The Danger of Plunderers

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Paul made his concern for the Colossian Christians clear: plunderers were about, seeking to rob them of their prized hope. They must be skeptical of philosophical claims based in the basic elements of the world; they must resist the imposition of Jewish customs; they must turn away from arrogant mysticism; they need to be careful about ascetic strictures. They did well to be grounded in Christ, in whom the fullness of God dwells in bodily form.

The Danger of Plunderers

Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his 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 in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power: in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.

If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:8-23).

The Danger of Plunderers
Paul's Letter to the Colossians

 
 
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The Folly of the Resurrection

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If there’s any guarantee in life, this is it: dead people stay dead. Yet Christians proclaim Jesus of Nazareth as the Crucified but Risen Christ. The world has always found that claim ridiculous and foolish; but for Christians it is the anchor and hope of life which changes everything.

The Folly of the Resurrection

“The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, We will hear thee concerning this yet again (Acts 17:30-32).

The Folly of the Resurrection
The Folly of God in Christ

 
 
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Folly of the Crucifixion

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Christ and Him crucified? Sheer folly to the world. Yet, in Christ, God confounds the wisdom of the world. Wisdom is foolishness; weakness is strength; suffering is victory. The cross is the power of God for those being saved!

The Folly of the Crucifixion

For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning will I bring to nought.”
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumblingblock, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:
that, according as it is written, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Folly of the Crucifixion
The Folly of God in Christ

 
 
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Philosophy and Vain Deceit

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Paul warned the Colossian Christians regarding the temptations of worldly philosophy. Greek philosophy was no doubt in view; it has posed the same problem ever since. What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?

Philosophy and Vain Deceit

Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Greek Philosophy Primer

Presocratics: established philosophy, interested in natural explanations of things
– Thales and Anaximenes, sought to ascertain which of the four primeval elements (air, earth, fire,
water) was primary, or how differentiated things came to be (Anaximander’s pursuit); such is the
Milesian school
– Pythagoras, of mathematical fame, attempted to demonstrate the universe as perfectly
harmonious based on numbers and math
– Heraclitus believed all things were in flux; he called the pattern or structure maintaining this flux
the Logos
– Parmenides believed in one unchanging existence, rooted in the idea of God as ultimate unity
from Xenophanes of Colon; such is the Eleatic school
– Leucippus and Democritus came up with the theory of atoms, small indivisible bodies of different
shape but similar in form, colliding and forming various things, and the basis of everything
– The Sophists were not a school per se but professional educators in rhetoric, believing that thought
was based on individual impression and need not have any deep relationship with reality; such is
the origin of relativism

Socrates: best known Greek philosopher, but all we know is derivative; heavily interested in ethics and the core moral concepts of the good and justice (400s BCE)

Plato: “Platonic realism” within the Theory of Forms
– Forms: the ideal of any given abstract or concrete concept, thus as archetypes
– All things in reality, therefore, are imperfect replications of their ideal Form
– Highly pessimistic about value of physicality; yearning for spiritual release
– Exemplar: Allegory of the Cave
– Neoplatonism: focus on the One Unmoved Mover; its emanation the Demiurge
– Platonism and Neoplatonism provide major philosophical scaffolding for Christian worldview in
late Classical period

Aristotle and the Peripatetic School: Plato’s pupil, focused on what could be learned through scientific inquiry
– Sytematically wrote out expositions on logic, which remain its basis today
– Derived knowledge from induction, conclusions based on the accumulation of facts
– Belief in the Unmoved Mover, which compelled all other things to move and change; all things
made of matter
– Soul is life force; the soul gets conceptions, reasons regarding them, and from them obtains
knowledge of what is true
– The ultimate goal is not unity with the good and the ideal but in happiness derived from virtue;
virtue not rooted in knowledge but in balancing natural impulses
– Father of physical sciences; rediscovery of Aristotle in the 11th and 12th centuries would lead to
Scholasticism, the challenge of nominalism, and the beginning of modernism

Cynicism: first Antisthenes, more famously Diogenes, seeking to lead a simple life by living in accord with nature according to human reason
– Called eudaimonia; it is dependent on self-sufficiency, virtue, clear speaking, a love of humanity,
and indifference to the happenstance of life
– Must practice asceticism and recognize how wealth, fame, power, etc., corrupt, are unnecessary
– “Clear speaking” leads to complete indifference to societal norms through practice of
shamelessness
– Thus virtue is all that is necessary for happiness, and Cynics went about as people without
property, homeless, begging from others
– Especially influential on them monastic movement in Christianity

Skepticism: Pyrrho of Elis, establishing that nothing can be known as absolutely certain
– Pyrrho spent time in India
– The philosophy was later explicated by Sextus Empiricus, bringing in features of empiricism,
attempting to establish confidence in knowledge outside the self
– A recognition that the senses of humanity are easily deceived, and reason tilted toward what we
want: thus the individual can never have absolute confidence in his or her belief system and what
they hold to be true
– Both skepticism and empiricism would become issues driving Descartes, etc.

Epicurus and Epicureanism: working out the consequences of atomic materialism
– The gods existed, but were uninvolved in human affairs; they lived in a state of tranquility
without worry to which humans should strive
– Pleasure was the ultimate goal; the pleasures of the soul as superior to that of the body, and the
latter is really the attempt to give them up and live without pain: seek freedom from fear
(tranquility) and freedom from pain
– Knowledge rooted in sense, preconceived notion, and feelings; preconceptions as worldviews or
universal ideas
– Ethic: strive for happiness according to justice: do as you will but harm no one; “Don’t fear god,
don’t worry about death; what is good is easy to get, and what is terrible is easy to endure”
– With utilitarianism, substantively the philosophical foundation for the modern secular consensus

Stoicism: Zeno of Citium, suggesting ethics as the primary emphasis of knowledge and the
development of self-control and courage to overcome destructive emotion
– Belief in ability to come to objective understanding of universal reason, the Logos
– This Logos also as Fate, the universe as material, reasoning substance; all things subject to its laws;
highly deterministic
– Ethic as intrinsic to the soul, must be developed into virtue
– Virtue as will in accordance with nature, accepting one’s lot in life, pursuing excellence in it; four
virtues as wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance
– Highly favored by the Romans and a good number of Christians through the ages; leads to
“Classical Pantheism” in early modern era

Philosophy and Vain Deceit
Toward a Biblical Worldview

 
 
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