This article is part of a series looking at the Oxymoronic names of God and how understanding them helps us live as Christians in a fallen world. Please click here to read the introductory article and to find links to other articles in the series.
You don’t have to go far on the internet, to find plentiful examples of posts in which Christians are accused of being idiots. Sometimes these attacks come in the form of lengthy arguments; in others, the accusations are short attacks full of swear words and vitriol. Why is it that so many Christians cherish the wisdom they find in the Bible, but that same knowledge seems like complete nonsense to those outside the faith? Why the mismatch?
It’s just like living in Corinth
The situation we Christians find ourselves in is described well in the Bible. In the book of Corinthians, Paul, a teacher and preacher, explains to the believers who live in Corinth that God purposely chose to turn things upside down. It was God’s desire that ideas and actions that seem foolish to many might hold the secret to deep eternal wisdom.
To preach the message of the cross seems like sheer nonsense to those who are on their way to destruction, but to us who are being saved, it is the mighty power of God released within us. For it is written:
I will dismantle the wisdom of the wise
and I will invalidate the intelligence of the scholars.
So where is the wise philosopher who understands? Where is the expert scholar who comprehends? And where is the skilled debater of our time who could win a debate with God? Hasn’t God demonstrated that the wisdom of this world system is utter foolishness?
1 Corinthians 1:18-20 (The Passion)
Corinth was home to many famous philosophers and debaters, admired for flamboyant expositions they delivered in public. These debaters won fans by presenting amusing critiques of commonly held beliefs; however, their ideas often had no substance in practice. Similarly, we might enjoy listening to a political comedian today who can humorously point out what is wrong with things as they are but may not offer a feasible solution. Their worldly arguments, Paul suggests, are no match for God’s wisdom, which is the key to life. Though we may speak the gospel quietly and humbly, often through our actions rather than flashy discourse, Paul assures us it is more valuable than any wisdom of the world.
Everything is upside down
So what was God thinking when he decided to overturn the world’s ideas of philosophy and knowledge? He’s made life hard for Christians because we have been ridiculed and at times persecuted for the presumed folly of our ways. These verses in Corinthians, which come immediately after the passage above, offer some answers.
For in his wisdom, God designed that all the world’s wisdom would be insufficient to lead people to the discovery of himself. He took great delight in baffling the wisdom of the world by using the simplicity of preaching the story of the cross in order to save those who believe it. For the Jews constantly demand to see miraculous signs, while those who are not Jews constantly cling to the world’s wisdom, but we preach the crucified Messiah. The Jews stumble over him and the rest of the world sees him as foolishness. But for those who have been chosen to follow him, both Jews and Greeks, he is God’s mighty power, God’s true wisdom, and our Messiah. For the “foolish” things of God have proven to be wiser than human wisdom. And the “feeble” things of God have proven to be far more powerful than any human ability.
1 Corinthians 1:21-31 (The Passion)
Paul makes special mention of Jews who found the whole idea of a Crucified Saviour having the power to save anyone ridiculous. There are many people through the ages who would agree with their assessment. It could be said that any of the names for God I’ve chosen to examine in this series about The Oxymoronic God seem irrational (Jealous God, Divine Human, Unchanging Creator, Living Sacrifice, Servant King, Absent Father, Merciful Judge, Lion & Lamb, Prince of Peace), yet, I believe these word combinations strike against each other in the manner of flints. For a moment, a spark appears that allows us to see God more clearly.
God did not want anyone excluded from hearing the good news, so he made it plain and simple; this is not the way of the world. The simple wisdom of God that Christ died and rose again is not complicated. If it were more complex so that only those with advanced degrees could understand it, then they might be tempted to sell their knowledge. Even today, there are cults and conferences with hefty signup fees promising the secret to an abundant life.
God’s wisdom is offered to us as a gift. We can’t earn it, so no one can boast that they are more deserving than anyone else. We simply need to accept the gift. Again, this is not the usual way of doing things.
Still think we’re crazy?
If you remain unconvinced and think Christians are deluded, then I encourage you to get to know Jesus. To be fair, he was pretty unconventional and turned the lives of those he encountered upside down, but He is all the more incredible for it. He wasn’t a nutcase who damaged his followers by lying to them; instead, their lives flourished as they encountered His love. I suggest you begin by reading the gospels: the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. There are many translations of the Bible, so it’s best to get hold of an up to date translation; The Message or The Passion are both excellent.
If you already believe in Christ, and His foolish wisdom, then you are not alone. I can’t stop the online vitriol you may encounter, but it will end one day, and everything will make perfect sense.
To return to the Oxymoronic God series of articles, please click here.
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