Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

8 Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν·

This was a verse that I had to memorize for my biblical counseling class.  Whether you are in a pastoral counseling role or not I think that this is an important verse.  This verse is the beginning of a three-verse sentence.  The reason why we are not to be taken captive by any other philosophy is because Christ is divine and we who are in Him have been filled with Him.  He is the source of all authority, not  τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων.  I like the more wooden translation "tradition of men" better because I think that really captures the idea and the grammar, though the ESV is fine too.

What do we do with this?  First, I think it should make us very suspicious of psychology.  Psychology is based on the idea that man is basically good.  This is a faulty assumption because it stands in stark contrast with Scripture.  Psychology can provide insights into human behavior, but it has no real cure for what ails sinful mankind.  Christ does.

This also should make us wary of the papists, as men like Spurgeon and Calvin called the Roman Catholics.  It is because they are papists that we should be concerned.  They see sacred tradition as equal to or even surpassing the authority of Scripture.  Now to be sure we Protestants do something similar.  We all have faith and hermenutical traditions that govern how we read Scripture.  However, we also theoretically let Scripture be our guide.  If someone can provide a correctly-interpreted passage then that should change our minds about whatever it addresses.  There is a little bit of a chicken and egg conundrum otherwise known as the hermeneutical spiral.  However, no Protestant should go as far as affirming the perpetual virginity of Mary just because some ecclesiastical body says so, particularly because it stands against the plain meaning of Scripture.  Most conservative Protestants would agree with this.

I would take application of this verse one step further.  We need to be careful about our liturgical practices.  Now you may read this and object, "I'm a Baptist!  We have no liturgy!"  Sure you do.  How would you and the congregation respond if the singing and sermon were reversed in the service?  It would surprise a few folks, wouldn't it?  How would you like it if the pastor came out in an aloha shirt rather than his normal suit?  Or if you go to a church like mine, imagine the reverse.  What if your church changed from hymns on the organ to a four-piece rock band singing praise choruses?  What if you went from grape juice for the Lord's Supper to wine?

I assume you get the idea.  We all have sacred tradition whether we call it that or not.  Let's be careful not to give it too prominent a place.  If we truly are biblical then we will realize that there is flexibility in much of what we hold dear in our practices.  Let's not make more of them than we should.

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