Wisdom of God vs. Wisdom of Man
Have you ever thought about mankind’s endless search for truth in this world? Think about it. Even in the twenty-first century, in a time of the greatest knowledge in the history of man with all the technological developments that have accelerated the rate of acquiring knowledge, the restless mind of man still struggles with discovering what is truth, as well as, the reason for his existence. In fact, even in America’s current Presidential election seasons, ideas and secular worldviews has led to policy initiatives that are being postulated with the intent of legalizing and normalizing philosophies and lifestyles that God has called “an abomination,” in affect, elevating the philosophies and ideas of sinful mankind over the the word of the Creator of the Universe.
These secular worldviews that have crept into the public school system, Academia, pop culture, the media and every other institution of influence in America. All of which with the ultimate goal of “desensitizing” an entire generation to the ungodly influences that have become mainstream in the culture. But the most troubling aspect of all, is just how many “Christians,” and particularly Christian leaders, those who are supposed to be “salt and light” in the culture, but who instead, have actually become apologist for the political agents and parties who are openly advocating and campaigning on the legalization and normalization of such ungodly practices abortion, the LGBT agenda, as well as, the complete hostility to the Gospel and a biblical worldview. Not to mention the centralization of the world’s economic systems. A movement that is being fueled by the spirit of anti-Christ.
Yet, with all of our modern technology and access to information, there are still several other very important, as well as perplexing questions that that are still being hotly contested. Questions such as, what is happening to America and the West? Where will it lead? What is truth or what is right and what is wrong? And most importantly, what should be the worldview of the believers and the response of the Church of Jesus Christ to the culture in crises?
Incredibly, the last half of the 20th century has seen an almost unbelievable shift in the cultural values of the Western World. In fact, people who lived a century ago would be shocked to see what is simply accepted today as truth or normal without comment or any sort of contention!
Yet, there remains many who are deeply troubled by modern social and cultural movements. Nearly 75 percent of Americans for example, see “cultural decline” as the major problem facing our nation today and they are not alone! Today, television and movies screen themes of sex, violence and vulgarity that were unthinkable and impermissible only 35 years ago. News reports routinely discuss incredibly brutal and senseless crimes and topics that have been historically taboo such as, homosexual marriage, “gays” parading openly, and radical feminists shouting that traditional marriage is a tool for male oppression of women and abuse of children. Educators are now even ascribing characteristics such as “gender dysphoria” to children as being normal behaviors that have been traditionally regarded (and still are by many) as abnormal and perversions.
Amazingly, Presidential candidate Joe Biden, in a recent Town Hall, argued that if an eight-year old, decided that they didn’t want to be a boy, or didn’t want to be a girl, that they should then be allowed to have their biological gender changed, “without any discrimination.” And that was astonishingly an opinion that came from a candidate for the President of the United States.
This disturbing wave of social change is surging not just in America, but around the globe. Many wonder just what is happening to America and the West? What is driving this incredible transformation of traditional moral values? Where will this cultural sea change take us? And is are there a solutions to this problem? Surprising as it may seem, the Bible predicted our modern dilemma! The Scriptures not only foretold our cultural crisis, but the inspired word of God explains why this moral transformation is occurring, its true significance, and where it will take us. And as believers in Christ, we need to need to understand what lies ahead!
For starters, as believers especially, we need to come to grips with the fact that, there is much more to this battle than just a mere argument over religion and politics. What is actually at stake is the future of Western civilization. In fact, we are at a crucial “pivotal point” in the history of Western civilization. We are abandoning the central role of religion in our culture, we are in the process of tossing overboard the fundamental principles upon which America and the West were built. In essence, we seem intent on discarding biblical-based morality and the belief that a transcendent God inspired immutable laws to govern human relationships, and substituting a worldly philosophies as the new normalcy.
The Real Issue
Unfortunately, the issues that have generated so much controversy, inflame emotions and that make the mainstream news headlines such as, race, abortion, the LGBT movement, liberal feminism, the rejection of traditional sex roles, the redefinition of the family, skyrocketing divorce, and sex education, are only the surface issues And it is these surface issues, that have generated a clever smokescreen that has disguised and distracted us from the real issue that is actually at the heart of all of these divisive subjects.
The real issue in fact, actually centers on the questions of what is right, and what is wrong, what is ultimately good, and what is evil and ultimately intolerable? And who is the ultimate arbiter or authority of what is truth and what is false? How we answer these questions will determine whether America and the West will continue to follow right and wrong as traditionally defined in the Bible, or whether we will embrace the “progressive ideas” promoted by secular, liberal, New Age propagandists.
On one hand, there are those who argue unbiblical ideas such as, all values are relative, gender is fluid, that absolute truth does not exist, and that people can decide what is appropriate and right for themselves. While on the other hand, there are those of us who still believe that the ultimate truth in the world has been given to us by God in His word. So, in recognition of this very real issue, there is a decision that, either concisely or sub-concisely, everyone must make. Will our life guide or worldview be based upon divine revelation or human opinion and human reason? This is the bottom line of the “cultural war” that is tearing at the fabric of Western society.
In a nutshell, the greatest and most divisive aspect of the culture war, is the factions of people who are divided between those who are looking for answers through worldly wisdom versus excepting the Godly wisdom that God have left for us in His word. In essence, worldly wisdom leaves you empty and a bit cynical. But Godly wisdom is different. It reveals to us ultimate truth and that truth is found in a person, Jesus Christ.
Those who take the time to pursue ultimate truth in the person of Jesus and in the teachings of His Word, will find wisdom that is out of this world. In other words, in the process of discovering the wisdom of God that is found in His word over the wisdom of the world, you will have discovered your answer for life.
When doing a close examination of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the believers in the Greek City of Corinth, you will quickly discover that no other letter in the New Testament gives us a more clear and practical picture of the contrast between the wisdom of God Vs the wisdom of man or the wisdom of the world. 1 Corinthians particularly highlights the Christian faith as it relates to how believers should conduct and respond to the day-to-day issues and controversies of life Vs how the world views life and how they conducts themselves.
The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, a church which he founded on his second missionary journey (AD 48–51), is a treasure trove of practical theology for Christians facing everyday challenges. It provides Paul’s instruction to Christians grappling with real-life issues, including conflicts of loyalty, class differences, conflicts between personal freedom and the common good, and the difficulty of leading a diverse group of people to accomplish a shared mission.
Topics such as career and calling, the lasting value of work, overcoming individual limitations, leadership and service, the development of skills and abilities (or “gifts”), fair wages, environmental stewardship, marriage relationships, and the use of money and possessions are prominent in the letter. The unifying perspective on all these topics is love, which is the purpose, means, motivation, gift, and glory behind all of the work done in Christ. Christianity calls us to sacrifice instead of living for oneself. We have to choose one or the other, we can’t do both. The Christians in Corinth tried to live the Christian life in a worldly way. Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to a divided and self-centered people to remind them to follow Jesus and only Jesus.
Paul went to Corinth in Greece on his second missionary journey. Corinth was a thriving commercial center and a very corrupt city. The church in Corinth had several problems, so Paul wrote this epistle to deal with them. The ancient city of Corinth was located in Greece, a place where philosophy, orators, and worldly wisdom were held in high esteem. To the saints of God who lived in that commercial center, Paul had much to say about wisdom, both man’s and God’s, in the letters which he addressed to them. Corinth is well known to readers of the Bible because of its importance in the missionary activity of the apostle Paul: he visited Corinth at least three times, founded Christian assemblies there, and wrote at least four letters to Christians in Corinth (besides 1-2 Corinthians, note the other letters mentioned in (1 Corinthians 5:9, 2 Corinthians 2:4 and 7:8). The city lies at an important trading position about six miles to the southwest of the narrow isthmus that separates the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs.
In Paul’s time, Corinth was the most important city in Greece. Corinth was a bustling port city with two large harbors, an amphitheater, and numerous pagan temples. It was a center of trade, power, and politics, and an important location for the imperial cult, or the political-religious worship of the Roman Emperor. Sitting astride the isthmus that joins the Peloponnesian Peninsula to mainland Greece, Corinth controlled both the Saronic Gulf to the east and the Gulf of Corinth to the north. Merchants wanted to avoid the difficult, dangerous sea journey around the fingers of the Peloponnese, so a great deal of the goods flowing between Rome and the western empire and the rich ports of the eastern Mediterranean were hauled across this isthmus.
Almost all of it passed through Corinth, making it one of the empire’s great commercial centers. Strabo, an older contemporary of Paul, noted that “Corinth is called ‘wealthy’ because of its commerce, since it is situated on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy; and it makes easy the exchange of merchandise from both countries that are so far distant from each other.”
Corinth was a double seaport that jutted out into the Mediterranean Sea, and so it was really two seaports. The one to the East that took care of the Eastern Mediterranean trade, and the Western side took care of the trade to Rome, and Spain, and the other end of the Mediterranean.
Now you can just about imagine that a city for that day and time it was rather large, but certainly not what we call a huge city today, but nevertheless the city’s population was probably thirty to forty thousand. But it was a city that was just rampant with all of it’s commerce, and sailors from all parts of the world, but it was also rampant with pagan worship.
The ancient Greek city of Corinth in fact, had acquired something of a proverbial reputation for sexual promiscuity, and modern biblical scholarship has frequently reiterated a view of the city as a particular hotbed of immorality and vice.
There was a great temple dedicated to one of the Greek goddesses that sat above a promenade above the city of Corinth. And at the very height of Corinth, this temple up on the hill to which they worshipped the Athenian goddess, had thousands of prostitutes who were operating as the goddesses of the temple. You have to realize that their whole society was programmed to this, and so it was just part and parcel of their religion to be involved in immoral practice with the prostitutes of the city.
Corinth was probably the most the most immoral, wicked, corrupt city in the Roman empire. And so into the very midst of the gross immorality, and this great activity of commerce and trade, comes the Apostle Paul to that wicked city of Corinth with the Gospel of the Grace of God. From his letters to the Corinthians, Paul writes to a church comprised largely of Gentile and Greek members. As new members of Christ, they bring with them their former pagan and cultural influences such as glorifying wisdom (human philosophy) and ecstatic utterances, eating meat offered to idols, promiscuity and the denial of bodily resurrection.
Luke’s account of Paul’s stay in Corinth is found in Acts 18:1-18. According to the story, after some initial success in the synagogue, but with considerable conflict, he decides to concentrate on the non-Jews, apparently with significant success. He settles in and stays for 18 months, working as a tentmaker and living with fellow tentmakers, Aquila and his wife Pricilla (Prisca in his letters), two of the Jews expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius in a general expulsion. His success may have led to his being dragged before Gallio, the Roman proconsul, by the local Jews for heresy. Gallio dismisses the charge as a purely intra-Jewish affair. Soon afterwards Paul leaves, accompanied by Aquila and Pricilla, bound for Antioch, but on the way they stop over in Ephesus.
In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian believers, he addresses several problems among the Corinthian’s that had been brought to his attention. But rather than address these problems from the word go, Paul spent much of the first three chapters drawing a contrast between the two kinds of wisdom.
Paul understood for example, the fact that Corinth was in Greece and Greek culture for centuries had been heavily influence by Greek religion, philosophy and philosophers. And they needed to be given a clear contrast between what the Greek philosophy taught in relation to many of their problems Vs what the Word of God said.
On man’s side, Paul referred to “the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor. 1:19), “the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20), “human wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4), “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:5), and “fleshly wisdom (2 Cor. 1:12). These are all one and the same.
On God’s side, the apostle simply calls it “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2:7). As we consider worldly wisdom versus the Godhead’s wisdom, certain matters really stand out. First, man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom are not the same. Second, man’s wisdom is not as good as God’s is. Why? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
In fact, God has no foolishness or weakness; those are accommodative terms used here in the sense of God’s so-called foolishness and so-called weakness per the thinking of unwise, proud humans. Third, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God ” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Man’s thinking often clashes with God’s, which does not surprise us since the Lord proclaimed that His ways and thoughts are above those of mere mortals (Isaiah 55:8,9). Let us go ahead and consider some thoughts from the message of 1 Corinthians and see how modern-day thought (man’s wisdom) often conflicts with God’s wisdom.
Though Corinth as a leading Greek city, was strongly influenced by the philosophical schools of the day as well as Greek standards of persuasive speech or rhetoric, it would be natural that they would see Christianity through the lens of their own philosophical culture. The same applies to people in every culture and time. Consider for example, in 1 Corinthians 1:17 what Paul is saying about his preaching style: “17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18). Paul is contrasting his preaching of the gospel with “words of human wisdom.” Paul, the preacher, the apostle, the founder of scores of churches, doesn’t speak in the classical rhetorical style that is so valued by the Greeks, so his enemies use it against him.
The Wisdom of the Wise (1:19-20)
It was vital, that Paul not be viewed as one more philosopher, albeit one with a mere mediocre rhetorical style. For Paul, it wasn’t about style, it was about the message! In fact, he made his priorities very clear when he said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:17-18). Paul develops this theme throughout, stating for example in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2).
Paul’s core message is that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ, that he died for our sins and was raised from the dead. As he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (15:3-4).
Man’s thinking often clashes with God’s, which does not surprise us since the Lord proclaimed that His ways and thoughts are above those of mere mortals (Isaiah 55:8,9). Let us go ahead and consider some thoughts from the message of 1 Corinthians and see how modern-day thought (man’s wisdom) often conflicts with God’s wisdom. On man’s side, Paul referred to “the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor. 1:19), “the wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 1:20), “human wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4), “the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:5), and “fleshly wisdom (2 Cor. 1:12). These are all one and the same.
On God’s side, the apostle simply calls it “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2:7). As we consider worldly wisdom versus the Godhead’s wisdom, certain matters really stand out. First, man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom are not the same. Second, man’s wisdom is not as good as God’s is. Why? “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In fact, God has no foolishness or weakness; those are accommodative terms used here in the sense of God’s so-called foolishness and so-called weakness per the thinking of unwise, proud humans. Third, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God ” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
Man’s wisdom says that there is no way that the blood of a former Jewish carpenter can remove another person’s sins. To such people, the message of the crucified Christ is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). God’s truth: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18).
Greek Wisdom and Philosophy
In our passage, 1 Corinthians 1:17 to 2:16, the noun sophia, “wisdom” appears 13 times and the adjective sophos, “wise” appears another five times. Paul is dealing with wisdom as understood by the various schools of Greek philosophy that captured the common mind in Corinth.
- Epicureans saw religion as irrelevant and saw the pursuit of pleasure as the primary good.
- Middle Platonists followed Plato in their belief in the immortal human soul that needed to be freed from its attachment to the body and ascend towards deity.
- Paripatetics followed Aristotle who rejected Plato’s concept of an immortal soul.
- Sotics were materialists who believed even the gods had a material substance. Several stoic teachers came from Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. An important question for them was, “How can the wise man live in accordance with nature?” The answer: through a virtuous life.
- Cynics espoused more a way of life than a philosophy, living with only the barest essentials. They were known by their ragged cloaks and begging, and often being caustic, abusive, and arrogant.
Greek Rhetorical Style
But Paul wasn’t just experiencing just a clash in worldviews. He also had to contend with centuries of Greek philosophical culture and Greek religion. The phrase “words of human wisdom” (NIV), “eloquent wisdom” (NRSV), “wisdom of words” (KJV) suggests oratorical style. Sophia, “wisdom,” is joined here with logos, “word,” especially of oral utterance. In Greek culture, oratorical performance was valued highly. Indeed, the Greeks had developed the whole science of rhetoric, the art of persuasive speech. The quality of one’s public speaking was judged on how well it conformed to the principles of rhetoric that were currently in vogue.
In other words, style was often valued as much as, if not more than substance. And of course, that is sadly a very prominent concept in modern culture, particularly in the Churches and in our devotion to particular religious leaders and political candidates. We often are taken in more by dynamic orators, without really critically thinking through and discerning their actual substance or content. Of which, much of the modern oratorical substance is based more on eisegesis (or the superimposing of their human opinions and suppositions onto the biblical text) as opposed to sound biblical exegesis (or critically and rightly interpreting the biblical text in its original context and “transforming” our minds to line up with God’s word, rightly divided).
Though Corinth wasn’t the seat of great philosophers as Athens was, as a leading Greek city nevertheless, it was strongly influenced by the philosophical schools of the day, as well as Greek standards of persuasive speech rhetoric. So it would be natural that they would see Christianity through the lens of their own culture. The same applies to people in every culture and time. Thus Paul contrasts his message with what was in fashion in Corinth, realizing that part of the Corinthians’ criticism of Paul stemmed from how they perceived him in relation to oratorical style.
The message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
The message of the Cross is foolishness to those that are perishing in a world that is estranged from the One Who created them, and so we discover a worldly wisdom which is rooted in man-made, egotistical philosophies, which carefully circumvents everything to do with the death of Christ and His glorious resurrection and yet Christ’s death and resurrection is the foundation upon which our Christian faith is established.
The worldly wise Corinthian church were squabbling over who was the best teacher, instead of focusing on spiritual matters, but their foolish arguments were rooted in a much more sinister foundation, which was the wisdom of worldly arguments. The wisdom of God however, is discovered in the Cross of Christ and to those of us who are being saved it is the power and glory and wonder of God. But like the Jews who require a sign, some stumble at the Cross.. for it gives no outward display of a supernatural sign or miracle.
And like the Greeks who sought after wisdom, some scorn at the Cross, preferring to anchor themselves to the imagination of men’s minds in preference to the unchangeable truth of God’s Word. And some like these foolish Christians at Corinth, who were so full of their own importance were allowing the trivial issues of everyday life to divert their attention away from the power, the wonder and wisdom of the Cross of Christ. In addition, because these Corinthian Christians were relatively recent converts to Christianity, they were still yet heavily influenced by the Greek culture, philosophy and religion that they were raised around, and that still permeated all around them.
Paul therefore, had to be able to draw clear and obvious distinctions between true biblical Christianity and the philosophies, traditions and religions of Greek culture. And the focal point of this clear distinction was the message of the cross. Or, the virgin birth, death, resurrection, ascension and eventual return of Jesus Christ. Paul’s message was to proclaim these truths and their implications. He had no use for the particulars of oratorical precision. In fact, the attractiveness or the allure of the eloquent speech that was renown among many of the more popular Greek orators, can often serve to obscure the bare facts and empty the cross of Christ of its power (1:17).
Furthermore, Christianity is not primarily a philosophy to be debated in the marketplace, or even a religion. Christianity is based on the historical facts of the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Messiah. Paul in fact, is well much aware that this message of the cross would seem foolish to the average Greek.
Interestingly, the word “foolishness” in verse 18 is mōria (from which we get the English word “moron”), a form the noun moros, “foolish, stupid, “referring to mental dullness, “a weakness of understanding or judgment, sometimes through stupidity, sometimes through confusion, but always demanding censure. “The world’s assessment of the message of the cross and resurrection, then and now, is an arrogant sneer (Acts 17:32), dismissing Christianity as the belief of ignorant simpletons, not the belief of sophisticated, educated, worldly men and women.
Whatever their reaction to the gospel, says Paul, “to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18b). What worldly people dismiss as foolish is actually the real wisdom! To the Romans, Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Because the gospel is the power of God for salvation, therefore, Paul must proclaim the gospel no matter how it might be perceived!
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
He continues (quoting from Isaiah 29:14b): “19 For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’ 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 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” (1 Corinthians 1:19-21).
Paul considers the status of those that the Greek world honored above all: the wise man, the scholar, and the philosopher. Think about all the people that this world holds in high esteem. but who don’t follow Christ. Their knowledge about how the world works may be great, but without understanding how God fits into the picture, their so-called wisdom is actually foolishness, since there is a gaping hole about the most important thing.
Paul didn’t use the arts of rhetoric (the art of preparing persuasive arguments) or oratory (the art of public speaking) to delve into these deep mysteries. The Greeks prized rhetoric and oratory, and regarded great orators as celebrities. It would seem logical for God to give Paul great oratorical skills so that he might use those skills in God’s service. If Paul were a great orator, couldn’t he win more people to Christ? But Paul, by virtue of his Godly wisdom, chose another way to build the kingdom, just as Christ Jesus had chosen another way. Christ chose the way of the cross to further God’s kingdom, something that from a human perspective seemed completely backwards. But Jesus had said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32), and that’s exactly what happened. People were, and still are, drawn to a savior who would give himself so completely in their service.
So also, Paul chose not to rely on oratorical fireworks to proclaim God’s mysteries. He didn’t try to argue the Corinthians into believing in Christ. He didn’t use tightly woven syllogisms to drag them into faith. He didn’t dazzle them with a voice or finely tuned gestures. He didn’t avail himself of any of the human skills that the Greeks prized so highly. He simply told them about “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” and that was sufficient.
Paul contrasts the wisdom of the world with the so-called “foolishness” of preaching, since his preaching was probably scorned by the sophisticated in Corinth as it had been in Athens (Acts 17:32). “21 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. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).
Man’s Wisdom War on Critical Thinking
In a revealing article written by Clint Roberts of the Stream.org, titled, “Critical Theory’s War on Critical Thinking,” Roberts gives some very succinct but important historical insights into the roots of our modern cultural and political polarization. Roberts writes for example, “The roots of the modern cultural and contentious worldview divide, actually go back to some dastardly European intellectuals. Specifically, it originated among neo-Marxists, mostly German ones. Karl Marx for example, divided the world into classes. According to Marx, class warfare is what drives history. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” he wrote in The Communist Manifesto. It’s the haves and the have nots, oppressors and the oppressed.
Marx called for “the ruthless criticism of all that exists.” Because the privileged class holds the power, they design and control all of the systems. The oppressed are morally obligated to join together (“Workers of the world, unite!”) for change. Marxist critique is seen as the way to unmask the systems that justify oppression. It precedes and inaugurates activism that leads to the dismantling of those systems. Later Marxist scholars, like those of the famed, “Frankfurt School,” applied this idea to all areas of culture and society. This is why some people call Critical Theory “cultural Marxism.” Their ideas lived on in particular academic circles. Writers borrowed from postmodern thinkers like Michel Foucault. From him they got the idea that everything is about power. Every norm, every shared truth about history or science, every moral precept , all of it is “constructed” as an exercise of power.
Then along came “Intersectionality,” where identity markers became the primary focus. Mix that into Critical Theory and you end up with new academic disciplines like, “Critical Race Theory” and “Queer Theory,” among others. They teach people that identity markers fall along a hierarchy. If, for example, you are a white male heterosexual Christian, you are on the extreme “oppressor” end of the spectrum. But if instead you are a black, gay, female who practices Wicca, you are on the extreme “oppressed” end of the spectrum. You see how that works?
And again, all of the “systems” are presumed to favor those on the oppressor side, and must therefore be “dismantled.” This is how we accomplish social justice, in their view. These criticisms could go on, but the thing I most want to emphasize here is the way CT tries to escape all critical evaluation by vilifying it. In other words, they make reason itself another “system” that must be dismantled.
The spokespeople for CT are fond of saying that we need to “have a conversation” about this or that. This means, more or less, that their claims are to be taken uncritically. Critique only works one direction — the old Marxist direction. They critique the systems; but nobody is allowed to critique their views. One celebrated “professor of creative writing and inclusion” explained why she always turns down invitations to debate her views: Because debate is an imperialist capitalist white supremacist heteropatriarchal technique that transforms a potential exchange of knowledge into a tool of exclusion & oppression.
For those not fluent in “woke,” the assertion of this word salad is that civil debate itself is part of the evil system. This would no doubt baffle every great thinker from Aristotle to Descartes. But it is perfectly in keeping with a recent Smithsonian exhibit on “Whiteness.” Taken straight from the writings of popular critical theorists, it showed all of the things imposed by dominant white values. Those things included: objectivity, reason, hard work, fair play, the nuclear family, respect for authority, monotheism, having goals, future planning, optimism, property ownership, written tradition, politeness, proper English, conflict resolution and many more.”
Critical Theory Dismantles the Tools of Critical Thinking
There is much to criticize about in Critical Theory (CT). Its moral claims are without a foundation, since it is grounded either in atheism (a la historic Marxism) or religious and moral confusion. They have no ultimate basis for human dignity, rights or equality. CT also gets human nature wrong. A person’s value is not in his or her shallow and superficial features. Reducing people to traits like skin color and sexual organs shrinks human worth and distorts our view of all humanity.
These criticisms could go on, but the thing I most want to emphasize here is the way CT tries to escape all critical evaluation by vilifying it. In other words, they make reason itself another “system” that must be dismantled. The spokespeople for CT are fond of saying that we need to “have a conversation” about this or that. This means, more or less, that their claims are to be taken uncritically. Critique only works one direction — the old Marxist direction. They critique the systems; but nobody is allowed to critique their views.
This would no doubt baffle every great thinker from Aristotle to Descartes. But it is perfectly in keeping with a recent Smithsonian exhibit on “Whiteness.” Taken straight from the writings of popular critical theorists, it showed all of the things imposed by dominant white values. Those things included: objectivity, reason, hard work, fair play, the nuclear family, respect for authority, monotheism, having goals, future planning, optimism, property ownership, written tradition, politeness, proper English, conflict resolution and many more.” 
In essence, the worldview of the Critical Theorists, is a perfect example of what the “wisdom of man,” or the “wisdom of this age,” represents. It is a complete contrast of the “wisdom of God,” or what the Word of God teaches. The word of God makes it clear, that the root of man’s problems is not class, race or gender, but rather, the root of man’s problems is sin and our inherent Adamic sin nature. Because at the end of the day, “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This is why Christ had to die, in order to redeem humanity back to God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5. Not in Human Wisdom But in the Spirit and and Power
“When I came to you, brothers, I didn’t come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech (Greek: logos)and my preaching (kerygma) were not in persuasive words (logos) of human wisdom (sophia) but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Paul spoke of the Corinthian Christians, who were not wise, powerful, or of noble birth, but God chose them. God is working out his purposes through them. That God chose them is no accident. God deliberately “the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are” (1:28). Now, having used the Corinthian Christians to illustrate his point about human versus Godly wisdom, Paul turns to his own preaching to further illustrate that contrast. Paul came to Corinth and the Corinthian Christians proclaiming the mystery of God.
Elements of the Practice of Godly Wisdom
|1. Revere God||Psalm 111:10 ESV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!|
|2. Submit to God’s will||Colossians 1:9 ESV … we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,|
|3. Carefully consider their ways||Ephesians 5:15 ESV Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.|
|4. Are humble||
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
|5. Acknowledge ignorance||1 Corinthians 3:18-20 ESV Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.|
|6. Practice self-control||Proverbs 16:32 ESV Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.|
|7. On the watch for deception||1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.|
|8. Are open to advice||
Proverbs 12:15 ESV The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
|9. Edify and correct others for their own good||Ecclesiastes 7:5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.|
The Natural Person Versus the Spiritual Person
“Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one. 16“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
The (unspiritual person) stands in contrast to the (spiritual person). The (unspiritual people) cannot “receive the things of God’s spirit,” because they don’t want them, and regard spiritual things as foolishness. They can’t understand spiritual things, because their hearts are not attuned to the the things of God. “But he who is spiritual discerns all things“ (v. 15a). In contrast to the the unspiritual person, the the spiritual person is equipped to discern, judge, evaluate all things, both spiritual and unspiritual.
This word, anakrino (discern), is based on the word krino (judge), and has a wide range of meanings: scrutinize, investigate, examine, discern. The idea here is that the spiritual person is able to make good judgments regarding spiritual things, and is also equipped to judge worldly things, or things that are indifferent to or even opposed to the Spirit of God. The spiritual person is well-equipped to see the hollow center of worldly activities that appear attractive from the outside. He or she is better equipped than most to avoid temptation personally, and is also equipped to advise others in matters both spiritual and worldly. That doesn’t mean that they will never make a mistake, but it does mean that they will be more discerning that most, and more honest and trustworthy than most. Jesus in fact, told his disciples to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We all need an adviser of that quality.
Paul continues drawing the distinction between the spiritual person Vs the carnal or natural person by further admonishing the Corinthian Christians with the words, “But we have Christ’s mind“ (v. 16b). In other words, the spiritual person, having been reborn according by the grace of God, begins to see life from a new perspective, from Christ’s perspective. From Christ’s perspective, everything looks different. In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul calls Christians to have the mind of Christ Jesus and also reveals what that means. The mind of Christ Jesus was bent on service. He was in the form of God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, taking the form of a human being, the son of a carpenter. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Few of us can claim to have reached that degree of selflessness. When Paul says that we have the mind of Christ, he is stating that both as a reality and as an ideal. Something that is true now, but something into which we all still need to grow. To the extent that we do have the mind of Christ, we see things from a perspective that make our old values seem irrelevant and the life of service and devotion the ideal toward which we strive.
Practicing Godly wisdom in an Ungodly World
We receive wisdom from God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit communicates through our spirit and inner conscience. As we pray, study His word and quiet down to listen to Him, He will give us an “inner knowing” and plant insights into our minds.
Isaiah 11:2 ESV “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
Job 38:36 “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?”
Job 32:8-9 ESV “But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.”
1. Begin with humility and turn towards God
Reverence and humility before God are crucial to gaining godly wisdom. The humble will listen, observe, accept correction and grow wiser. The proud only collect more knowledge. God calls this folly and futile.
Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
1 Corinthians 3:19-20 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
2. Turn away from worldly wisdom
The world is filled with teachings, quotes, and ideologies that sound like great wisdom, but will ultimately, lead us away from God.
Proverbs 14:12 ESV “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
Worldly wisdom will lead us to gratify our desires, rather than submit to God. The Bible calls us to “set the mind on the Spirit” so we will experience God’s “life and peace”. We need to put away or repent of relying on our own understanding or logic as to how things work based on the world’s “teachings” and renew our minds with God’s Word. This is how we will be able to follow His ultimate wisdom.
Romans 8:6-8 ESV “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
3. Slow down, quiet our thoughts and ask God
It takes discipline to quiet our minds and wait on God. When we fix our thoughts on Him, He will reveal the path forward. He even promises to be generous with His limitless wisdom when we ask Him with simple faith.
Isaiah 26:3 ESV “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
James 1:5-8 ESV “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
The temptation is always to ruminate on the “what if’s” in life but such thinking will prove to be futile because with God, there is only one way, and that is His good and perfect will. We need to beware not to let some inner unspoken fear or personal insecurity drive us to “look at all the possibilities” in life. Such fears are not from God.
4. Test our thoughts
Some thing can sound 95% right and still be wrong.
Just as the Holy Spirit will give us godly wisdom, Satan can also give us worldly wisdom. It is important to ask the Holy Spirit to help us examine and test the direction of our thoughts so that we follow His voice, instead of the enemy’s. This is one way we “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.
Lamentations 3:40 ESV “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!”
1 John 4:1 ESV “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”
5. Stay away from ungodly influences
Ungodly influences come from many different sources, from family traditions, the media, society, pop culture, songs etc. Ultimately, they will fill our minds with insecurity, pride, doubt, and worldly human logic. We are to keep our thoughts pure, uncorrupted and innocent so our thoughts don’t get swayed away from God’s will.
Romans 16:19 ESV “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.”
Proverbs 3:7 “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
If we feel as if we are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about” in our thoughts, then we need to examine if we are being blown about by ungodly teaching or lies that sound like the truth.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
6. Choose our counselors wisely
It is wise to listen to good advice. Even so, we need to be selective about who we turn to for advice. Seeking wisdom from prudent God-fearing people is good but seeking God’s ultimate wisdom is best. No one knows what tomorrow holds as clearly as God does, and no detail is too insignificant to bring before God.
Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
7. Know God’s Word well
Nothing beats studying God’s Word. This is how we will be able to decipher His ways, His will, and His character. The wise know that God will never do anything that’s out of character nor will He change His Word.
Psalm 19:7-8 ESV “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;”
1 Samuel 15:29 ESV “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”
In Conclusion, we are living in an age where in America and around the world, God’s truth is being challenged, marginalized and even being viewed as illegal hate speech. In fact, when you think about it, to the carnal mind, the message of “Christ crucified” is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. On the surface it doesn’t make sense. “Christ” or “Messiah” carries ideas of triumph, power, splendor, while “crucified” brings to mind concepts of weakness, humiliation, defeat.
Furthermore, in this emotionally charged, and polarized political environment, believers in Christ, who has the Word of God as their reference guide, MUST be able to LOOK PAST THE PERSONALITIES of the candidates and CRITICALLY THINK and SPIRITUALLY DISCERN the BIG PICTURE from a BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW.
In Paul’s day, the idea of Christ crucified to the Jews this represented a scandal. While to Greeks on the other hand, it made absolutely no sense at all. It was foolishness. It was madness. But in this current post-modern, worldly culture, it is important that we as believers, remind ourselves that Paul did not soft-pedal or water-down or sugar coat his message to make it more digestible, just because various groups had a problem with it. He declared the straight unadulterated gospel.
This doesn’t mean that we can forget our missionary role to declare the Gospel to our generation in terms they can understand. We must! We must in fact, find culturally relevant equivalents and metaphors to communicate the gospel clearly. But that is quite different than altering the essential message or avoiding those aspects that are perhaps embarrassing to us.
We see a number of examples of the core content of the apostles preaching that includes the truth of Christ’s crucifixion and death for our sins (Acts 2:36; 4:10; 10:39-40; 13:28-30; 17:2-3; 26:22-23). Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul includes the crucified and resurrected Messiah among the core truths of the Gospel. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). This message may sound like foolishness to the sophisticated people of any age, but it is far more powerful than what they call “wisdom.” “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)
- Critical Theory’s War on Critical Thinking, by Clint Roberts, October 14th, 2020, www.stream.org