08 July 2024

“Morons” for Jesus.

1 Corinthians 3.18-21.

After Paul and Sosthenes wrote about us being bricks in the Holy Spirit’s temple, they finally bounced back to the subject of wisdom, which they’d kinda left behind in chapter 2 so they could go off on a tangent about how the Corinthians weren’t yet ready for deep stuff, and how they (and we) are collectively God’s temple. But now we’re back to wisdom. Namely God’s wisdom, granted to us Christians through the Holy Spirit—not spontaneously, as proven by every stupid Christian you’ve ever met, but when we listen to the Spirit and follow Jesus.

And if we wanna be wise, we gotta ditch what popular culture—including Christian popular culture, which has been fully infiltrated and corrupted by secular culture!—considers wisdom. Some of it is wise. Some really isn’t. In the United States, a lot of it is pragmatism—what works, as opposed to what’s good and right and moral. Most Americans figure if it works it’s good; then we go through all sorts of convoluted reasoning to explain why this also means it’s right and moral, and it’s not really.

Suppressing every other religion but Christianity, fr’instance—it sounds like it’d definitely make things easier for us Christians! And no doubt you can think of a lot of Old Testament verses which makes it sound right and moral. But is it moral to oppress people of other religions? Is it moral to obligate Americans to feign Christianity?—to go through all the motions, yet have no true personal relationship with Christ? What about when these hypocrites seek political power?—’cause they will; hypocrites love power. As you can see, the “wisdom” of Christian nationalism is profoundly stupid. But plenty of Christians fall for it.

So if you want wisdom, legit wisdom, listen to God.

1 Corinthians 3.18-21 KWL
18People must not delude themselves:
If any one of you thinks they’re wise in this age,
they should become morons so they could become wise,
19for this wisdom of the world
is moronic when compared to God.
For it’s written:
“The one who snares the wise in their subtlety,” Jb 5.13
20and again,
“The Lord knows the dialogues of the wise
—that they’re empty.” Ps 94.11
21So people must not promote other people,
for everything belongs to all of you.
22Whether it’s Paul, Apollos, Kifa,
the world, life, death, the present, the future—
everything belongs to all of you.
23And you belong to Christ,
and Christ belongs to God.

And, as the apostles add in verse 21-23, don’t divide Christianity into factions which follow one guru or another… because all these gurus work for the real guru, Jesus. Paul does, Apollos does, Kifa (i.e. Simon Peter) does, James does, John does, even John the baptist does. Likewise differing topics which Christians are free to debate about, like the world, life, death, the present, and the future: All of us get to speculate about ’em, and no one but Christ is the master of them. And us. Got that?

Quoting Job’s friends.

Okay, lemme deal with the fact that in order to prove their points, Paul and Sosthenes quoted Eliphaz the Temanite Jb 4.1 in Job.

Job 5.12-13 SAAS
12He frustrates the counsels of the crafty
So their hands cannot carry out their plans.
13He catches the wise in their craftiness
And subverts the counsel of the cunning.

(I quoted a translation of the Septuagint, since that’s likely the bible the apostles quoted. It’s very similar to the NKJV, if you’d rather read that version instead. Jb 5.12-13 NKJV)

Job’s friends, as the LORD points out in that book, annoyed him:

Job 42.7-8 NKJV
7And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

Does this mean nothing Eliphaz said about God is accurate? Nah; like most ignorant people, it’s a mixture of good stuff and dumb stuff. It takes wisdom to sort out which of it is wheat and which is chaff. Wisdom which the author of Job expected his readers to have! But you’d be surprised how many people still quote Job’s friends as proof texts for their sermons—proving they were more likely digging their proof texts out of a Nave’s Topical Bible than actually doing bible study.

The reason we know Eliphaz’s statement is in any way valid, is ’cause the apostles also pulled a proof text from the Psalms. It’s Psalm 94 in Protestant bibles, but Psalm 93 in the Septuagint (and Catholic and Orthodox bibles):

Psalm 93.8-11 SAAS
8Now understand, all you without discernment among the people,
And all you fools, at length be discerning.
9He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
Or He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
10He who chastises the nations, shall He not reprove them,
He who teaches man knowledge?
11The Lord knows the thoughts of men are vain.

Again, you can read the NKJV for comparison. Ps 94.8-11 NKJV

So it’s not incorrect to say that God frustrates the plans of clever people, undermines those who think they’re wise, and corrects those who presume they know better. This is consistently taught throughout scripture. Eliphaz got some things right. It’s just his overall idea—that Job was suffering because God was punishing his sin—was entirely wrong. It’s an assumption we should never make either.

Yeah, sometimes the world is gonna think you’re a moron.

My dad doesn’t believe people change. It’s a lot of the reason he treats me like I believe the same things I did when I was 17. But things have changed an awful lot since the 1980s! I’ve changed a lot. He’s changed a lot. My politics are significantly different now. His… nah, he still believes whatever talk radio tells him to. But he regularly forgets I’ve changed, and acts surprised when I tell him I believe something way different than he was expecting.

Because my politics are based on following Jesus. Not following a politician; not following a party. If Jesus says “Love your neighbor” and the party says, “Don’t,” of course I’m going with Jesus. But to Dad this makes no sense. Mostly because he doesn’t follow Jesus at all, and Jesus’s compassion makes no sense to him either. And partly because, like I said, he forgets I’m not 17.

Stands to reason atheists like Dad would consider Jesus’s teachings to be nonsense, but I’ve met Christians who think the same way he does. Christians who don’t do grace, who think it’s just another form of liberalism, who get enraged whenever I quote Jesus to tell ’em why I can’t support their views. Apparently I’m not supposed to interpret Jesus literally; that Sermon on the Mount stuff is how we’re gonna live in heaven, not now! Right now?—we can’t afford to love our neighbors; we have fight our neighbors! Following Jesus? Impractical.

Russell Moore, editor of Christianity Today, has pointed out more than once that if you actually quote the Sermon on the Mount to certain Christians—that if you dare to preach it in church—they’re gonna accuse you of weak, treasonous liberalism. Because their pastors have done a lousy job of teaching Jesus. Because they themselves don’t know Jesus. But they do know what they personally believe, and they’re pretty sure God approves of it—that he thinks just like they do!—and don’t you dare tell ’em otherwise.

They’re gonna think we’re morons when we actually follow Jesus. They’re gonna think we’re morons when we proclaim God’s kingdom instead of the ones they’re trying to set up. They’re gonna think we’re morons when we take the side of the weak, the needy, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcasts, and try to share Jesus with them, and try to include them in God’s kingdom: Those aren’t people they consider worthy, and they think only worthy people will be saved. Like I said, they don’t do grace.

They’re gonna think we’re morons when we listen to Christians who are outside our little enclaves. Evangelicals regularly look at me funny when I tell ’em I read the works of Catholic and Orthodox writers; conservative Christians look at me with great alarm when I bring up the fact the Christian Left even exists. The reason they panic, and worry these works will lead me astray? They follow popular preachers. They worry I might do likewise, and start following the “wrong” preachers. But I follow Jesus. All these preachers, like the apostles wrote, belong to all of us! But we belong to Jesus; we’re meant to follow him, not clever women and men. If the women and men disagree with Jesus, they’re wrong; follow Jesus. I know how to differentiate between the two. My worried Evangelical friends?… I’m not so sure about them.

So we gotta become the right kind of “morons.” We gotta put aside the “wisdom” of popular Christian culture, reject it for the godless pandering to one’s selfish impulses that it’s become, and follow Jesus. We gotta buck the trends in our churches, and help our pastors remind everybody to listen to the Spirit, to follow Jesus, and to reject the direction everybody else—no, not just the pagans, everybody else—is telling you to go when it’s not where the Spirit is leading.