~ by Randy Bushey
See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy… (Colossians 2:8).
It’s hard to think of 2 more different apostles in the early church than Paul and John.
Whereas Paul could be bombastic, confrontational and scathing in his rebuke (i.e. evident in Galatians), John was the Apostle of love and is often viewed as self-effacing and gentle.
Paul was highly educated, the “golden-haired boy” of Jewish intellectualism, exclusivism and extremism. John is remembered as a back-water Galilean fisherman.
Paul and Peter were both martyred around the same time in the mid 60s AD – Peter by crucifixion and Paul, the Roman citizen, by decapitation.
John – who lived until near the end of the 1st century, the only living apostle and quite probably the only person at that time to have seen Christ – was elderly, esteemed, and reverenced. Having lived decades past the normal life expectancy of 1st century middle-eastern man, John died of natural causes.
Each was a primary Gospel philosopher.
By definition, philosophy seeks to understand the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.
By etymology, it is the love of wisdom.
Consequently, reason demands that every follower of Christ is a philosopher.
Paul and John made significant contributions to Christian philosophy that have stood the trials of time for almost 2000 years.
One of the most profound metaphysical assertions in the Bible is found in the opening words of John’s gospel. Speaking of Jesus Christ, John begins in the first 2 verses:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
John refers explicitly to Jesus as the Word. Of all the New Testament writers, that title for Christ is John’s alone.
In so doing, the apostle was taking a Greek philosophical concept and infusing it with eternal, Gospel meaning.
To the ancient philosophers, the logos (translated Word in English) was a vague principle of universal coherence and order.
To the Greeks, life was always changing and in an ironic sense, change is the only constant.
Furthermore, they believed, truth changes. Because truth changes absolutely, therefore absolute truth cannot, does not, exist. This, of course, is foundational to relativistic and existential thinking today.
But, the Greeks posited that what does exist is an abstract principle of cosmic law so that change is not characterized by lawlessness and anarchy. This universal principle is an absolute fixed point of reference. It provides harmony and order of chaos. It infuses logic.
It was called the Logos, or the Word.
And then along comes John, the Galilean fisherman to wade into the fray. This was a time of intellectual scepticism and cynicism – Can anyone really know truth?
But John made some profound declarations moving the yardsticks of intellectual consideration in a significant way.
In one sense, the Logos was with God; however, in another, the Logos is God.
And then, pushing the concept beyond what anyone had previously imagined, John proclaimed this: the Logos is personal. (Notice above that in verse 2 that the only new data John supplies that was not already in verse 1 is the pronoun he.)
The Logos is a Person!
And with that proclamation, John lobbed a hand-grenade into the Athenian Academy. Deep thinkers have contemplated the prologue to his Gospel ever since.
Paul adds to Gospel philosophical understanding.
After warning the Colossian believers, See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy…(Colossians 2:8), he then explains that any thinking about big issues that does not include Christ is destined ultimately to deceive, disappoint and fail:
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…(v.9).
Did you catch that? The fullness of the immeasurably profound, eternally pre-existent, Necessary Being is physically present in the Person of Jesus.
Furthermore: and you have been given fulness in Christ (v.10).
Included in what Paul is saying, is that ultimate and eternal truth is accessible to every believer who adopts a Christ-centred worldview.
In fact, Paul’s defense goes further: without Christ, you can’t begin to understand questions of philosophical origin and destiny, morality and ethics, meaning and purpose.
Takeaway: the greatest philosopher of any era was the Lord Jesus.
And He made the most audacious assertions about truth as recorded by John in his Gospel.
1) for those who embrace His teaching and become His disciples, the result will be, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
2) in His High Priestly prayer to the Father for His disciples, Jesus prayed Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).
3) and in that same upper room on the night before His crucifixion, He comforted His disciples by identifying Himself as the personification of truth: I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14:6).
~ graphic by yournewven, freeimages.com