John 6:53–69, Colossians 2:6–10 (read online ⧉)
We are all subject to the latest fads or the latest rumors or the latest news. Then there is the latest science news or latest health fad. It can overwhelm a person pretty quickly. The truth of the matter is that we are simple creatures who think they are complex. We also like to think more of ourselves than we ought.
When Paul talks about philosophy and empty deceit, he’s talking about things that don’t give life. “Give life” means something in the “Christian” world to many, but doesn’t mean much to those outside of it. This is where the real danger of philosophy and empty deceit come into play. Paul’s words were written to those who believe that Jesus had come to redeem humanity, that Jesus was that one that brought life.
Yet, at the same time, many in the church were torn by the popular and new philosophies which drew them away from the apostolic teaching. We often don’t talk about the “schools” of thinking that were common with one or two leaders having (for a time) a pronounced impact on their cities. These people would use fancy language and (what seemed like) logic to pull people into their circles. Of course, as their circles expanded, so did their influence. Their goal was their gain, not (necessarily) the improvement of their followers. This is what makes it empty deceit. These impressive people draw people into their sphere of influence with the offer of a new life, but it all ends up being empty.
By no means does this mean, as some have interpreted it, the philosophy is bad. In many respects, the vast deepening of Christian philosophy may indeed be what the church needs to reach the world and expand God’s Kingdom. Philosophy will often ask questions that need to be asked, yet many do not want to ask. That is one of the gifts that philosophy has for the church.
The insight we have regarding philosophy and empty deceit comes from Peter, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
1) How do (Simon) Peter’s words apply to philosophy? How do they apply to discern empty deceit?
2) What is the difference between “normal” deceit and “empty” deceit? Why does it matter?