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The Foolishness of the Gospel

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Jesus famously taught that if we seek, we shall find. Those who wish to find favour with God and live a godly life will at some point encounter the teachings of the Bible and be forced to consider the Christian worldview, and whether to embrace or reject the radical gospel of salvation we find in the New Testament.

Considering the truth claims of the Christian faith in a rational way has led me to conclude that there are certain aspects of the Christian worldview that are illogical. But is that a sufficient reason to reject the faith? In this post, focusing on the apostle Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians concerning foolishness, I will try to address that question.

For the sake of brevity I’m only going to quote a section from chapter 1 of Paul’s epistle, but the theme of foolishness runs right through chapters 2 and 3. For those who really want to consider the arguments in this post, I recommend reading the entire epistle. It’s always a good idea to read each epistle as a whole (in the way it was written), as the context of specific verses is always important.

Let us now look at verses 17-25, and then I will offer my reflections.

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

(1 Corinthians 1:17-25 NKJV)

The word ‘foolishness’ is repeated five times in this short passage. The Greek word translated as foolishness in these verses is moria, which is the word from which we derive the term moron, and we all know what that means; to be ‘moronic’ is to be stupid, idiotic, dumb.

To be honest, this is the only ‘knockdown’ argument in favour of Christianity that I have found. It does indeed seem foolish to me that God would judge people for their actions when He has caused those actions by His sovereign will in the first place. It seems irrational to me that because Adam and Eve ate some fruit, we are all sinners who deserve everlasting punishment in hell.

But Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth seems to imply that we should suspend logic and simply believe and obey the teachings of Christ. Believing the gospel may be a foolish thing to do, but it seems from Paul’s teaching that God wants us to reject what we consider to be wise for the sake of the gospel and that this is the only way to be in right relationship with Him.

This is a challenge I take very seriously, and I find the argument very persuasive. If Paul’s writing is inspired by God, then we all have a duty to heed his words. The only question that remains for me is am I able to live my entire life dedicated to a faith that my rational mind tells me is foolish?


For a more in-depth look at these issues and a discussion of the most important arguments for and against Christianity, you are invited to read my essay entitled ‘An Almighty Predicament’, which you can download as a free PDF from my Essays page.

16 comments

  1. Faith certainly breaks barriers of what mankind finds to be true and wise. I believe God has a higher understanding than what most on earth will comprehend. I think faith allows us to understand the limits because Jesus says all things are possible for he who believes. This is a great example of why people who have faith these things just click and make sense, versus people who struggle with faith are like, “Wait, what?” Especially when struggling. I know I question things when I am having a hard time, and other people it’s not as bad because their trust and faith is strong.

    Kinda like Peter trusting Christ to walk on water. It seems implausible, but that’s exactly what God does. ❤ I definitely think you are onto something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, T.R.! I agree that God’s understanding is way above ours. There are so many things He doesn’t reveal to us during our time on Earth. Christianity is very compelling because it provides a framework for understanding who we are and why we’re here. Not only that, but Christians can experience God’s power through prayer, healing, worship, etc.

      When I first really understand the gospel it didn’t seem foolish at all, I embraced it wholeheartedly. It’s only as I have continued on my journey with God that the things that appear ‘foolish’ about Christianity have become clear to me. So that leads me struggling to commit to the radical Christian life that Jesus called us to live. But I have to consider what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians. And as it says in Proverbs 3:7 – “Be not wise in your own eyes”. And I guess that is what the above post is about.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t find anything foolish but I can see how others struggle or what may be perceived as foolishness in the world. It’s interesting how in Proverbs we see Solomon speak about not being foolish, yet at the same time we also see being looked upon as a “fool” sometimes is better than those who think they are wise (rightly, as you have shared). Jesus speaks on this as well.

        The world is packed full of knowledge and wisdom. Men praise it. But the focal point cannot be on us, but Him. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We may appear foolish in the minds of the world, but we are God’s arrows of strength in the hands of the Lord. Matthew 21:24 Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see.” Jesus appeared so foolish to the devoted teachers of the time, but was actually the chief cornerstone. His ways are definitely higher than ours. May you continue to walk in his wisdom and be filled with his knowledge, as Paul was. Blessings to you. Love your posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Beehopper!

      Yes you’re right, Christianity has always been considered foolish by many. Not least by the scribes and pharisees in Jesus’ time. It seems there is wisdom in embracing Christianity with childlike faith. That is easier for some people than others (and I find it very difficult as I’m a deep thinker!).

      So glad you enjoy my posts. Your comments are always really appreciated. God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good on your for wrestling with the intellectual hurdles. I see far too many Christians who’d rather sweep them under the rug. Personally, I don’t put as much faith in the Divinity of Scripture. I’m not able to reconcile these two: 1. we have the PERFECT “word of God” and then in the next sentence “His ways are higher than our ways and we just don’t KNOW.” Which is it? Either we know God, or he’s a mystery. But both? I find it hard to think a benevolent God would leave us thinking this. There is something to be said about a submissive spirit, but I will admit I’m not there. Thankfully, Jesus didn’t condemn Thomas so if Im wrong I’m confident Jesus will show me his hands and feet. 🙂 That being said, I enjoy a differing perspective so thanks. -Always a seeker.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kevin!

      I really appreciate the frankness of your comment, and I certainly understand the point you made about the authority of Scripture versus “His ways being higher than our ways”.

      I appreciate your humble attitude and I do hope you’ll visit again from time to time. I’d like to learn more about your perspective and you’re always welcome to comment on any of my articles, if you happen to find something of interest.

      Best wishes and thanks again!

      Steven

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have no doubt whatsoever that the thoughts laid out in the sermon on the mount should dictate the way we try to lead our lives. There is nothing unique in these words (beautiful as they are in some English translations) and equally beautiful and correct sentiments can be found in the wonderful writings laid down by the followers of Buddha. I have studied and thought about religion for many years and am delighted by some of the wisdom. I do not believe in god or gods but I have undoubtedly benefited from the writings, art, architecture and thoughts of those who do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Zeno. I have spent quite a lot of time exploring the religions of the world too, and in the last decade or so have been mostly focused on Christianity. I find Jesus’ claim to be ‘the only way’, and the authority with which He spoke to be very compelling. I have found nothing in my studies that competes in terms of the power of the message, and it was through Jesus that God revealed Himself to me. Of course, as you’re an atheist that might not mean a lot to you, and I respect that as I was an atheist for many years so I have no grounds on which to be critical of your position! Thank you for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Here it is as I see it, doesn’t make it right, and I know you will look to God for the answers. I see it as, before Christ the sacrifices were our atonements. But alas we couldn’t get that right either, so God took that away, and said, here is your last sacrifice, Christ. All you have to do is believe, and have faith in this sacrifice I have made for you. The first of, best of, and the without blemish. It requires nothing physical, because we were not capable, or honest about it. It merely requires a state of mind. As always a pleasure Steven. I thank God for continuing to bless you :):)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The whole question of divine sovereignty and human responsibility is obviously a difficult one, but certain things are obviously true. First of all human beings are all essentially like each other, but different from animals. Evolution can account for neither. Second of all as human beings we each have a sense of right and wrong, but we knowingly do what is wrong. How and why God allowed all of this to happen in His providence is hard to say, but the problem is really with us, not with Him. The question is, why do we do what is wrong when we know what is right? Why is there crime, corruption, oppression and war if we are so rational? According to Romans 1 God is angry with us because we refuse to acknowledge Him even though the evidence is right there before us. We go to hell because we sin. So why do WE sin? And if God is truly just (unlike human governments) He must punish wrongdoing. But in His grace and mercy He provided an atonement, so that He can be both just and forgiving at the same time. That is why salvation is only possible through Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bob!

      Thanks for your comment.

      How and why God allowed all of this to happen in His providence is hard to say, but the problem is really with us, not with Him.

      I guess it depends to what extent God is in control of our lives. You seem to take a very orthodox Christian position, which I believe is problematic in terms of the interplay between God’s will and human free will. In my experience, Christians are never clear about what is God’s will and what is free will and they tend to avoid the question because it is a problem for the Christian worldview. When I thought deeply about the nature of God I came to the conclusion that He guides and unfolds every area of our lives, and so we don’t have free will. I believe that’s the truth, though it makes key Christian doctrines rather harder to understand.

      Best wishes,

      Steven

      Like

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