I’m grateful for a good number of things and one of those is the freedom that I have to meet with co-workers at lunch to study the Bible together. There is a group at my company that meets twice a week to study, in any given week the same passage is discussed each day so that if you can’t make one meeting you can hopefully make the other. Right now we have just started reading 1 Corinthians. There is a lot of spiritual meat in this letter from Paul to the church at Corinth and it has provided for some good discussion.
This week we read the last half of the first chapter. It contains a few verses that I think we need to be careful in interpreting.
19For it is written ”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
I have selectively quoted to be sure but I am simply using the tactics of those who would misuse these verses. The broader context of the passage is that the wisdom of the world that denies Christ is what we need to be on the lookout for, but if you just take a look at these two verses out of their context it looks like any and all wisdom outside of the Bible and Christ is to be condemned. In our discussion I expressed my concerns about the potential mis-application of these verses because I have become more aware of an anti-intellectual streak in the American church and it concerns me.
One of the most formative experiences in my life was during my freshman year of college. I decided to get my philosophy/religious studies requirement out of the way by taking a history of Christianity from Christ’s death to the end of the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, we never made it past 500 A.D. because our professor decided he wanted to discredit the Bible instead of teaching history. It was the first time that I encountered serious opposition to my faith in an intellectual fashion and I had one of three options open to me. I could have simply dismissed him as a fool, I could have accepted his arguments, or I could defend my faith in a reasoned way. I took the third option and as a result my faith is stronger. I am afraid too many Christians these days are simply taking the first option I listed above, the path of dismissal without fully understanding why.
There was a member of our bible study group that agreed with me, that we should continue to remain open to new ideas that are not in direct conflict with core principles like God created and Christ died and rose again as payment for our sins, but he suggested that you shouldn’t do that until you have become strong/mature in your faith. It was only a little while later when I was thinking on our discussion again that this question came to mind, how do you define mature? How else do you become mature in your faith if you do not allow yourself to answer tough questions regarding our faith? I think we should remain open to new ideas and answer challenges to our faith in the context of a community of other believers. I didn’t just heroically defend my faith against my professor as an undergrad by myself. I had the support of my family, other believers in a small group that met on campus, and other believers within the very same classroom I was in. Together we encouraged each other and helped each other out in answering these tough questions.
15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;1 Peter 3:15 NASB