Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Corinthians 2 – more boasting

Paul – the student of Rabbi Gamaliel who could draw a crowd in the Greek Areopagus – is not speaking with false modesty when he tells the Corinthians:

 “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God….My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Standing with one foot planted in Judaism and the other in Hellenism, Paul preached the gospel of Christ with an unspecified “demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Was it healing? Deliverance? Words of knowledge? Conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment?  He doesn’t say. Paul cares less about the Nightly Signz ‘N Wunders Laser Show, and more about the human heart’s transference of allegiance from human wisdom to God’s power.

And then Paul, the champion of the accessible, universal gospel, rather uncharacteristically starts talking about “God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for your glory before time began.” It sounds like Gnosticism, another kind of religious carnival barking that promises to reveal amazing truths, but only to a selected few. Pay your money and see what’s behind the curtain.

But no – Paul’s twist is that the secret is only a secret to the rulers of this world, who are blinded by their own “wisdom.” But “we” – including the gifted, immature, utterly human Corinthian believers – “have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” In Christ there is no secret wisdom, no tiers of knowledge dearly-bought. How much more clearly can Paul say it: the Spirit of God, which searches and reveals the Mind of God, is free!  

And then Paul says something that every Christian heading off into college or other spiritually challenging workplace should understand:

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment…..we have the mind of Christ.” Simply put, you may want to defend your faith, but don’t feel like you have to defend the wisdom of Jesus against all comers. God has justified – who is he that condemns? But perhaps a little boasting of Christ is in order. I will suggest to this person that the next time some spiritual, political or “lifestyle” salesman tries to make his product look better than or “just as good” as the gospel, ask:

1.       Did his God give people joy and peace as they faced death in the Roman arenas?
2.       Did his God appear in the flesh, on earth, as a real person who still 20 centuries later is worshipped by much of the world and is universally regarded as the greatest paragon of wisdom and integrity that humanity has ever produced?
3.       Did his God’s followers abolish slavery on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and were they the only German group who under the leadership of saints such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazis through the whole war?
4.       Do his God’s followers go by the thousands into jungles and third world cities unthanked and unpaid to practice medicine and other good works?
5.       Can his God claim hundreds of thousands of miracles irrefutable, or at least inexplicable, to any rationale, open mind?
6.       Can his God claim deliverance from alcohol and drug addictions for millions of people and the subsequent restoration and happiness of as many families?
7.       Have his God’s followers protected the greatest art and learning of antiquity and supported financially and with inspiration many of the greatest works of painting, music and sculpture since the Renaissance?
8.       Can his God claim to have promoted peace, freedom and prosperity over most of the globe by persuasively teaching the ethical values of the 10 Commandments and/or the Sermon on the Mount?
9.       Has his God promulgated a Book that is the best-read, most influential document ever written in the history of the world?
10.   And finally – and foremost – has his God suffered and died a subhuman death to give everyone who trusts in Him eternal righteousness, hope and joy, regardless of life’s circumstances?

And if the answer is: “well, no, not really, not yet anyway but give me a chance, and what about the Crusades?” – then pray for that person to separate the wheat from the tares and that he or she, too, may someday eat of the Bread of Life.

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