Monday, January 31, 2011

Wisdom of God

The mass readings kept going with 1 Cor 1 this week.
 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It struck me that we have two concepts that might seem to contradict.
  1. God's truth is consistent with human reason
  2. God's truth is foolish to men
How can something be logically, internally consistent and still be seen as foolish. It might be seen as a school of thought you disagree with but one would think that smart people should be able to see that there is no logical inconsistency and therefore there should be no shame in accepting it as true. But it does not work that way. Christianity will always be logical and it will always be scorned by the intellectual elites as foolishness. The same is true of Catholicism. The Catholic faith will always be the only logical consistent form of Christianity yet it will always be the one that is held up to the most ridicule by the brightest and best protestants.

Why is that? The answer lies in a flaw in human wisdom. Our reason can be warped at key moments by our will. We don't even realize it. No matter how good you are at logical analysis and no matter how unemotional you are in your approach you just can't follow the logic of God without the grace of God allowing you to do so. Something in you spirit will cause you to see a foolish argument where there is actually a rational argument. Call it sin. Call it Satan. The cross of Christ is never going to make sense to someone living in the flesh.Not because it is illogical Because it is too much love. The human heart is not capable of understanding that kind of  love. That is the essence of original sin. It is an inability to understand love rather than an inability to follow commandments.

A lot of people seem to feel that modern secular scholarship can pick up what the Christian tradition has created and we can continue to progress as society. That intellectuals, without using explicitly Christian language, can nonetheless improve on what Christians have done and do more good than harm. But it ignore the fact that secular people will see brilliant Christian insights as foolish. They won't look for ways to improve upon them. They will sneer at them and discard them.

So Christians intellectuals have a choice. To have our intelligence respected by society or to embrace the wisdom of God. If we try and do both we will get neither. If we pursue God we will often be mocked by some in the short term but in many cases the wisdom of such people is eventually recognized. Most are now trying to have it both ways and embarrassing themselves and embarrassing Jesus.

Protestants have the same problem. They think they can start with scripture and take it the rest of the way with human reason alone. But it is precisely when you look at the cross that human reason fails. We cannot follow the logic of supernatural love. This is why protestants never seem to accept the Catholic idea of how the grace of the cross is applied to our lives. Not that it is illogical. Still we need help to get there.

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