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? 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. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
They liked playing mind games, those ancient Greeks – they called it philosophy, the love of wisdom: well, at any rate, the men in the leisured classes did as Paul had found on his visit to Athens. Paul seems to have tried to share their approach, offering them something new. It was quite interesting for an hour or two, but not life-changing. But it was life-changing that was Paul’s mission and his letter to the Christians in Corinth suggests that he had taken a very different approach when he had moved on to their city, seemingly targeting a very different set of people – “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
In our tradition we have valued a “learned ministry” and understandably so because to grow in our Christian faith we need to move beyond bland baby food. But Paul’s experience, and the experience of Christian leaders of every generation, shows us that playing mind games may entertain and develop interest for a while, but will not change lives. Dr John Short (a former minister of Richmond Hill Church, Bournemouth) wrote, “True eloquence is not of the schools: it is the offspring of a spirit that is impassioned by some great message that has laid hold of it, possessed it, and made it the instrument through which the message is uttered …. Paul learned that it was hopeless to attempt to get in touch with the reality of God by philosophy as the Greeks of his day understood it.”
So, Paul could write, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles … For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
Is this the Gospel we preach?
When I survey the wondrous Cross, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood United Reformed Church
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