The Foolishness of God and the Wisdom of Man

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. John 12:9-11

An illusion I had in the days of my youth was that if I provided enough hard evidence and made a logically convincing argument – I could change people’s minds. What followed included countless hours of debate over the course of years eventually drummed a lesson into my head that this kind of approach Does Not Work. In the areas of faith and apologetics being “smart” informed faith at best. While this is a useful end, beyond that such an approach generally resulted more in frustration than in constructive progress to a desired end.

Had I really been smart about things I’d have paid more attention to the lessons to be learned from tales of “Christ raising Lazarus from the Dead” and “King Pharaoh and the Ten Plagues.” Both of these historical accounts tell of God’s supreme power over creation and how people can be confronted by the most compelling arguments and conclusive evidence – and still remain unconvinced. 

The story of Pharaoh and the ten plagues is commonly understood as God exercising His divine power to mock the Egyptian gods. In this way the Living God made sport of all the so-called gods of Egypt and made sport of the dominant world power of the period. (For a contemporary example think of the United States being utterly defeated by an invading force that suffered no damage similar to the story line in the movie “Independence Day” .)

Was Pharaoh convinced after the first plague? No. Did the second plague change his mind? No. And so on until – after the fifth plague – God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and then proceeded to complete all ten plagues and demonstrate His power over all the false gods of Egypt.

In the New Testament the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead displayed God’s power over death. When Christ told Lazarus to “come forth” He was talking to a man that had been dead for so long that his flesh had begun to decay and stink. There could be no question about Lazarus’s current state of demise – and yet after Christ called Lazarus from the tomb he appeared alive and well to the people that knew him best!

Such things do not happen – when people die they generally stay that way. And yet here was Lazarus as living proof that death could be defeated. One would be tempted to think that if anything would convince people of the truth of Christ’s claims to divinity this be it.

And you’d be wrong. While a resurrected Lazarus convinced a substantial number of people to stop following the Pharisees and follow Christ instead, the Pharisees respond by plotting to kill Lazarus a second time! Clearly these people were not recognizing the hand in front of their face. 

And let’s not forget the Old Testament story of Israel at Mt Sinai where God met His people to give them instructions. After Moses had been gone for an extended period of time the people decided to create a golden calf, credit it with their liberation, and worship the calf instead of the living God. Considering the mighty works God had wrought before the world in bringing Israel out of Egypt – it’s mind-boggling that the Israelis fell away so easily.    

What’s the take-away lesson from this? Namely that in matters of faith earthly knowledge and understanding can inform and support faith, but it will never create or maintain it. (So much for “decision” theology!) As it is written:

For the word of the cross is folly 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? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  1 Corinthians 1:18-25

ANO: WordPress has released a new way of composing articles and this is my first kick at that can. We’ll see how things go. 🙂 

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