As much as people debate the existence of a god and books continue to be printed declaring the virtues of atheism, God still does well in the polls. With all these opinions and views, perhaps the larger question is, “What kind of God are we voting for in these opinion polls?”
I can read Christopher Hitchens’ arguments against belief in a divine being and ﬁnd them paling in comparison to the words of Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling the glory of God…” One of my favourite songs is “Creation Calls” by Brian Doerksen. It speaks of how God reveals Himself and speaks to us through His creation.
This is the God we believe in. The theological centre of 1 Corinthians 1 comes in verse 18. Paul proclaims that God’s saving power and liberating wisdom come in what the sophists and scribes call “foolishness.” The Bible says the message of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. Will we believe in the strong name of Jesus, only if we see signs and wonders here and now? How could the God of Psalm 19 turn His back on the cries of His only Son? Why was not a host of angels unleashed to save the Savior and show the wisdom in believing in such an all-powerful God?
One thing we need to remember is Paul’s preaching does not deny such questions about God and the way of the cross. In 1 Corinthians 1:22, he describes the stumbling blocks that come, not only to the Jews and the Greeks but to all of us. What they demand and seek is what I hunger for as well. In an age when all belief is openly challenged, I too want proof, credentials, certainty.
Like Gideon and Thomas, there is ﬁrst of all something in me that demands a sign: “God show yourself!” It cuts down on my anxiety and vulnerability if God can make the divine power clearly seen for my own conﬁdence – and the humiliation of my detractors. It is not that we do not believe, we simply demand a sign for God’s sake and our own.
We live in a world that will not believe anything unless it can be conclusively proven. Think about the environment. Both sides yell out to each other to prove their case. And even when pretty conclusive evidence is produced by either side, their interpretation is questioned.
It is the same with God. How else will the world be convinced except by a God of might and miracles? The “might” has traditionally played well in the biblical epic. It plays well in our demand for a sign that God is God. We say, “Let the righteous be miraculously saved and the sinners punished.” But in our time of skepticism, I am not sure even that will be enough?
Then there is the way of wisdom. Honestly, I do believe that we are all seeking wisdom or at least knowledge. Christians believe that if a person is truly seeking he or she will discover the reality of Jesus Christ and His message will make sense and lead to salvation.
Like the Greeks we want the truth to make sense according to the wisdom of our age. The Corinthian culture affected the Corinthian Church. It was an age to idolize the greatest teachers of wisdom, especially the wisdom that “pays off.” For some, belief is valued by what it offers rather than the truth it represents.
I was approached this weekend by someone with a business proposition. He wanted to start a couple of new offices in Edmonton to help people make more money from their savings and investments. In the end, it turned out to be a “scheme” I was familiar with from years ago… Then and now, many of us are focused on success through financial acquisition. That is why there are so many schemes like this.
The same is true when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. In the end, it is enlightened self-interest that is the big winner. We may not ﬂock to stadiums or online forums to hear the “debaters of this age” woo us with promises of wisdom that puts us ahead of others. We do not have to. The message comes to us.
Masked in spiritual terms, we are taught how to harness the wisdom of the ages to get what we want. If we can think of a job we want or a place we want to live, it is ours. We must get rid of any other thought that gets in our way. We are to surround ourselves with like-minded thinkers. Do not hang around with the “turkeys” when you can soar with the eagles. You can hear this message on the Internet, TV, talk shows, best-selling books; it is the wisdom of the age. It has also inﬁltrated the Church.
There has been an explosion of the “health and wealth gospel” in Africa and South America. Of course, the poorest of the earth are most vulnerable. Yet has not the wealthiest nation exported this false gospel? The American Dream has taken the message of the gospel and made the Sovereign God a “genie in the bottle.” Our every wish is His command. We have taken the cross out of salvation and discipleship.
The way of the wise and those who would seek after overwhelming signs can only hear the foolishness of the cross and its proclamation. The “quest” for ultimate wisdom and power on our terms is futile. God took action. Even though we want to make a god in our image, there is a deep-rooted sense that God’s ways are not our ways.
Our lives have been dotted with divine hints that it is really the “foolishness and weakness” of sacriﬁcial love that reveals God to us. It is this quality of love that I have seen in those who have taken up the cross and followed Jesus. That which the world calls weakness and foolishness is the power of God to those being saved.
I have been blessed by those in our world who keep our ministries to the poor and homeless going because of the message of the cross. They see God in the faces of those the world would reject. Others have forgiven me when I have failed them because they see Jesus on the cross and hear Him saying, “Father, forgive them.”
The subject here is not the “foolishness of preaching,” because, of course, our eloquence will not match the best of this world. Our method of proclaiming the cross is always less than perfect. But it is rather “the message about the cross” that will appear foolish to those who are perishing. Sacriﬁcial love will always look crazy to those who will not receive it. We have nothing else to offer, “but we proclaim Christ cruciﬁed.”