30 May 2011

The Moral and Metaphysical Foundations of Anti-Wisdom- Part 1

While Paul certainly exhorts us to eschew the wisdom of the world, what exactly does that mean? It can mean a lot of different things, but primarily in the context of the New Testament it seems to represent a thought process, a working out of knowledge that excludes God from the equation. More particularly it excludes the image of God in the person of Christ Jesus. If Humanism declares man is the measure of all things, this indeed is a perfect declaration of worldly and fleshly wisdom in its denial of our Lord Christ who IS Wisdom.

Paul also talks about the power of the gospel and how it was not only unnecessary but theologically erroneous to think the Word was in need of supplement. He didn't need gimmicks or flowery persuasive rhetoric for the gospel to work. The Word was not benefitted by accommodating it to the culture, nor was it more effective when preliminary conditions were met, i.e. the hearer being softened by emotional stories, music, etc…

In terms of the gospel, because it is Divine in origin, it an expression of the power and holiness of Almighty God and only a fool would think he could improve on it and only unbelief would assume it needs human-generated assistance.

We can speak of the simplicity of God, or the simplicity of the gospel, but the use of the adjective Simple in no way implies a lack of profundity. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 2.12 of how we lived among the Corinthians in simplicity and Godly sincerity and not with fleshly wisdom. Does this simplicity Paul speaks of imply that all arguments must be non-complex? Does it imply that everything in the world has simple solutions? Does simplicity mean simplistic?

Neither Paul nor any of the New Testament writers deal excessively with issues in the surrounding Roman world. The culture is condemned as wicked, but no one seems terrible surprised in light of the fall of man, and one fails to find any notion of Transformationalism on the pages of the New Testament. Paul speaks of those who are without and that God will judge them.

If the answers to societal ills were simple, the Apostolic writers seemed to have missed an opportunity to address them. Their concerns are not with economics and politics, demographics and culture war. Their concerns are centered around the Gospel and the Kingdom message. So in this sense, Paul can speak of simplicity. The simplicity implies a non-complex nature in terms of what we're here to do, we are to be witnesses for Christ in a fallen world, and we have no indication that our role will ever change. We have no reason to believe that instead of being witnesses in a fallen world, we should be taking power and 'leading' a fallen world or ruling over a fallen world. The quest for power is absent from the pages of the New Testament, and such a view belies a very simplistic view of the world if not the Kingdom itself.

In fact, we are exhorted to patiently submit to the powers that be, to trust in the Providence of God. Our culture war as it were, is not cast in terms of scheming to gain votes, tricky politicking, and trying to gain control of media flow, flooding the public with fear and trying to manipulate them with tortured and arguments rooted in partial truths that are then exaggerated and can be called nothing less than lies. Rather than look at the issues, this view seeks to make complex issues very simplistic and then manipulate the situation by gimmicks and tricks instead of insightful argument. In this case simplicity is dishonesty, but it's practical and accomplishes the goal. On one level, is this not the very 'fleshly' wisdom we are exhorted to avoid?

We can study philosophers like Hegel and Kant or even modern day skeptics like Dawkins and Hitchens and we can see where their arguments make wrong turns, how they caricature and mischaracterize arguments. They latch onto seeming inconsistencies and run with it, developing their ideas far beyond what they really possess.

In the end we can see that their wisdom is not wisdom at all, but an agenda driven by idolatrous pride. They are fools in the moral sense. The fool in the Bible is not being called a name, but is the embodiment of anti-wisdom. This is the person who has all the facts they need. The knowledge is available, but rather than embrace it, they turn from it, reject it, and embrace an idol. For Dawkins, it is himself and some notion of universal humanity. For others it might be something else.

It is our conduct and devotion to the simple gospel message that puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men. This does not mean we view the world in a way that strips it of complexity. Rather it is our devotion to this fundamental principle that guides our interactions with a complex world. Our simplicity prevents us from being distracted and entering into arguments and battles that would distract us from our task. Single-minded wisdom teaches us that in a fallen world, there are no solutions to many problems other than Christ...the Second Coming of Christ. It is then and only then that justice will be brought, things made right. If we think that somehow we can 'fix' the problems of the world and make it into something that removes its fallenness, we have turned aside from the simplicity that Paul speaks of.

Increasingly the Evangelical world seems to be embracing a simplistic view of the world that does not reflect a Biblical single-mindedness, that is to be martyr-witness for Christ. Instead the sole purpose seems to be a drive for power. And to this end, they have embraced a way of thinking that rejects all questioning of the present paradigm which has been developed as the platform for this power. It is promoted as the Biblical Worldview, however it is anything but that...and to question it, means to question the Faith itself. If you question these folks who have come to dominate American Evangelicalism, you're questioning the 'Biblical Worldview.'

Shouldn't we be driven, knowing what we are about, and unwilling to compromise?

Yes, in a sense. Our devotion must be unwavering when it comes to the Christ of Scripture. But we must be very careful to continually compare what we're hearing versus the Word of God. We are flooded with ideas both from within the Church and without, and many of the arguments are laden with attitudes and emotional appeals that must be carefully thought through.

Rather than an attitude of sobriety and careful investigation, we are taught to embrace pat answers or what we today might call sound-bite arguments. Intellectual investigation, nuance, and complexity are decried as worldly wisdom and are immediately suspect.

We need to be clear. Intellectualism standing alone, is a worship of the mind, a form of humanism, trusting in man and his powers. The problem arises because Secular Intellectuals remove Christ from the equation. I heard a perfect example of this the other day listening to scientists and atheists discuss Science and Morality. It was both absurd and laughable listening to these men try to construct moral arguments rooted in scientific observation. By studying things like brain waves they were trying to determine what was right and wrong. This is worldly wisdom, this is a moral foolishness and idolatry of self.

But Christian Intellectualism for want of a better term, by starting with Christ seeks to view truth through the lens of the God who reveals Himself to us in Creation and Scripture. This is indeed rightly called a Christian Worldview. Pretty simple right? Just study the Bible and apply a sort of sanctified common sense and we have the answers. This seems to be the way many think.

The problem is as we've written elsewhere…what is the Bible? Was it written as blueprint to transform society as many seem to treat it? Begging the question they proceed with a full-blown agenda to re-create economics, politics, science, the arts etc… all under the Biblical moniker. The agenda becomes supreme and cannot be questioned, because as I said above, to do so is to question the faith itself.

To be continued....

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