual things and of the vital truth of the word of God. Everyone is in danger of being subverted by this alternative to historic Christianity; consequently, the apostle Paul issues this warning to us.
When I took my first philosophy class, my friends said to me, “Dave, it's going to be very dangerous. You'll probably denied the faith. You'll become an atheist. Don't take philosophy.“ In order to protect myself, I wrote a verse on a small card about the size of a business calling card. The verse I printed on the card was Colossians 2:8. I had to look at that verse every time I went to a new page in the philosophy book (it considered subjects such as cosmology and many other dangerous things). Every day I was warned about being subverted by philosophy and vain deceit, and I would like to extend that same warning to you.
It is my judgment that a person becomes what he believes. “Keep that heart with all diligence” the Bible says, “for out of bed are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). This means to be very careful of the things you allow to enter your heart and mind—the things you except and believe. “Keep thy heart with all diligence” because what you believe today will govern what you will be doing tomorrow, and throughout eternity. This is true of individuals, and it is also true of societies. Societies, or cultures, become what they believe. Therefore, it is important that nations and peoples believe the right thing, because the consequences of their false faith will be devastating tomorrow. Today, we are moving into a time of devastating consequences resulting from a false faith held by our Western civilization. The world is deteriorating today because it has accepted so many false philosophies. These false views have come to us from men who wrote about them most articulately in days gone by. We have inherited a system of philosophies that influence every one of our lives, every day that we live, far more, perhaps, then we can even imagine. These false philosophies come to us from seven particular sources—seven men who rule the world from their graves.
Who are these men? I will give you a simple distillation of the views of these men, and how their views have affected the world.