Eugenics in the Modern Age: A Lesson We’ve Yet to Learn

DSC02059The State of North Carolina passed an incredibly inadequate law to compensate victims of its eugenics program. It’s incredibly inadequate in that it only offers $20,000 to the victims of the forced sterilization and not all victims qualify. Everything about this is disgusting; that it’s kept mostly out of the news, certainly not studied in history, the victims get next to nothing in terms of actual compensation, and not all the victims are compensated. Considering that the Eugenics Board of North Carolina existed until 1977 and the laws allowing for eugenic sterilization weren’t repealed until 2003, added with the fact that we’ve ignored these facts, only forces us to lose any moral standing as a nation.

North Carolina isn’t alone either. In California, female inmates were sterilized up until 2010. Just last month a Republican candidate out in Arizona gave up campaigning because he advocate the forced sterilization of welfare recipients (specifically women).  Historically speaking, eugenics has never been anything more than a tool for people to promote their bigotries under the auspices of science. We’ve been told time and time again that eugenics isn’t a legitimate scientific study, that there’s no real science to eugenics, and yet here we stand in 2014 and social commentators and scientists continue to support it.

John Entine – director of the Genetic Literacy Project – is a strong advocate for the “New Eugenics,” believing that with modern science we’ll somehow make better decisions. As Paul Campos points out, there is seemingly popular sentiment that those in prison and on welfare ought to be sterilized (an opinion he finds repugnant). Some scientists counter that if we can conduct gene manipulation to eliminate harmful genetic structures, then why not? Of course, gene therapy – in which a person is not harmed or loses the ability to reproduce – isn’t really eugenics. If we developed a genetic therapy that could eliminate heart disease and that genetic therapy didn’t require the termination of selected individuals, or the non-breeding of selected individuals, then it’s not really eugenics. Even the afore-linked article makes the assumption that after WWII, eugenics fell by the wayside and out of popularity. As seen from the evidence, however, WWII simply changed how eugenics was conducted, but the popularity of eugenics didn’t wain even in the face of eugenic genocide.

The biggest mistake of Nazi Germany wasn’t just that it hated those it deemed less than socially acceptable, it’s that they treated those they deemed so as less-than-human. Hating Jews for the fact that they’re Jews is wrong in and of itself; hating anyone for arbitrary reasons is wrong. But that hate takes on a deeper evil when we allow ourselves to view those we hate as less-than-human. Hatred for a specific group of people is why traditionally oppressed groups of people in the United States have consistently faced subjugation to eugenic practices. We’re simply repeating the core component of the Holocaust; while the methods of enacting eugenics today are drastically different from Hitler’s Germany, the core philosophy – that some types of people just don’t deserve to pass on their genetic information – is alive and well. Thus, our disgust with what Hitler did isn’t necessarily over the idea of eugenics, but instead over how he handled it. Or, to put it another way, we’re not against the idea of eradicating certain groups of people, we just think Hitler was too broad in his selection and too zealous in his application, but there’s no real disagreement with his philosophy.

Of course, merely pointing to a similarity shared with Hitler doesn’t make that similarity necessarily wrong, but in this case the link should be obvious. Whenever we devalue human life because of its functionality or desired traits, a type of genocide or tyranny is inevitable. Who gets to decide what is and is not a desirable trait? A parent finds out their kid is at risk for having freckles, which they abhor and think it will only harm them in finding a good job. Thus, out of “compassion” they elect to terminate the child. What about the growing polarity within our political structure? What happens if an extreme right-wing ideology becomes the majority in a state or the nation? Then non-whites and the poor must again face the prospect of being selectively breeded out. What if an extreme left-wing ideology takes over? Should religious folks and prisoners who refuse to reform be equally worried?

The above examples are not “what ifs” or scare tactics, but rather looking at history and seeing that every single time eugenics rears its head, oppression persists. The problem is devaluing human life due to some trait or functionality, but the reality is that human life ought to be celebrated, flaws and all. Whenever we impose a judgement on the intrinsic aspects of a human life – such as lighter skin being more attractive or being athletic makes you better – we’re creating an arbitrary standard. There’s no real reason behind what we say other than our subjective feelings and thoughts. Even if our subjective views are embraced by the majority of people, they remain subjective. Even if 99 out of 100 people believe that blond hair is better than brown hair, there’s no real non-arbitrary reasoning behind that belief. Tomorrow, 99 out of 100 people could change their minds and support brown hair being better than blond hair.

Thus, eugenics is a failed science not only because it always leads to genocide, but because it ignores the fundamental fact of human existence, namely that life ought to be celebrated. While it’s important to fix actual genetic defects – such as heart disease or other deformities – such treatments ought not come at the expense of a human life. If we can improve upon a person’s life without harming the person, then so be it, but eugenics should never enter into the conversation.


Is Philosophy Dead?

It’s currently fashionable for scientists to dismiss philosophy as a viable activity – some have even pronounced its death!  One branch of philosophy, which particularly gets singled out, is metaphysics.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term please note that I’m not referring to the occult or astrology; but, rather, to the branch of philosophical inquiry concerned with the nature of reality.  A metaphysicist will ask (and attempt to answer) questions like: What is truly real? What is personal identity?  What is the nature of the mind?  How do things persist over time?  What is a cause?  What is time?  Etc..

Unlike a scientist, a metaphysicist approaches these questions, primarily, through rational discourse.  They are more concerned with abstract generalizations than with explaining concrete particulars–with the theory underlying our scientific presuppositions than with specific details regarding particular things.  As Stephen Mumford explains:

“When we consider what exists, the philosopher’s answer will be at the highest levels of generality.  They may say there are particulars that fall into natural kinds, there are properties, changes, causes, laws of nature, and so on.  The job of science, however, is to say what specific things exist under each of those categories.  There are electrons, for instance, or tigers, or chemical elements.  There are properties of spin, charge, and mass, there are processes such as dissolution, there are laws of nature such as the law of gravitational attraction.  Metaphysics seeks to organize and systematize all these specific truths that science discovers and to describe their general features.”

A good example of a metaphysical problem would be the laws of nature.  Scientists, largely through observation and testing, attempt to detect and record regularities in nature in order to explain particular events (e.g. the falling of an apple).  These regularities, over time, become laws of nature (i.e. the law of gravity or the law of thermodynamics).  Metaphysicist’s, in contrast, are less concerned with explaining particular events, and more concerned with explaining the nature of the laws themselves.  Hence, a philosopher will ask: What are the laws of physics?  Are they objective realities that we discover about nature or merely a construct of the mind?

Both questions are extremely important, but the methods we use to arrive at a proper answer are very different.  One must primarily rely upon empirical methods (i.e. observation and testing) in order to explain particular events; but to answer metaphysical questions, one must primarily rely upon reason.

Because philosophy focuses on the abstract, and utilizes slightly different methods than science, many scientists are suspicious of, and even antagonistic towards it.  Without realizing, they slip into a form of anti-intellectualism known as scientism.  Scientism, to put it crudely, is a stunted or incomplete theory of knowledge.  It is roughly the belief that science is the only viable source of knowledge and that all other disciplines are either useless (e.g philosophy or theology) or incomplete.  Scientism’s adherents will typically claim that empirical methods, alone, are capable of giving us genuine knowledge about reality.  Thus, they proclaim the death of philosophy!

Immediately, however, one should be suspicious of this point of view: namely, because scientism, itself, is a philosophical position.  It is not possible to prove the claims of scientism through purely empirical means.  From the outset, therefore, it refutes itself and demonstrates why we need philosophy.

Fr. W. Norris Clarke brings up another important point, with regard to empiricist limitations on knowledge:

“One central flaw in all such theories of knowing is that they are in principle unable to do justice to the very subject or self that is asking the questions, since this is at the root of every conscious sense experience and quest for understanding, but not out in front of our senses as an external object to be sensed by them.  In a word, the inner world vanishes in its very attempt to understand the outer world.  The empiricist way of thinking also cripples the age-old natural longing of the human mind to understand, make sense of, its direct experience in terms of deeper causes not directly accessible to us.  The human mind cannot be satisfied to operate only within this straightjacket of an arbitrarily restrictive epistemology.”

Inherently, we all desire to find answers to the questions philosophers ask.  We all want to know the nature of ultimate reality and the value of our existence; we all want to understand how it is that we can know anything about the world; or what knowledge is to begin with.  Scientific research is incredibly important, and empirical methods provide us with a vast number of interesting facts about particular things in the universe.  Science, however, does not give us the deeper meaning behind these amazing discoveries.

Science has especially failed to provide us with any meaningful answers to the questions of personal identity and self consciousness—the “subject or self that is asking the questions” as Fr. Clarke just put it.  It gives us innumerable, and important, facts about our biology and brain chemistry, but it fails to explain the value or purpose of the observer.  More pointedly, it fails to provide a viable explanation for the self’s existence at all.  These questions, along with a host of others, are primarily the subject of philosophy and theology.

Philosophy is not dead–and as long as subjective knowers (i.e. human beings) exist it shall never be.  For Philosophy – the love of wisdom and the desire to understand the deeper, underlying, questions about the nature of our world – is rooted in and flows out of our very nature as beings made in the image of God.

Re-Posted from: Truth is a Man.

The Triumph of Philosophy or, Why Lawrence Krauss is Just Wrong


In the above video, Lawrence Krauss speaks about the importance of students learning science and the greater importance of teachers feeling comfortable with what they are teaching. Certainly, Krauss is correct that our students are undereducated in American schools (overall, the United States is ranked 13th in the world in education, though that number is skewed by our appreciation for the liberal arts). Our teachers, likewise, are severely underpaid compared to their private sector counterparts. Why is it an engineer at a car company makes more money than the person who trained the engineer?

Moving away from where Krauss is right, let’s focus on the two points where he is just completely wrong.

1) Science is not the motivator behind the big questions of existence – those questions have been asked, and answers have been sought, long before the scientific method found its way into the world. In fact, the scientific method itself was born from the womb of epistemology. In asking “how can we know the physical world,” the scientific method came about. Thus, science is a child to philosophy, it is a tool of philosophy; the tool can never overcome the user.

Now, Krauss has a history of making philosophical statements and claiming they are scientific statements. In fact, when it comes to philosophy, Krauss is simply ignorant. For instance, he argues the following;

Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then “natural philosophy” became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there’s a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers.

Now, no philosopher would ever discount scientific discoveries, we would only claim that science is a tool of philosophy to test claims about the physical universe. Even some of Aristotle’s (and later philosophers) most erroneous claims about our world – such as the earth being the center of the universe – came from observations, not theoretical conjuring. That the ancients lacked the technology needed to gain a better understanding of the universe is quite irrelevant; the fact that they still based their ideas off observations shows the first use of science, albeit in a primitive manner, as a tool of philosophy.

Philosophy, not science, asks the big questions, mostly because science in its proper definition is incapable of asking questions. Asking “how does this work” is inherently a philosophical question. The scientific method cannot cause you to ask a question, it can only supply an answer to a question. While more questions will undoubtedly arise in the search for this one answer, each one is based on the curiosity of humans, which is by nature philosophical.

The problem with what Krauss is promoting is that it leads to scientism, or the idea that science counts as the basis of all knowledge. It also betrays an absolute ignorance of the importance of philosophy not only within scientific research, but as the controller of scientific research. Sure, it’s easy to discount philosophy when one is pursuing physics and see no consequences (at least no immediate consequences), but what about biology, specifically human biology? The study of human biology without the guide of ethics and philosophy (namely a basis in metaphysics) can and has led to eugenics. Even in this day there are numerous scientists who promote the abortion and even infanticide of “less than desirable” humans (of course, such an idea is promoted under the guise of compassion).

The point being that scientific advancement needs philosophy, just as a child needs a parent. In both situations, there is a need of a moral voice. Science cannot tell us why it is wrong to kill someone because of his or her deformities. Science cannot produce a value statement on life. Science cannot even tell us why survival is something we ought to strive after, and therein lies the problem with science: in terms of ethics, science can never supply us with an ought, but without an ought there can be no science. That is, if philosophy did not take its primary place in the ancient, medieval, and renaissance world, science would have never been born.

Thus, while science is important, it does not ask the big questions, nor can it answer the big questions. It can provide us tidbits of information and be used as a tool in searching out the answers, but it is not the end-all of knowledge and is eternally subservient to philosophy. One can use a hammer to build a house or to bash in the skull of an opponent, both of which hold scientific equations. Only philosophy can tell you why one is better than the other.

2) Krauss then argues that science and math teachers should be paid more than their humanities counterparts, mostly because of the field of competition out there. Yet, this ignores the fact that humanities degrees actually end up making just as much, if not more, than their hard science counterparts.

A person with a degree in the humanities, specifically philosophy, can turn around and get a job in human resources (which typically comes with a six figure average), marketing, speech writer, communications manager, content manager, legal analyst, and the list really does go on. Thus, if we base our teacher’s pay scales simply on monetary worth in the private sector, there is little to no difference between what a scientist is worth and what an English major is worth. If anything, those with degrees in the humanities have tended to show themselves more versatile in the jobs they can accomplish, which is why they tend to see more success outside the university.

If we want better qualified people teaching, then we need to increase the salary for everyone across the board. Of course, where the school is located will determine what field is more competitive. For instance, a computer engineer will face a more competitive field in Silicon Valley than in Fargo, ND. The school in Fargo would have to pay far less for the teacher than the school in California. Yet, the same remains true for the humanities. While I agree we need to pay our teachers more, the logic of paying a science teacher more because he could make more by not being a teacher is just absurd; every qualified teacher could make more by not being a teacher, regardless of one’s choice in degrees.

Many teachers in the soft sciences, in fact, face a far more competitive field than scientific research. Companies will shell out quite a bit of money right now for people who have a background in ethics. Due to the increase of the internet over the past two decades, content managers and proof-readers are needed now more than ever for websites. That sociology teacher or english teacher could make far more money in the private sector, even more than her scientific counterpart.

In the end, Krauss betrays his bias, that he thinks science to be the only thing we really need in this world. He gives lip service to English teachers, saying, “Well, at least they teach us how to write and communication is important,” but he views science as the queen of all learning. Yet, one can easily prove that science is not the queen of the sciences, nor is it even primary. It is a tool, one that we must learn and use, but never forget that it is nothing more than a tool to be used by the philosopher.

Curing My Religion

From “A Clockwork Orange”. His “cure” fits what Dr. Taylor describes.

Dr. Kathleen Taylor seems to think that advances in neuroscience will allow us to one day cure people of “certain beliefs.” The hypotheticals she uses are radical Islam, cult ideology, and the belief that it’s okay to beat one’s children. She says in the future we can see adverse beliefs that are detrimental to society as a mental illness and then begin steps to curing that mental illness. Of course, the darker aspect of this statement is that what is viewed as “detrimental” to society or as “fundamentalism” is completely subjective to to that society.

For instance, what if Richard Dawkins was in charge of deciding what is and is not “religious fundamentalism” or “harmful to society?” What if he was in charge of what constituted abuse to one’s child? If that were the case, then he would most likely attempt to cure anyone who had religious beliefs and label nearly all religious beliefs as a sign of mental illness. Alternatively, what if Paul Golding of the “Britain First” party gained actual power and had control over what constituted a “fundamentalist” belief? In that case, any and all Muslims or those who believed in supporting the EU or immigration would be the subject of “re-education.”

What constitutes a threat to a nation is subjective to the individual or group talking about the threat. To the Communist, all fascists are threats to the nation and radicals. To the Fascist, all Communists are threats to the nation and radicals. To the Libertarian, both the fascist and communist are threats to the nation and radicals. To those who adhere to orthodox Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, they hold to a stringent belief that their religion is the only correct religion. Such a belief, once commonplace in the West and a quite logical position to hold, is considered a “fundamentalist” viewpoint in the modern world.

What Dr. Taylor seems to support is the forcible re-education of anyone society doesn’t like. In other words, if the majority of people find you to be a fundamentalist, then it’s off to re-education for you. It is the tyranny of democracy, the tyranny of the majority wherein the minority is no longer protected, but persecuted. It brings to mind the political abuse that the Soviet’s used in their attempts to re-educate opponents.

Science has tried its best to divorce itself from religion, but in doing so it has divorced itself from morality and common sense. Science is a tool in life, but not the guide of life. We need religion and morality to teach us that human beings hold innate value. Science cannot speak for or against such a teaching, we must leave this teaching up to ethical philosophy and philosophical anthropology. Likewise, perhaps one day we can “cure” those we disagree with via scientific discoveries, but we should have the ethical restraint to avoid doing such a thing as it robs humans of freedom and dignity. But perhaps that just makes me a fundamentalist in need of being cured.

Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil: A Problem

A while back I mentioned that I no longer support the intelligent design theory (ID). Most of my reasons are simply philosophical (though there are scientific errors within the theory, scientific errors can always be fixed whereas philosophical errors can sometimes require the ejection of an entire system of thinking). One of the biggest ones, however, is that ID is unwittingly problematic when it comes to the problem of evil.

Contrary to most straw-men arguments, ID theorists accept many premises within evolution, but simply deny that natural selection works as an explanation for everything. They believe that across time God has intervened in order to direct evolution or to create irreducibly complex organisms. But by stating that God has directly interjected within creation along the process of evolution means that God has done some pretty nasty things. It would mean that God, not natural selection (which can be attributed to the Fall, even prior to humans) caused multiple natural evils. Even once humans were sentient and in His image, it would mean that He, not natural selection, caused death and suffering in order to help the species evolve as a whole.

Overall, if God interjected along the evolutionary track then He necessarily had to cause evil and take part in evil. Furthermore, it would mean that God’s creation wasn’t up to His standards when it was originally created. Now, one who believes that God sustains creation could easily argue that God allowed creation to exist in a fallen state in preparation of the Fall, but that His standard remained perfect. In fact, this is what William Dembski essentially argues in the previously linked book. But a problem exists when God acts in order to cause an evil rather than simply allowing the evil to occur. Hence, ID poses a serious problem when it comes to the problem of evil. Along with many other reasons, I can no longer consider it a tenable theory for Christians (or theists) to rely upon.

Why P.Z. Meyer is Afraid

"Atheist Gothic"

Over at The Algemeiner, Rabbi Moshe Averick posted about the times he’s felt the wrath of P.Z. Meyer (which isn’t much of a wrath so much as it is a kid throwing a temper-tantrum in the middle of Toys R Us). The bigger issue that Rabbi Averick brings up is that atheists should really be embarrassed by the antics of P.Z. Meyer. After all, he openly calls people stupid, cusses out those who disagree with him, attacks the person rather than the argument (calling an argument “dumb” or “stupid” doesn’t really deal with the argument). One would think that atheists, who supposedly pride themselves on having a superior intellectual prowess compared to theists, would snub their noses at Meyer’s anti-intellectual approach to everything (including ID, where the argument Averick writes about, comparing ID to driftwood, is a weak argument).

Pictured: PZ Meyer Brute Squad

Yet, if you look to the comment section you’ll see that atheists not only aren’t ashamed of P.Z. Meyer, they’re in love with him and his tactics. Perhaps this is because Meyer released his brute squad on the website, but this begs the question of how his brute squad could be so big if atheists truly valued reason.

In fact, many of the comments go on to insult either the intellectual ability of Averick or just insult him as a person. But such tactics are becoming more and more common among atheists, to the point that one fears that if they were in the government they would be totalitarian oppressors, eradicating and removing the freedoms of anyone who is religious. After all, it’s not like fanatical secularism has cost the world millions of lives or anything. Of course, the greatest oppressor of the 20th century has been fanatics for secularism, which is what Meyer is, but we just haven’t learned our lesson.

At the core, however, what causes this blatant disregard for civility, understanding, and intellectual conversation? Certainly conversations can get heated or we can point to the ignorance of someone when speaking about an issue, but to start name-calling or using brute tactics in order to silent an opponent? Is that really intellectual? Other, more academic atheists, don’t seem to suffer from the same social disorder as Meyer does.

It’s not like disagreement should automatically cause people to be uncivil. For those who have kept up with my website, it’s no secret that I’m a conservative, orthodox Christian. Rabbi Averick and I would probably disagree on a few issues, namely the deity of Christ. Though I do not know Averick, I’d venture a guess and say that he and I could probably have a good discussion on the Deity of Christ (or lack of deity) without calling each other names or mocking the other’s belief. I could do this with a lot of Jews. I do have a few atheist friends where I could sit and talk to them about the existence of God without it ever turning into a series of ad hominem attacks. So it’s not as though disagreement itself requires us to insult those who disagree with us.

While I could point to certain philosophical underpinnings, I don’t think it would ultimately be helpful, for there are others who have the same underpinnings, but still act in a civil and respectable manner. So what is it that causes Meyer, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and their followers to be just downright nasty towards those who disagree with them? It’s not just one thing, but a multiplicity of things; they have no reason to be civil, they don’t really know what they’re talking about (on a philosophical level), they live in a world that lacks proper mystery, but most of all, they’re afraid.

Now not all outbursts are due to fear. Sometimes they come from being frustrated (this is often the case for me) because the other side just isn’t getting it. Other times it may just be because it’s been a bad day. But when your entire career and style is based upon insulting others, it’s generally out of fear. So what do Meyer and the new atheists fear? Quite simply, they fear the rise of Christianity in academia.

Prior to the 1960s it wasn’t thought that one could be a committed theist, much less a Christian, and hold a spot in a philosophy department. While such people did exist, they generally held their beliefs as a matter of private views, something that couldn’t be proven or shown to be reasonable. But we now live in a post-Plantinga world; it is through the works of Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and other early theists that in the modern age theism – in philosophy departments – is once again viewed as a reasonable position. Even Christianity, via our Roman Catholic brothers and their Thomistic traditions, is starting to make a comeback among the academic elite.

And this has the new atheists scared. They don’t understand how someone could believe in a “magic sky fairy” or a “flying spaghetti monster” and then declare such a belief reasonable. It’s because they don’t really understand theism, nor do they understand the arguments behind theism. And as is common among humans, when you encounter something you don’t understand, but are also afraid of it, you lash out at it. Look at how many evangelicals deal with Roman Catholicism (or alternatively how many cradle Catholics deal with evangelicals). Look at how many people deal with Muslims, thinking every single one is a terrorist, but also look at how Muslims from foreign lands deal with those different from them. When we don’t understand something, yet are afraid of it, we lash out against it.

The new atheists are no different. Sadly, though they pass themselves off as intellectuals, they really aren’t. They don’t understand the arguments behind Christianity or Theism even if they feign that they do. Rabbi Alverick is merely a proponent of a theistic system (Judaism) that ultimately isn’t understood by the new atheists, but in their minds theism has caused the Crusades, the witch hunts, Hitler’s Germany (yeah, they actually make that argument…tie that one to RABBI Alverick), and a whole host of other ills. In his BBC “documentary” Root of All Evil?, Richard Dawkins implies that religion and theism, specifically Christianity, is the root of all evil in the world. So when Meyer goes after Alverick, it’s no surprise that he attacks Alverick as a person and calls him stupid and cusses at him rather than dealing with the actual intellectual arguments that Alverick offers.

Keep in mind that these new atheists, most of whom lack training in philosophy (even Harris’ undergraduate degree in philosophy is laughable when comparing it to the multiple degrees from those he attacks), are calling “stupid” men and women who are some of the most respected names in the field of philosophy. Meyer has even gone after Francis Collins, who is one of the foremost experts on genetics and one of the most respected scientists of our time. Why? Because Collins believes in God, which is something that Meyer just cannot understand and doesn’t seek to understand. It’s far more comfortable to sit in a room full of one’s own ideas, lashing out at any different ideas, than to encounter and be challenged by opposing ideas. And that’s fine, no one is saying that Meyer and the new atheists have to leave their comfort zone, but stop passing it off as intellectual. They should at least be honest and admit that they’re an emotional overreaction to the inevitable; the belief in God will continue to exist and will never die out, because as a species we simply know better.

Francis Collins, Christianity, and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Dr. Al Mohler has put up a brilliant article talking about Francis Collins’ position as the head of the National Institutes of Health. Collins, though a Christian, has backed down on embryonic stem cell research and said that while we shouldn’t create embryos for the purpose of farming them for research, we should use the ones that are going to “go to waste” anyway. Mohler does an excellent job of pointing out that two wrongs don’t make a right; just because these embryos will likely go to waste doesn’t give us the right to perform experiments on them.

But more importantly, Mohler points out that Collins – despite his strong advocacy for theistic evolution and borderline naturalistic thinking – is still looked at as a “clown” by many of his peers, simply for being a Christian. In other words, no matter how many compromises Collins makes, whether it be in his view of creation or in his view of humanity, so long as he holds the title “Believing Christian” he will have no respect from his peers.

Is it any wonder why Paul warned the Colossians not to give into the false philosophies of the world? Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 2:6-15:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 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. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 2:8-15 ESV) 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. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

While many people are familiar with verse 8 (not to fall into idle philosophies) we often ignore the passage. Paul is not being cranky or trying to control the populace, but rather he is pointing out that Christ has conquered such philosophies, hence their vanity. They contradict Christ, who does not point to truth, but is the Truth (c.f. John 14:6). To adhere to a false philosophy or practice in the world is to go against Christ, because if the truth is not in these philosophies then Christ is not in these philosophies, making them automatically against contra Christus. Paul’s warning is for our own holiness, for if we wish to be like Christ then we should seek Christ and not adhere to beliefs that do not represent Christ. Continue reading