Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Foolishness

The wisdom the world is foolish.  I've heard this a million times from Christian promoting the idea that the more outrageous a doctrine, the more it must be true.  If you don't understand something they're trying to get across to you, all the better.  It's foolish.  You're not supposed to understand it.  If you could understand it, it wouldn't be from G-d.

The Wisdom of God
 

1 Corinthians 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”[e] 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
I guess the idea came from this passage in Corinthians where Paul is talking about the message of the cross.  But, as always, the passage has been stretched to explain things that are literal foolishness, like how eternally tormenting can be in any way considered loving or glorious.

I've been told that the foolishness of the cross is this.  G-d needed to punish someone for our sins. A debt was owed that we couldn't pay.  So, G-d took it upon Godself to pay it.  G-d couldn't just forgive the debt. So, G-d killed His Son in our place.  Now, His Son wasn't tortured eternally (the purpose of Hell- as I've been told) and didn't stay dead forever (the wages of sin).  Yet, the debt was satisfied. OK.  I have to agree with at least this much. This is foolish.  It's incomprehensible to me.  Why would G-d set up a system where He created a creature bound for not only destruction but for Eternal Torment?  Why would God have to pay Gddself?  And a million more questions immediately pop into my mind.  But, let's just accept that is is foolishness.  Since it's foolishness and since the Bible says G-d's wisdom is message of the cross is foolishness, this must be the message of the cross.  That's what I'm asked to believe.  Not so fast!  Is there any other foolishness in this story that might actually be an alternative? 

It's human justice that demands an eye for an eye.  It's human justice that says when a King is insulted, the peasant must pay. The peasant  would often pay with his life.  That's where this idea that G-d, the ultimate King who has been insulted, demands we pay).  It's a human idea that the Messiah would come in splendor and glory conquering His foes, throwing the mighty from their high places by force.  It's humanity that demands blood.  The only thing foolish (from the human system of retribution) about the idea presented above is instead of G-d smiting His enemies, He smites His Son.  But, still it's G-d demanding somebody's blood.  That's human-like, not Godlike.

Jesus came unexpectedly. He came quietly, meekly.  He wasn't born in royalty or splendor, He was rumored to be a bastard.  He didn't work within the prevailing power structures of government or religion.  He defied them.  This is utter foolishness.  If G-d wanted to announce His presence to the world, wouldn't Jesus at least have been the son of a Rabbi? (not that the Jews were all that highly esteemed).  Wouldn't He have come as mighty and powerful?  Jesus was born in a backwater, hick
town.  That's foolishness.
Jesus came to bring a Kingdom.  How did human kingdoms establish themselves?  By power.  Human kingdoms prevail by using armies and crushing their enemies.  What did Jesus do?  Did He crush the power grubbing systems of the day by leading a violent revolution? No.  He peaceably allowed them to crush Him.  The "church" (Jewish temple system of the day) and the Roman government conspired to silence Him.  He could have called down legions of angels to protect Himself.  But, He did not.  That's foolishness.

My buddy RanRan tells me I have an ego problem because I think G-d loves me.  But G-d must love me.  He sent Jesus to save us while we were still estranged from Him.  As Paul said, in Romans 5:7, it's hard to find someone who will die for a righteous man. But, you might.  But, try finding someone who will die for an enemy.  That's foolishness. 

But, not only did Jesus die for us. Jesus died at our hands.  It's not G-d who killed Jesus. And, while you can say, in a sense, Jesus sacrificed Himself (because He would not shut up, recant or resist His execution), Jesus didn't die at His own hands.  Jesus didn't die at the hands of a Priest (as in a temple sacrifice) or at the hands of G-d.   Why didn't Jesus have one of the disciples sacrifice Him on an altar if  substitutionary atonement was the point?  Jesus died at our hands.  We killed Jesus.  We the sinners and the corrupt systems of the world demanded His blood.  The very governmental and religious system that He railed against, He allowed to take His life.  Not only did He give Himself for us, He gave Himself over to us. We did the killing.  Again, more foolishness

This is pure foolishness to the Jews who were expecting their war-god to come screaming down from heaven, destroy their enemies and put them in their righful place of power.  It's nonsense to the Gentiles who think of god as unmoving and dispassionate. A God who would die for rebellious and ungrateful people?  I agree with those who say the cross is foolishness to those caught up in the power systems of the world.  For those who think an eye for an eye is justice, the idea of justice actually being the restoration of right relationship is incomprehensible.  But, I believe the point of the cross is when we look upon it we realize a few things.


I believe Jesus when He said when He was lifted up He would draw all men toward Himself.  How can you resist when you look on someone willing to give their life to show how much they love you?  Who does this before you even know who they are?  Who dies for you when you can't possibly love Him back? How can you resist when you look on someone willing to say "I love you so much, I'm willing to allow you to kill me."?  I don't believe Jesus died to pay any debt we owed to G-d.  I believe Jesus died so that we could no longer have an excuse for not coming back to G-d.

Here's the message I see when I look upon the cross.

1. He was willing and able to accept us back home any time we were ready to return. G-d has never been far from us. It's that we perceive Him as far from us. The Kingdom of Heaven (really the Kingdom of G-d) is, and always has been at hand.


2. Yeshua showed us the metaphorical path in a very literal way. We have to be willing to die, to take up our cross and follow Him to be born again. We must lose our life to find it.  All of these metaphors, He acted out on the cross.


3. Yeshua showed us how to give sacrificially in a big way. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friend (John 15:13)

Yes, unconditional love.  Loving those who have turned away from you.  Foolishness indeed.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

3 comments:

Gregster said...

Brian,

Last week, I was a speaker at the Gospel Revolution Convention in Houston. I had the honor and the absolute terror of following Carlton Pearson. Carlton calls atonement the at-one-ment. I find this profound and have not been able to get it out of my head.

His position is that G-d really never required a blood sacrifice to appease his anger. Carlton says that man's history taught us that this angry G-d required blood. Therefore, Jesus came and offered himself so that man would get it through his thick skull that G-d's anger had been appeased. I hope I expressed that the way Carlton believes it.

Nevertheless, the atonement did bring about an "at-one"ness with all humanity and with G-d, our father. I think we are slowly starting to see it. (Very slowly.)

chadholtz said...

Gregster-

Sounds a lot like Rob Bell's recent tour "The God's Aren't Angry." Have you or Brian seen that? Very good stuff. He traces the history of sacrifice and our human need to feel we are "in" with God. He posits that God allowed us to have that time of sacrifice not because God needed it (for what does God need our our sacrifices?) but because we needed it. Jesus puts an end to all of that.

peace.

brian said...

I haven't seen Rob Bell's version of this. But, I have read an excellent paper on it.

http://tinyurl.com/6dqpt8