Sometimes I give Paul a hard time, but if there’s one thing I can appreciate about him, it’s his predilection for metaphors. And in this, the third chapter of 1st Corinthians, he’s got three of them for us: feeding a baby, doing agriculture, and building a house.
This passage is a tricky one for me to approach, because it’s about two kinds of wisdom. And one could easily take Paul’s point as being anti-intellectual, anti-scholarly, anti-knowledge, and in fact plenty of people have done so. Plenty of people reject Christianity for rejecting learning, claiming it necessarily throws the life of the mind out the door–and plenty of other people embrace Christianity while dismissing any kind of intellectual engagement as arrogant and anti-spiritual. The gospel is accessible to everyone regardless of intelligence, but it’s not inherently elitist to think. Let’s take a look at what Paul actually says.
Welcome back to All The Paul, here on the Paul Channel, your place for the most up-to-date Paul coverage. (From the couch, someone remarks, “This 24/7 Paul Cycle has really gotten out of hand.”) Today we’re taking a second look at the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, because we’re all about making that progress.
Transitioning is hard. It’s a new place in my Bible, new chocolate, new Bible Gateway link to a new book, and it’s gonna be new hashtags when I post the photo to Instagram. I’ve got that Psalms momentum, but here I am taking a hard right turn, and it’s just about killed my velocity. I read 1 Corinthians 1 today—I’ve been thinking about doing a series on everything Paul wrote, call it All the Paul. And since we’ve already gone through Romans, I figured I’d get into the next book in line. But man, writing anything about this feels like tunneling through a brick wall.
I got a surprise this morning. According to my memory, Psalm 150 was a litany of exhortations to praise God with various musical instruments, with zero substantive theological content. As it turns out, the List of Approved Instruments is bookended by reasons to praise God, a context to establish why praising God is a good thing to do with your music. The lessons here are twofold: the best source for determining what the Bible says is the actual Bible, and also my memory is failing me in my old age. I’m thirty-four.
I’ve been trying to write this entry today, and the inertia is palpable. Some psalms it’s easy to sing along with. This one, though? I hit the midpoint and just about got whiplash. Psalm 149 is a praise song, it’s as much a product of ancient Jewish culture as psalms like 147 and 132, and it’s a song about singing, and I would characterize it as a psalm of new orientation—but man, if it doesn’t induce disorientation in me. It may be a psalm of praise, but it’s also a psalm of war.
Who should praise God? The beings in the heavens and the beings on the earth. And why should they praise him? Because he is the greatest being. There, that’s Psalm 148. Good work, everyone; see you tomorrow.
The home stretch of the book of Psalms is full of songs of praise, and Psalm 147 is no exception. Brueggemann’s classification scheme designates it as a psalm of new orientation, in which the formerly oppressed and wounded of Israel praise God for coming to their aid. Having been lifted out of the pit of suffering, Israel now worships God in song for his protection and provision.
Seriously? In today’s entry, I’m going to end up talking about Axiom Verge? I’m trying to think of anything else the passage brings to mind, any other thoughts whatsoever, and nope: it’s gonna be Axiom Verge. For the uninitiated, Axiom Verge is a retro-style side-scrolling action-adventure game in the vein of Metroid, in which a scientist apparently dies in a lab accident and finds himself in a hostile alien otherworld.
As we’ve discussed before, human beings won’t praise a thing for no reason. To praise something is to express approval of it, to say that it’s great. And even when we praise insincerely—when we praise things that we don’t think are great—it’s to flatter or win the approval of someone else. We have motivations for doing things, and praising is no exception. When David praises God in Psalm 145, he praises because he thinks God is great. But why does he think God is great? What’s so great about God?