Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world…
I. THE COUNTERFEIT OF A GOOD THING.
1. The good thing — "philosophy." Etymologically it means love of wisdom, but in modern use it stands for a system of knowledge. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it stands for the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena of facts relating to that subject are comprehended. It is a good thing because —
(1) Christ's spirit is good. Christ's spirit is a love of truth, a desire to find out the first principles or reason of things; a desire to penetrate all phenomena and to enter in and study that invisible region where all the hidden forces of the universe are at work.
(2) Its process is good — observation, comparison, generalization. Such a process is soul-quickening, invigorating, and ennobling.
(3) Its results are good. All the arts that bless and adorn the civilized world are but ideas reached by philosophy.
2. The counterfeit. There is a false philosophy, a miserable imitation of the true.
(1) It is deceptive, "vain deceit." It is mere fiction, guesses, castles in the air. Its light, such as it is, is a mere ignis fatuus rising out of the muddy marshes of a vain imagination.
(2) It is ill founded "after the tradition," etc. It has its origin in mere human guesses, and the rough undigested elements of a mere worldly knowledge. It is built on crudities.
(3) It is anti-Christian — "not after Christ." Not after the subject, style, and spirit of His teaching.
II. THE COUNTERFEIT OF A GOOD THING IS DANGEROUS. What thousands in all ages have been made a prey of by counterfeit philosophy! They have been plundered and borne away into confusion and ruin by wrong ideas of God, the universe, and man and his nature, obligations, and destiny. "Beware" of it.
1. It has many forms. It appears —
(1) In natural sciences.
(2) In ontological theories.
(3) In theological creeds.
(4) In ethical enactments.
2. It has fascinating aspects. It often comes in the stateliness of the scholar, in the force of the reasoner, in the grandeur of the rhetorician, in the sublimity of the poet.
3. It works insidiously. It instils its errors quietly; and silently as the laws of nature they often work out their own ends.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.