“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” (Colossians 2:8)

I was reminded of the above scripture when a few years back a young man showed up to visit my church meetings unannounced. I greeted him and asked who he was and if I could I help him. He told me he had heard a lot about the “Mormons” lately and he thought it would be a good experience to visit what he called “the one uniquely American religion”. As we conversed, it was clear that he was a very intelligent young man (he appeared to be in his late twenties). We had several things in common. He was a serious student of religion and had spent several years studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the same locale of my full-time mission. He was inquisitive and ended up staying the entire three hours of church. I talked with him over the three hours and even spent an hour or so in the hallway of the church talking with him after the meetings were over. However, he was clearly different from me in one important way. He didn’t appear to me to be as interested in searching for the validity of Jesus Christ and his mission. Rather, he seemed to enjoy discussing the “philosophies” of religions. While this can be interesting, it mostly leads to “pointless” conversations with each party trying to “intellectualize” the other. Information is exchanged, but when one party is unwilling to acknowledge “faith” as a valid part of the conversation, you are left arguing about the concepts of man. And the concepts of men are nothing more than “philosophical” hypotheses based upon the limited knowledge of men’s feeble minds. Yet, Paul knew what he was talking about when he warned the Colossians because such double talk can be tricky. After all, when you eliminate any divine communication between God and man, the “philosophies” of man is all you have left. And at times, that can leave you confused!

My new friend and I parted ways, knowing more about each other’s beliefs but not coming to an agreement as to the meaning of life.  We had a pleasant conversation and I invited him to come again. He thanked me for my time, smiled and told me he would visit another church he wanted to learn more about. I hope he comes back. I hope he learns much from his journey. But somehow I doubt that his journey will lead him to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the world’s Savior. To believe such would require a bit of faith. And that is why Paul warned the saints against the “rudiments” of the world because the world’s basic tenets are not founded in the Lord. “Beware” is a good word for us to remember when it comes to the “vain deceit” of men. They think they are more intelligent than the prophets and glory in convincing of others that they are smarter than the rest. We need to hold to the Christian faith of our fathers. We will find safety in its doctrines and principles.

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