Foolishness or Wisdom?   1 comment

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection


1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (The Jerusalem Bible):

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.  The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save.  As scripture says:

I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.  Where are the philosophers now?  Where are the scribes?

Where are any of our thinkers today?  Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom?  It was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.  And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


The late Lesslie Newbigin, a Scottish Presbyterian minister and missionary, later a bishop in the Church of South India, and, at the end of his life, a minister in The United Reformed Church (in Great Britain), disapproved of Christian apologetics which attempted to make Christianity seem reasonable to conventional standards.  For Newbigin, the basis of proper Christian confidence is the person of Jesus himself, not any external, culturally accepted wisdom or an allegedly infallible book.  Newbigin, hardly a Fundamentalist, wrote a small volume entitled Proper Confidence:  Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1995).    In it he quoted this day’s passage from 1 Corinthians.  And he concluded the book with this paragraph:

The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge.  It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes from God through whom and for whom all things were made:  ”Follow me.”–page 105

I have read and reread Proper Confidence carefully.  Many of Newbigin’s points make sense to me, but I struggle with others.  I am, to a great extent, a product of the Enlightenment–most a positive time, I remain convinced.  I do like freedom of press, conscience, and religion–all Enlightenment ideals.  I appreciate Newbigin’s critique of Fundamentalism and repudiation of biblical literalism.  Yet his critique of Cartesian Rationalism hits too close to home for me.  Nevertheless, I keep the book and consult it from time to time.  And my opinion of it has changed since the first time I read it.

All that said, I agree with Newbigin’s core argument, which he took from Paul:  God defies human wisdom.  I call myself a Christian.  So, if I am intellectually honest and not hypocritical, I must follow Jesus, whose crucifixion is a historical fact but whose resurrection defies reason.  Yet that resurrection is essential to the truth of Christianity; without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus.

So, for those of “us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18, New Revised Standard Version), or, as The Jerusalem Bible renders the same text, “those of us who are on the way [to salvation]“–the message of the cross is that of God’s saving power.  We stand in the presence of God, to whom our standards of wisdom and truth are irrelevant.  No wonder so many find Jesus baffling, even scandalous!  Yet God is what God is, has done what God has done, does what God does, and will do what God will do.  May we seek and succeed in following God.







Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 11, 2011

Adapted from this post:


Posted October 11, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 1

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 16: Friday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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