1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (NASB95)
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I am a firm believer in the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When it comes to everyday life, it is so easy for us to believe in what we see and hear, but I believe that God revealed the truth about life for the exact purpose of contradicting and overwriting our understanding of life that comes through our senses and reason. This is not to say that some truths are not made plain to us through what we see and hear. I am simply saying that what God has revealed about us through scripture should always be understood as the truth, even when it seems to contradict our experience. Our experience and reason in that instance would then become the lie.
I think we, as evangelical Christians, tend to know and agree with this in principle, but I don’t know that we always agree in practice. I have seen an ever increasing movement in Christian circles, churches and seminaries to push for a kind of appeasement between worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom. We see things in scripture that seem outlandish, extreme, or absurd and our first reaction as interpreters tends to be “that can’t be right” instead of “I’m likely wrong.” We are uncomfortable with God’s teaching on eternal punishment and the idea of God’s wrath, so we jump through semantic hoops to try to appease our sense of what love should be instead of what God’s love is (i.e. the book Love Wins by evangelical pastor Rob Bell). We can’t comprehend that we both choose God and are chosen by Him, so we spend hundreds of years making up theologies to defend one or the other and in so doing destroy both. We don’t like His teaching on sex outside of marriage, homosexual sex, divorce, lying and deceit, the distinct roles of men and women in the church, our freedom in Christ, grace and obedience, money, or self-sacrifice. So we find obscure theological interpretations, change how we define certain words, pluck phrases out of context, or just flat out ignore some passages, and in doing so we distort the plain meaning of God’s word to bend it to our will and sensibilities.
This is exactly what the scriptural experts were doing in the first century. They were most comfortable with the image of the conquering, kingly Messiah, and thus rejected the weak, suffering Messiah of the cross. They had Old Testament passage after passage to back up their assumptions but had to ignore or twist others to justify their rejection of the Lord Jesus. The greatest Gentile minds around the first century spent their lives searching for wisdom through Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. They consumed and produced thousands of writings of the greatest human thinking ever penned. Yet, the only wisdom of any real value came through the foolishness, the weakness, the ridiculousness of a pitiful cross. This wisdom’s value was not that it seemed right, logical, or well-thought-out, but that it was from God.
All of the wisdom of scholars, teachers, pastors, and debaters of our age can do nothing of real significance in our lives. Instead, it is the seeming foolishness and weakness inspired by the plainly understood wisdom of God that can transform everything by His power.
May we live foolishly holding to nothing more than God’s wisdom.
NOTE: This is not to devalue the indispensable work of scholars and pastors in helping us to understand the biblical text in its original context and to its original hearers. It is meant to challenge those interpretations which go beyond the text to satisfy some other need.