The whole world with all diligence has struggled to figure out what God is, what He has in mind and does. Yet the world has never been able to grasp the knowledge and understanding of any of these things. But here [in the creed] we have everything in richest measure. For here in all three articles God has revealed Himself and opened the deepest abyss of His fatherly heart and His pure, inexpressible love. He has created us for this very reason, that He might redeem and sanctify us. In addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has even given to us His Son and the Holy Spirit, who brings us to Himself. For we could never grasp the knowledge of the Father’s grace and favor except through the Lord Christ (McCain, Baker, Veith, & Engelbrecht, 2005).
Thursday, March 22, 2012
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (1 Corinthians 1:18-20 KJV).
When I was a kid I used to love going to the grocery store. It wasn’t necessarily because I liked shopping, although there was a pretty good chance that I would get something good, whether I went with either my mother or my grandmothers. What I really looked forward to was the checkout counter. That location seemed to me to be the only place where I could see the journalistic awesomeness that was the American supermarket tabloid. They printed the news that other so-called “mainstream” media outlets refused to report. I was always shocked – when I was eight years old – that everyone else in the media could ignore all of the Elvis Presley sightings, alien space craft landings, and evidence for the Loch Ness Monster.
The best – the most infamous – of all the supermarket tabloids was hands-down, the Weekly World News. Today the News only exists as a website, and continues to cash in, but mostly on the parody of itself. In its heyday the Weekly World News claimed that it printed the truth; its slogan was “Nothing but the truth: The Weekly World News!” To anyone who actually read the paper however, and was not an eight-year-old boy, the purpose of the publication was clearly comedy, not hard journalism. The Weekly World News, though, never publically questioned the accuracy of its stories until 2004 (Bat Boy Character, 2012). Other tabloids, like The Sun, WWN’s main rival, had always carried a disclaimer; it wasn’t until 2004 that the paper began printing that “the reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment”.
But what about Bat boy? You mean he wasn’t really a half-bat, half-boy creature, discovered in a cave in West Virginia, who has a chaotic sense of morality and likes to steal cars? No, fortunately for us all he is not. It was foolishness, all of it. Entertaining, perhaps, but foolishness nonetheless.
When something is lacking in sense, judgment, or discretion, we say that it is foolish (Foolish, 2012). Foolish things are ridiculous and absurd, trifling and insignificant. Elvis is dead and it lacks sense and judgment to say otherwise. Many reputable and trustworthy people, such as Elvis’ family, doctors, friends, the paramedics, funeral home personnel, all saw him after he died and confirmed that truth. To say that you know he faked his death and is now in hiding because he called a 49-year-old Atlanta waitress on the telephone is ridiculous and absurd (Linde, 1993). It is also trifling and insignificant to be discussing the alleged cover-up of a celebrity’s death 16 years after it happened. I mean, isn’t there anything of higher importance to report? Whatever happened to the half-man, half-alligator discovered a Florida bayou (Siegel, 2007)? I don’t know about you, but I think we should be keeping close tabs on that guy.
To those who are perishing – those who do not believe in Jesus – the message of the cross is foolishness. To those people who do not have faith, the idea that God would take on human form, live on the earth, and willingly go to his death on a cross to atone for the sins of mankind, not only lacks sense, judgment, and discretion, but is absolutely ridiculous and absurd. First of all, most people don’t believe that mankind needs saving in the first place. People are basically good. There is no absolute moral law. God is a fairy tale, and we are not morally responsible to fairy tales; all of these ideas are foolishness.
Foolishness, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. From the fall of man in the Garden of Eden until the present day, the evidence of man’s utter depravity and corruption abounds around us. We covet and steal from each other, we slander each other, we hurt and murder each other; we seek by any means possible to gratify the desires of our human nature. We ignore and suppress our conscience every time it speaks to us to tell us we are sinning and, when we can’t drown the voice out, we rationalize our behavior so that we don’t feel so bad. We try and tell ourselves that what is right and wrong for one person is not necessarily right and wrong for me.
We are told that morality is really a cultural thing. Whatever the prevailing culture determines to be “right” is right and, therefore, there is no absolute right or wrong; we are free to choose what works for us. Consequently, what works for one person, might not work for another. Drug legalization is an area where some try to make this case. In America marijuana and other drugs are illegal, but in places like the Netherlands they are sold in government sanctioned cafes. The right to life debate is another such area. Abortion is labeled as “a woman’s right to choose” by its proponents, murder by its detractors. I’d be willing to bet that a lot fewer people would be “pro-choice”, though, if they were the so-called unviable tissue mass whose existence was on the line; conveniently, that tissue mass – formerly known as an unborn baby – has no voice of its own.
The problem is, if this relativism is applied to the “little” things like drug use, gambling, birth control, and abortion, it has to be applied to the “big” things as well. Thou shalt not steal? Well, that doesn’t “work” for me, so, hand over your wallet. Thou shalt not murder? Maybe THOU shalt not, but it is perfectly acceptable to me within the context of MY culture to kill people who offend me, so look out. When people who believe in individual morality – as opposed to absolute morality – are pressed on the subject, however, oftentimes you will find that they don’t like the things they say are “relative” to be applied to them. Unfortunately, when the prevailing culture is the highest moral authority, one has no grounds for protesting against behavior one finds hurtful or offensive. For example, in Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party determined what was morally acceptable; that was the highest moral authority in that culture. If there is no absolute right and wrong, and culture determines local morality, on what grounds do you condemn the Holocaust? Is not that culture of nihilistic racism valid for them, just as our culture of individual liberty is for us? Without absolute morality, the only absolute law is “might makes right”. Everything else is foolishness.
But God’s ways are not our ways; his thoughts are not our thoughts. God does not deal with us according to our sinfulness; he doesn’t deal with us in a way that makes sense to our fallen sinful intellect. God deals with us out of love.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:6-9 KJV).
Christ came down from heaven and took on human flesh. Christ voluntarily emptied himself of his divine powers as Immanuel – God, with us – and lived a sinless life, keeping the moral law perfectly as we could not. He endured poverty, contempt, and persecution in his earthly life, only the beginnings of the torments he would suffer because of us, because of mankind, who turned its collective face away from God so long ago (Luther, 1986). He died in agony on the cross, bearing in his body the sin of all of mankind, and he rose from the dead, declaring his victory over all sins, over death, and over the power of the devil. In his explanation of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote about understanding God, and the working of his mind:
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:34-36 KJV).
Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Christ has triumphed over death. He gives those who believe in him pardon for their sin, and eternal life. This method of redeeming mankind seems alien to mankind. Why would God make us this way? Why would he not just wipe everything out and begin again? Surely God could have dealt with sin, death, and Satan in some other way?
I don’t pretend to understand the thinking of God. I believe, however, that the human race must be more to God than some sort of cosmic science fair project. If that is all we are, when we became “contaminated”, he would have thrown his experiment in the trash and began again. Anything I would come up with, however, would only be a guess. God can do what he wants, and this is how he has chosen to deal with mankind. Whether we understand how he works or not is immaterial. What is important is that he has promised us forgiveness and life through Jesus; that forgiveness isn’t any less real because we don’t understand God’s thought process. This is, however, the world’s view of Christ and his cross:
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:21-24 KJV).
I will take God’s so-called “foolishness” over the wisdom of mankind any day.
Bat Boy Character. (2012, March 16). Retrieved March 16, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bat_Boy_(character)
Foolish. (2012, March 16). Retrieved March 16, 2012, from Merriam-Webster: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foolish
Linde, R. N. (1993, July 27). Elvis is Not Dead - I Just Talked To Him on the Phone! The Weekly World News , p. 2
Luther, D. M. (1986). Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
McCain, P. T., Baker, R. C., Veith, G. E., & Engelbrecht, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord. Saint Louis, MO, USA: Concordia Publishing House.
Siegel, D. (2007, May 21). Manigator. The Weekly World News , pp. 24-26.
 Romans 2:15
 Isaiah 55:8
 Philippians 2:5-8
 2 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 8:20; Isaiah 53:3; John 8:40
 John 19:16-18; Matthew 27:46; John 19:30; 1 Peter 2:24
 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Peter 1:3