True Religion Vs. False Religion
By Allan Turner
According to Ecclesiastes 12:13, the whole duty of man is to fear the Creator of the Universe and keep His commandments. This is not something just for those who are in covenant relationship with God through Christ, but for all mankind. The Creator has natural dominion over us even before He has authority over us by consent when we are converted. Why? Because, quite frankly, He is the Creator/Sovereign of the Universe: He's the Creator and we are the creature; He's the Potter and we are the clay! Consequently, He has the authority to make demands upon us and we are under obligation to obey His commands. Apart from this understanding there are no real ethical norms (i.e., What should I do?) or obligations (i.e., Why should I do it?); no such things as absolute norms of conduct—no such things as moral absolutes! This, we learn in Romans 1:18-32, is why those who wanted to satisfy their own lusts chose not to retain in their minds the proper concept of God as Creator/Sovereign. According to the Scriptures, they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
True religion (i.e., man made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26,27) and false religion (i.e., God created in the image of man, Romans 1:22,23) are complete opposites. The antagonism between these two are constant. Consequently, the apostle Paul warned, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). In this passage we can see the antagonism between the “tradition of men” and “basic principles of this world” and the teaching of Christ. As Jesus said elsewhere, there are only two sources for religion—God or man (Matthew 21:23-27).
In II Corinthians 10:4,5, Paul wrote: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Making use of military metaphors, the apostle is contrasting vain philosophy (man-made religion) with the truth revealed in the Bible (God-breathed or inspired religion). He is contrasting the secular worldview with the Biblical worldview. Our weapons, he tells us, are not carnal. In other words, they are not “according to the tradition of men” nor are they “according to the basic principles of the world.” Nevertheless, they are mighty “in God” for the pulling down of “strongholds.” These “strongholds,” according to Paul, are philosophies, arguments, reasonings, concepts, ideas, and every man-made ism (i.e., “every high thing”) that exalts themselves against the “knowledge of God.” Primarily, this knowledge of God is derived from just one source, namely, the Bible.
In the very first verse of the Bible, we are told: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In this simple and uncomplicated sentence are concepts with the most profound implications. If one believes this sentence to be divinely inspired truth, then it completely destroys the “strongholds” of atheism, polytheism, materialism, and pantheism. Genesis 1:1 says the atheist is definitely wrong when he says there is no God, because Elohim (the name used to identify God in this verse and one that suggests His triune nature) identifies Himself as the Creator. This one true God (viz., the one and only state of being divine, which the Bible tells us is shared by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is contrasted with all the false gods of polytheism. Furthermore, materialism, a theory that says physical matter is the only fundamental reality and that all being, processes, and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter, is thoroughly defeated by the divinely revealed truth of Creation. The heavens and the earth, with all the matter contained therein, were simply spoken into existence by Almighty God. Finally, the transcendent God identified in Genesis 1:1, the One who had, and continues to have, an existence apart from His Creation, is contrasted with the pantheistic concept that teaches God consists of the forces and laws of the Universe. In other words, instead of the Biblical concept of a God who is different from His Creation, the pantheist sees God and the Creation as being One. Specifically, such a pantheistic belief is identified as “Monism” (viz., “All is One”).
The Christian must not ignore Paul's warning about the doctrines of men or vain philosophy. According to Paul, vain philosophy is a brigand that, if we are not careful, will take us captive and steal from us our spiritual possessions. Deception, long the technique of those who would cheat us and steal our physical possessions, is the major device of all man-made philosophy. Promising everything, it delivers nothing; and claiming to be one thing, it turns out to be something else entirely!
Unfortunately, many Christians, living in the twilight of the twentieth century, have either forgotten Paul's warning or no longer believe it. For whatever reasons, Christians, because of their ignorance, have been seduced into thinking that man-made philosophies are religiously neutral. Therefore, they have become enchanted by the smorgasbord of secular thought that obscures the way, perverts the truth, and totally wrecks one's spiritual life. These must be reminded that it was Jesus who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). What this means is that apart from the way, there is no going; apart from the truth, there is no knowing; and apart from the life, there is no spiritual living. This, quite frankly, is why the apostle Paul said that “every thought” must be brought “into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
In Colossians 3:17, Paul wrote that everything one does in “word or deed” is to be done “in the name of the Lord” (i.e., by the Lord's authority). But how can one's actions be correct if one is not thinking properly? And how can one be thinking properly if one has not brought “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”? It is clear, then, the Lord calls upon His disciples to out-think, out-live, and out-die the polytheistic pagans and atheistic humanists around about them.
Finally, all man-made philosophies are destined for total defeat. Consequently, it is ludicrous that Christians, who have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9), would want to return again to the “weak and beggarly elements” of this world, symbolized in the Bible as spiritual darkness (cf. Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 4:17-20; Colossians 1:9-14).