Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs
Today’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 2
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 position 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.
Paul’s first point is that he didn’t introduce the Corinthians to the gospel through intellectual sophistication. He reminds them that he came without rhetorical flourish, even describing himself as weak and unimpressive. And here’s the clincher: Paul chose his approach deliberately, “so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (5). The foundation for faith isn’t wisdom; it’s God’s power, as evidenced in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
But even though wisdom isn’t the foundation for faith, faith is the foundation of true wisdom. In the latter half of this chapter, Paul contrasts natural wisdom and spiritual wisdom, and spiritual wisdom is just that: wisdom from the Spirit of God. Paul tells us: “For to us God revealed [his wisdom] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (10-11). The Spirit is here to communicate God’s wisdom to us, his thoughts and plans.
I’d offer two reminders along with these observations. First, faith is not an anti-intellectual leap, but trust in the firm foundation of what God has revealed to us. It’s not mere belief; it’s also trust in a person, and it encompasses what we do as a result of trusting in that person. Faith is merited when the person we trust is truthful and their statements and commands are reliable. Sound like God to you? Then you’ve got faith in God.
My second reminder is that what God reveals to us isn’t whatever random thought pops into our head. I’ve been in the position where I thought the Holy Spirit spoke to me with some inner spiritual voice and revealed stuff to me about my own personal life, but it turned out to be my own mind making up false stuff that I halfway wanted to be true. Paul is talking about the gospel here. He’s talking about God sending his Son, the Word given flesh, to die as a sacrifice for our sins and be raised on the third day. He’s talking about God revealing himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
That’s what the Spirit makes known to us: not abstruse mystical intuitions, but the actual mind of God, his desire for us to know him and come to him through Jesus Christ. That’s the intellectual content of the gospel. That’s real wisdom.
Y’know, I can’t sign off without a song. Paul’s statement “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (2) reminded me of a classic Jars of Clay track, “Liquid.” And when they sing, “Arms nailed down, he didn’t die for nothing: this is the one thing that I know,” I think that’s exactly what Paul’s talking about.