“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8a; NIV)
The apostle warns about the grave danger lurking in the world’s wisdom, a danger which springs from the deceptive environment of sin. Though various philosophies often appear fruitful, time reveals them as vacant of God’s power. Like a hollow beam, offering the appearance of stability, the contrivances of fallen man often prove to be worthless.
Though Paul often read the pagan poets with great reward, he realized that God’s wisdom is revealed in Christ. In like manner, though Aristotle and Wittgenstein advance our knowledge greatly, they are unable, on their own, to lay a foundation for our souls.
“which depends on human tradition” (Colossians 2:8b)
This is because man’s wisdom, penetrating as it might be, is caught in a web of human tradition, a web spun with a myriad of lusts and ignorance. If the history of philosophy demonstrates anything, it surely demonstrates how the philosophers were entrapped in whatever rebellions and hindrances attended their times.
“and the elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Colossians 2:8c)
Yet attending to finite human limitations, behind the scenes, there is another power at work in philosophy: the power of Satan. The elemental Spiritual forces, these demonic influences, sway the opinion of men away from Christ. Though philosophy is necessary, in that it helps us clarify language, relate science and faith, and understand our historical place, nevertheless philosophy has been commandeered by Satan. The one who therefore trusts in philosophy, without the enframing support of the Gospel, opens himself to following demonic doctrines.
“…rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8d)
Instead, Christians are to be people whose law is Christ, our only wisdom in the midst of this ungodly age. It is through him that we, though feeble and frail, are strong. It is in him that we, though ignorant and confused, are wise. Study philosophy. Read the canon of human literature. But have no other rock on which you stand than Christ and his word.