The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.
As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, NLT)
The Christian faith, this message about Jesus Christ, is a revelation of the wisdom and power of God. Non-Christians do not think so because they have different standards – false and irrational standards. The Jews and the Greeks had different perspectives. One respected power and the other sought the ultimate philosophy, and neither thought that a doctrine about a crucified man could be the answer to humanity’s questions and problems.
Non-Christians are essentially the same but they do not all think exactly alike. Some lean toward politics, others emphasize economics, and still others think that science is the savior of mankind. Then, there are others who perceive that these are futile, but that the key is in religion and spirituality. So they make an idol and bow down to it. Some make five hundred and bow down to them. Others try a little meditation. Although they appear to differ, by their standards of judgment they all agree that a message about a man who was nailed to a cross cannot be the only and final solution to all human ills. Of course, if they did not think like this, they would already be Christians.
Non-Christians use the wrong standards of judgment because although they think that they are smart, they are all stupid. And although they think that they are intellectually honest, they are all delusional hypocrites. They do not think that they need God to tell them anything. If something is there, they will find out about it by their own methods. If something is true, they will figure it out by their own wisdom. Even God, they insist, cannot hide from them. If they cannot discover or understand something, then it must not be there in the first place. Thus they consider themselves the ultimate reference point for all thinking and investigation, the center of all existence.
This is remarkably similar to those theologians who declare that certain biblical doctrines are beyond human understanding, and incomprehensible to our finite human minds, not because there is biblical evidence stating this, but because they themselves cannot grasp these doctrines. In other words, they follow the demonic wisdom of the non-Christians in making themselves the ultimate reference point for all thinking and investigation, the center of all existence, and the very standard of what is possible for the human intellect. If they cannot understand something, this means that no man in all of history can understand it. This is what they call humility! In any case, the non-Christians call the gospel foolishness, not because the gospel is indeed foolishness, but because they are so stupid and self-centered that they fail to recognize the wisdom of God. And what these unbelievers call nonsense and foolishness, theologians call mysteries and paradoxes. Thus non-Christians openly blaspheme, and the theologians do the same thing, but hide behind euphemisms. These are some of the most heinous and destructive troublemakers in the church.
All of this is by God’s design. Since non-Christians and those Christians who follow their way of thinking refuse to humble themselves and learn from God, but rather make their unrenewed intellect the judge of all things, “God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom.” God sees to it that the non-Christians would never succeed, but would forever wallow in perpetual speculation and confusion. And rather than allowing the theologians to grasp the simplicity and coherence of the faith, he causes them to spiral deeper and deeper into mysteries, paradoxes, and absurdities. They claim to honor God with their minds, but they refuse to accept what God teaches, and to acknowledge the inherent coherence and perfection of God’s revelation. They are like the non-Christians because they also perceive the Christian faith as foolish, only they realize that they are not supposed to say this, so they use different words to express the same opinion.
So God makes a mockery of them. He makes fools out of them. He allows non-Christians to pursue their sciences and philosophies, but all these compound fallacies upon fallacies, resulting in absurdities upon absurdities. He makes sure that they will never know him by their own methods and powers. But since God is the most basic principle to all of reality, it means that by their sciences and philosophies non-Christians can never discover the truth about reality. They think that science is a direct contact with reality, but the truth is that it has no intelligent contact with it at all. They think that their philosophy is an exercise in reason, but the truth is that it is completely out of touch with the actual and the rational. And there is only hellfire in the end. God watches, and laughs at them.
Then, he allows the Christian theologians to boast of their finitude and confusion. Rather than learning the plain truth and teaching it to God’s people in all its simplicity and perfection, they make a magic show out of the gospel. Here a mystery, there a paradox, and everywhere a contradiction. Now they believe this, then they believe the opposite, and then they believe both at the same time! They blame the Bible, and claim that the Bible teaches both sides of a contradiction. The truth is that the Bible teaches only one side, but they want to believe the opposite as well, and so they want to affirm both. God declares a teaching in simple and direct statements, and they immediately obscure it with religious sounding slogans, till the hiss of the serpent drowns out the voice of the shepherd. They refuse to enter the place of rest and clarity, neither will they let others go in. The world watches, and laughs at them. The theologians rise up and defend themselves, but they do not even know which way is up or down, or perhaps both are up and down – because they cannot make any sense and are proud of it – the world rolls over in laughter and becomes hardened in their unbelief. This is God’s punishment against the theologians, and against a church that admires them.
God says to the non-Christians, “You think you are so clever. I will make sure your cleverness never touches the truth. I will present the truth in a way that offends your intellectual assumptions. You think you are so powerful. I will make sure your power never achieves anything worthwhile. I will manifest my power in a manner that you will perceive as extreme weakness. I will make sure that you will never attain salvation by any means that is comfortable to your thinking.” Thus the history of non-Christians is a story of failure, and also of self-delusion regarding its success and progress. They mock the gospel, but the gospel is the very thing – the only thing – that could save them. So God mocks them in return by showing them what they would not expect, and what they would refuse. He makes them suffer their own mockery, by making the way of salvation something that they could not accept. And what happens to those preachers and theologians who pretend to be experts but make a mockery of the Christian faith? God makes a mockery out of them, and embarrasses them before the world. The Christian who has a pure heart, like a little child, and who does not care if someone is reverend this or doctor that, exclaims, “Hey, the theologians have no clothes!”
“God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” We see this in so many things that God does. Non-Christians esteem human power and wisdom, but God placed their only hope on a cross. The Jews trusted in their natural ancestry and their own effort, but God saved the Gentiles by Jesus Christ through faith. Some are educated and influential, but God chose the weaklings of the world, filled them with his Spirit, and unleashed them to defy the human powers and to preach his message.
There are those who claim to be Christians, but who have trouble with the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. They think that they are honest and thinking men, but in reality they are non-Christian hypocrites who pretend to be Christians. God compiled his thoughts into a book, recorded by men that the world despised but who were carried along by his Spirit. The scholars profess to seek wisdom, but they refuse to hear from God. So he places before them the most powerful and the only true intellectual system in existence – the very thing that they are supposedly after, their life’s quest, and the holy grail of all intellectuals – and they cannot take it.
Again, “God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom.” The treasure is protected in plain sight. The Christian faith is a testimony against the non-Christians’ foolishness and dishonesty. And it exposes those who infiltrate the church and pretend to be one of us. A non-Christian cannot truly accept the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scripture, or the deity of Christ, or the atonement. He will always see God’s revelation as foolish, as wrong. If he forces himself to profess the faith, he will always see mysteries, paradoxes, and contradictions. He will always see problems. He will always see something that is not there. And when Christians offer solutions, he will refuse them even if he cannot refute them. This is God’s design. He sees to it that those who persist in unbelief and who are heading toward destruction will never get their filthy hands on his wisdom and knowledge.
Non-Christians, who are themselves foolish, do not know how to judge, or to distinguish truth and error. They regard what is good as evil, and what is evil as good. And they regard what is wise as foolish, and what is foolish as wise. Christians were at one time non-Christians, and subject to the same confusion. But God gives insight to those whom he desires to save from his wrath, so that they now perceive the Christian faith as what it really is – the very wisdom and power of God. They perceive that there is no imperfection in the Christian faith, not even apparent ones. There is nothing that confounds or mystifies. There is only truth, beauty, and ultimate power. One theologian said that all biblical doctrines end in paradox, although he presented nothing that could not be resolved in a moment. This is not a sign of wisdom and reverence, but of profound unbelief, depravity, and intellectual incompetence. As a Christian, I see only simplicity, coherence, and perfection.