Older translations have it that a Christian should not be entrapped by ‘hollow and deceptive philosophy’ (NIV) that is worldly; rather, we are to live in Christ. I’m consistently smacked upside the head with that one, especially as I’ve worked on my graduate degree in philosophy. People worry about my salvation, and are convinced that ‘academe’ will corrupt my mind. But the ambiguity in such a claim leaves it wide open for people to read their own prejudices into it.
Here’s the KJV translation:
Rooted and built up in him, and stabilished 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.
This translation, recall, was made “in the common language” of King James’s England. But meanings change. Languages evolve. Notice the difference 550 years makes:
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
That’s the NIV. But still, it depends on a grammatical ambiguity, making it easy to infer that all philosophy is hollow and deceptive, not that we should beware of that kind of philosophy that is hollow and deceptive!
So, of course, many use scripture to bind what is loosed in heaven, and to loose what is bound in heaven. They use scripture to take away freedoms had in Christ. Often, they use this very verse, claiming that the freedoms we have are justified by ‘vain philosophies of men,’ freedoms that are clearly unbiblical, clearly ungodly—clearly so, anyway, according to the template by which they interpret scripture.
Today I was reading Colossians, and came upon that verse oft-used as a battering ram to my life. What a wonderful translation! And how clearly it shows the notion I’ve been trying to explain for years—that it isn’t philosophy per se that is dangerous, only certain ideologies that are, that is, ‘philosophy’ in laymen’s terms, not the discipline I (and many Christians before me) practice. That the ‘vain philosophy of men’ isn’t necessarily put forth by anyone called a “philosopher”, that in fact, such is put forth by anyone (including church leaders and authors whose books clutter the shelves of Christian bookstores) who has an agenda other than the love of God.
But I go on. Here’s the verse, in the Inclusive Language translation:
Send your roots deep and grow strong in Christ—firmly established in the faith you’ve been taught, and full of thanksgiving. Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty and deceptive philosophy that is based on the principes of the world instead of Christ.