20 Mar 2004

The Foolishness of God

Submitted by theshovel
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For the word of 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 cleverness of the clever I will set aside.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Do you realize that in referring to the foolishness of God Paul spoke of the good news of Christ?

The foolishness of God, eh? Now, in case you miss the impact of this let me offer you a few other choice words: ridiculous, ludicrous, nonsensical, preposterous, unreasonable ... absurd. I'll bet that doesn't sit quite right with many who call themselves Christians. Maybe we've been too busy trying to make sense of this absurdity - to ourselves as well as to others - that we mostly gloss over this magnificent description of the good news of Christ. Or do we not realize that the good news will always come across as absurd to the very logic we keep trying to pacify?

Pacifying the absurdity? Yeah, sounds pretty deep, doesn't it? But I wonder if you realize that I'm only using words to describe what it is that often runs through those little heads of ours. Do you suppose it's what I'm writing that's deep? No, no! For as much as you might think your present confusion in following me is found because of MY attempt to sound deep, the truth is that I'm only exposing that deeper-than-deep network of logic that we have built up under the premise of Christianity. What premise? The one that keeps us thinking that we can eventually get it all figured out well enough so that all our questions are answered.

Hey, I understand the desire to make the message of Christ make sense to myself and to those around me - I understand it all too well. For I was college-trained in the fine art of making the gospel clear and understandable. "Make it Clear" was my college motto. I was taught to believe that if I could only make the gospel clear enough it would cause those I witnessed to to believe it. It was a belief that slowly wore me down. For while many of my colleagues found a measure of success in the venture I was only hit with continued failure. But I thank God for that failure!

Do you know what makes the word of the cross preposterous? Because its logic is found outside the very structure of everything we have come to understand in this world. No, the word of the cross is not found in the brutality of the death Jesus suffered, nor in the feelings that might arise within us from considering the torture he endured, for the answer is much simpler. In fact, it's simplicity is absolutely ludicrous because it removes all hope! The judgment of Jesus was the judgment of all mankind! Don't you see ... the door to heaven was not opened by his death, but was totally shut down by it. The only message understood by those who are perishing is that God damned his own son ... and in doing so God damned the whole creation.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through [literally] the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21

And if that's not ridiculous enough for you, consider that God takes immense pleasure in saving those who believe by hearing a message that can in no way whatsoever make sense! In other words, the preaching of the good news is not about trying to make it make sense, but is simply putting forth that which is in itself impossible to be understood by the one hearing it. It is, after all, why Paul described he and those with him as fools for Christ. Faith, in view of such absurdly impossible odds, sounds miraculous, don't you think?

Comments

I have just read this, and I am somewhat disturbed by it, although I may not be understanding it correctly. The statement "The judgment of Jesus was the judgment of all mankind" seems like something right out of that 1st-grade Catholic classroom. I don't see God as a Judge, and have been trying to move away from that concept of Him, so the idea that He judged not only His Son, but all humankind, is disturbing to me.

Also, the statements, "The door to heaven was not opened by His death, but was totally shut down by it", and "God damned His own Son and in doing so God damned the whole creation" also does not strike me as "foolishness" or "ridiculousness", but as the same-old/same-old (only maybe worse???) monstrous-God which was presented to me as real years ago, and from which I have been trying to de-traumatize myself!

I just found these statements strange to read on a grace website. I probably am not familiar enough with this website to have properly understood these statements, or the letter itself. I would appreciate any thoughts or responses to this letter, which might help me to understand, I would appreciate it. Janet

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I do understand your confusion, because I also feared judgment for many years. I didn't grow up in the Catholic Church, but when it comes down to it, fear of judgment resides in all of humanity. But I no longer fear judgment because of Christ, and his death and resurrection. I can tell you that there is a night and day difference between the reality of God's judgment and that which is taught by religions, even those religions that think they are the only true one. The Catholic Church may be one of the largest, but it is not the only claimant to that position. And this claim is totally connected to the ugliness of judgment, as perceived by their doctrines. Religious leaders play with the judgment of God so that they might call the shots as to who is included or excluded. This is what you learned not only in your Catholic upbringing but also in the world around you. Judgment, as perceived by the mind of man, whether religious or not, is actually built upon a manipulation of the rules so that forgiveness might be kept within the club. And regarding judgment, I am just as wary of those who say they don't judge because their judgment will blindside you.

As far as trying to remove ourselves from judgment, the concept is absurd. For once we denounce one form of judgment, another takes its place. While many have turned their backs on the concept of judgment because it was preached to them by religion, they still walk around with their own little judges in their heads (or on their shoulders) . There is an absolute obsession with determining the rightness or wrongness of just about every aspect of life. And then one day, you discover that what had been acceptable for generation past has now become the latest mortal sin (so to speak). Judgment, as perceived by the world, is tangled in its own web of ever-changing values.

You see, the judgment of God leaves no wiggle room to allow offenders to get around it. There are no religious rituals, beliefs, doctrines, deeds, formulas, memberships, or group that can offer the way out. The judgment of God that you learned was steeped in all those conditions, and you were taught that the ogre-God needed to be appeased or else he would throw you in hell or make you suffer for a while in purgatory in order to cleanse you from your sins before letting you in. In Jesus Christ, God judged the entire old creation (that which is corrupt beyond repair) and brought about an entirely new creation in Christ (that which is constantly being renewed through his life). As a new creation, the only judgment God has of you is that he is fully pleased with you, and he would have you to live your life in the full confidence that you are acceptable to him.

I hope to hear back from you. :)

Jim

Dear Jim,

I am very grateful for your response, which you obviously put so much time and thought into.

The way you describe the judgment of God in your post above puts the whole thing in a much more clear and different light for me. I think it was the phrase (in the Shoveletter I referred to), "God damned His own Son and in doing so God damned the whole creation" which disturbed me the most - the idea of God "damning" humankind and the world itself. But if I consider it as God "judging" humankind and creation for the purpose of creating a New Order of things in the world (interpreting the word "judge" as radical change for the Good, rather than as "damnation") - it is much easier for me to understand, and I can certainly embrace this concept.

I agree with what you wrote about religious leaders and systems using rules and regulations to control individuals within their particular "club". I can intellectually grasp this, and believe this - but it is more difficult to lose the fears encouraged by my early "teachers" - which was that the Holy Spirit inspired religious leaders down through the ages, since the time of Peter, with these rules and regulations, and so we are duty-bound to follow them. I suppose organized religion in general, not just the Catholic Church, uses this tactic. But for some of us - maybe a lot of us - it is difficult to feel completely free in Christ and in His grace when you have been propagandized with the idea that the Spirit Himself wants these rules followed! My "rational" mind says this is nonsense - but the little girl in the Catholic school uniform is still very much alive and well - or unwell - within me. And the Catholic Church still teaches that their dogma was inspired by the Spirit - so since this is still being taught in the Church, it is harder to free myself of this mindset. Janet

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These comments were all transferred over from the original website


Posted: Mar-20-04 by Leo

Hi Jim, Sorry for the human disasters in your family, blame Adam, he helped Eve. Jim, God did NOT Damn Christ. He damned Sin. God can't deny Himself. Pastor Leo

My answer to Leo's objection


Posted: Mar-21-04 by Daniel

Amen Jim God's ways are not our ways someone dieing on a cross does not look like victory to the human mind but in God's it is love beyond all human understanding which is total victory.

I think of when Jesus said bless those who persecute you do good to those who use you and Paul repeated this in Rom. over come evil with good .

Love Dan


Posted: Mar-22-04 by Natalie

I think you are simply amazing. I don't know anyone else who thinks like you do. And it always makes so much sense. I love you. I pray that your family will have a very long rest from any types of tragedy. hugs, Natalie


Posted: Mar-22-04 by Becki

"What premise? The one that keeps us thinking that we can eventually get it all figured out well enough so that all our questions are answered."

Awk! I love that line of your email!!!


Posted: Mar-23-04 by Angie

Jim...

You're leaving me hanging again... I know you delight in it, but don't give in to the temptation!!! Where's the next article on the resurrection... it's been 24 hours since I received the last Shoveletter. You're not telling me I have to wait a whole week... or more.. are you????

I agree with Becki above... that's one kewl line!

Angie


Posted: Mar-25-04 by guest

Damn! Wait a day or two to respond and I'm halfway down the page!!

Jim,

Thanks for this simple reminder! I needed it!


Posted: Mar-27-04 by Neil

So what, exactly, is it that makes this gospel message foolish? The "gospels" of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John don't appear foolish. They are arranged rationally, the stories make sense. Before we just accept them as being "the gospel" perhaps we should know why they are...if indeed they are.

Answered here


Posted: Apr-04-05 by paul

Hey y'all,

The whole story of God is absurd, starting with Genesis and right through Revelation. For instance:

1. The creation of light preceeds the creation of the sun? That's nuts.

2. Because of one bite, we had to die? The punishment does not fit the crime. And, did all living creatures have to be punished for my crime?

3. God's people are delivered by the parting of the Red Sea? C'mon, it was the reed sea.

4. Jericho's mighty walls fall because termites sing and shout? Ridiculous.

5. Dagon, the Philistine god, is found face down before the ark? That's crazy. The Israelites did that to torment the Philistines.

6. The lions do not eat Daniel? They had to have been blind.

7. Goliath is killed by a small rock? Please! Either the rock was a boulder or Goliath was a midget.

8. Samson looses his strength because he gets a haircut? No way!

9. I get an invitation to heaven because some one else dies? Hah!

10. God sees me as righteous as himself? No blankety blank way!

Jim, God's plan of salvation is scandalous.


Posted: Apr-13-06 by herman

Only when i enter Heaven will i be able to see. Finite is as finite sees.

Herman


Herman!! :) Finite indeed is as finite sees ... but you are not what appears! You are NOW joined to the infinite one, and he is your very life. See not with the eyes of the flesh, but with the eyes that have been given you!! :) Jim

Ok, I have not read the responses[I‘m sure some good ones!] to this wonderful post by The Shovel here but, I do have a few things I see that I could say about this passage: For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[Because it is only KNOWN by The Spirit and not by some outward way. The fact is that those who belong to Him understand this on the inside despite what they are hearing and sometimes caught up in when viewing things in an outward way.]-Adam For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’[a description of natural reasoning]-Adam Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?[Yes, in view of Christ He has]-Adam For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom [Natural reason]-Adam did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.[It is not that the message is foolish in the traditional sense. It’s just that it does not register for the mind of the flesh]-Adam For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25[Again not that God is’weak’ nor His message but, only in the mind of the flesh it IS.]We get hung up on trying to understand God’s activity according to natural reasoning. We get stuck on thinking that we have some ‘divine’ choice before us in getting saved. Not realizing the very miracle that took place.

I appreciate it when you use scripture to back up what you’re writing or talking about. Then it’s not just your words, but it’s God’s word we’re reading or listening to with your comments. Don’t take this wrong, I enjoy listening to your comments too, but His word doesn’t come back void. Ours words can come back void. Thanks much. From one of your listeners.

Ive come to find that it is IMPOSSIBLE to believe in Christ without His spirit in us doing the believing.

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