Well, yes, and we all know what happened to his Egg-ness, don’t we?
Monday’s post marveled at what kind of God would celebrate when smart people are clueless, and I’m still awestruck by this idea: God isn’t impressed with my wisdom or intelligence, but he is impressed with the condition of my heart. If I ever compete with the Almighty on Jeopardy, I’m toast. Yet he will bend low to comfort a contrite spirit. While meditating on these things, I came across the opening of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In the first two chapters he talks about the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God. Here’s a sample:
- I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.
- Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
- The world through its wisdom did not know him . . .
- God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
- When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom
So much for the way the world thinks. Then Paul begins to reveal God’s wisdom:
- We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom hidden . . .
- "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"
What if our approach to following Jesus is fueled by the world’s idea of wisdom? I’ve met too many “smart” Christians. Perhaps you have too: the guys who can quote the Bible from start to finish and are happy to tell you what it means; the guys who bring the “been there, done that” attitude to the revelation of God’s word. I once knew a pastor who told a young man, “I’ve done the hard work of studying the scripture. I know what it means, so I don’t have to keep going back to learn it again and again.”
I’d like to suggest four checkpoints suggested by these first two chapters of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
If anyone could have brought worldly wisdom to bear on the scriptures, it would have been Paul. Even in his day Paul was recognized as a man of vast learning and intelligence, but until Jesus confronted him he was clueless. Instead, he spent three days in Damascus, blinded by the light of Christ, rethinking his life of study. Perhaps he spent three years (see Acts 9:9 and Galatians 1: 16-18).
What if Mars Hill is a cautionary tale: Most 21st century scholars hold this speech up as a great example of evangelism. Paul came to Corinth directly from Athens, where he gave his “great speech” on Mars Hill--but was it really great? Acts 17:34 tells us only a “few men” believed. You can read his own reflections regarding his time in Athens in 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5. It’s surprising! Perhaps when he visited the seat of philosophy he fell into the wisdom trap and tried to play the world’s game. He certainly changed his method when he got to Corinth.
It’s possible to be a Christian, even a smart one, and still be radically unspiritual. How many of us marry the wisdom of this age to our expression of the faith? Many churches operate on the principles of business and marketing. Others operate in the realm of power politics--both right and left. Still others (far too many) apply the scriptures like a lawyer applies mercy. Shouldn't we take three days--or three years--to ask whether our ideas of Christianity come from Jesus or someone else?
Humpty Dumpty applied his dizzying intellect to the meaning of the word “glory.” We saw how it worked out for him. Is it possible we do the same?