“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (I Corinthians 1:18 – 20)
At the time that Paul wrote, humanity had not advanced very far at all in technology and science. Wisdom was measured by the amount of books one had read and the knowledge, albeit limited, history of humanity that one knew. Paul when he was Saul was probably considered “wise” because he could read and write, and knew much about Jewish law and the laws of other nations and places. Knowledge of science was fairly limited, so what we now consider “knowledge” was not knowable then because it had not been realized.
However, along with all our science, technology, and understandings about the intricacies of our planet and society – we (meaning professed Christians) also understand that knowledge will not get us to salvation, redemption or mercy from the Divine. We “get” precisely what Paul means.
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Verses 21 – 24)
Paul’s and his peer’s defense however, what we call wisdom would not
be considered important in living out one’s life. Consider that –
all the book learning and education that one receives by the end of
high school (which is so far and beyond what Paul and his peers knew)
would not be considered at all important or necessary. But then many
high scholars would not consider the wisdom that Paul says comes from
the Divine as important.
“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (Verses 25 – 29)
often asked myself as a youth and young adult was . . . . can’t
you have both? Wisdom that comes from books, science and technology,
AND wisdom that comes from the Divine? In the early years of my faith
tradition, “book learning” was not seen as necessary, required,
or helpful for church leaders, pastors, and ministers. Slowly that
changed; now the churches and worship circles of my faith tradition
expect a seminary degree that rests upon a college degree that rests
on a high school degree. As I said above, and I restate it here,
education does not supplant Christian knowledge but supplements it.
Christians who know what Paul is trying to say know also . . . .
“He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Verses 30 – 31)