Editor’s Note: The AMI QT Devotionals from June 27-July 3 are provided by Pastor Ulysses Wang who pastors Remnant Church in Manhattan. Ulysses, a graduate of New York University and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Christine and they have two children.
Devotional Thought for Today
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.”
Years ago I served as a youth pastor to middle and high school students. A lot of time was spent on developing their character so that they could be the light of Christ in their schools. There was also the hope that as they grew in their faith, they would become better prepared for the spiritual challenges they would face in college. As they graduated from high school, I, like a worrying (spiritual) parent, warned them about the dangers of drugs, drinking, and the party scene. I also warned them about philosophy classes. Not that they should never take any, but that they really needed to be discerning about what they were ingesting.
My warnings were not without reason. I remember the Philosophy 101 class that I took as a freshman in college. The professor was an ardent atheist. I was a (fairly) devoted Christian. “He’s not gonna get me,” was the battle cry of my heart. Then he challenged the class with a simple question: “If God is omnipotent, can he create a rock that he can’t lift?” The silence was deafening. “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” Never before had the world seen Christians, Jews, and Muslims in such unity – we were all completely stumped. No one said a word. Well, that was that – the existence of God disproved in a minute, and the professor moved on. Little did I know that the professor had pulled a fast one on us. It wasn’t until years later, when I was taking an apologetics class at seminary that I learned that he had violated a foundational tenet of philosophy – the Law of Non-Contradiction. In other words, something cannot be both “A” and “not A” at the same time. But we didn’t know the Law of Non-Contradiction, and the professor took full advantage.
Looking back on that episode, it’s tempting to want to go and study all the philosophy I can in order to make sure that something like that never happens again. It’d be great to be able to quote Kant, Nietzsche, and Plato from memory. It would make me formidable in debate, and I would sound really smart to boot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with studying philosophy, given that you are indeed careful and discerning with what you read. In fact, engaging secular philosophers in their lingua franca might even be a calling for some. However, it’s important to remember that in the end, the whole truth cannot be philosophy without Christ. Paul unashamedly wrote, “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).
God’s wisdom will always sound like foolishness to the world because His truth is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14), but it is truth and it is life and we are not to be ashamed. There will be occasion for debate, but there will also be occasion to preach the simple gospel, that those who have ears to hear may hear.
Prayer: God, help me to not be intimidated by the wisdom of this world. Help me to know that 15 graduate degrees in philosophy and a shelf full of Kant and Nietzsche don’t trump the truth of the gospel. Give me wisdom to know how, when confronted by those espousing the wisdom of the world, to respond in love. Give me the power of the Spirit and the right words to say. Make me brave. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Psalm 94-95