The foolishness of God

Who among us would dare accuse God of being foolish?
The countless generations of earnest believers
who argue and wrestle with the big questions of theology,
take their topic (and themselves) far too seriously to make such an accusation.
We can read various theologians, writing about such diverse topics as –
“faith for a lifetime” , “theology of the sacraments”,
“the eternal covenant” or, “the humanity of God” –
to name a few of the titles that I can see on my own shelves.
Occasionally, someone will try to raise eyebrows and increase sales
with a title like “the problem of God”
but not, you’ll notice the problem with God
– no one wants to stick their neck out that far. (until recent neo-atheist offerings…)

The foolishness of God is an idea we owe to Paul, and no one else.
All the titles I could find were writers who talked about Paul’s idea of God’s foolishness, as though hiding behind Paul’s idea would keep them from admitting how foolish God can be.

That’s right – foolish. Silly, crazy – off the divine rocker.
We may not like saying it out loud,
but we’ve each considered that God does not always follow
what we consider to be a reasonable path
So what do we do with God’s foolishness?
When we are at our wit’s end –
facing choices that defy logic, considering problems that have no solution in sight –
and yet feel that overwhelming , incomprehensible presence of God –
what do we do?
Paul is writing to a church that he helped start. In Corinth, of all places;
a wild port town, with a history of decadence .
Important as a pathway for the empire – for goods and information and conquest,
this was a city of some importance.
Paul is writing because the church is starting to look like the community –
The community is being divided by teacher/leader.

He doesn’t say so, but in city so diverse,
it isn’t hard to imagine the divisions falling along cultural lines –
Apollos, Cephas, Paul –
-each group has its champion in the faith.
And Paul pleads with them to be of one mind.

He appeals to the power of the cross
– the power that has conquered death, that is changing the world –
his plea is that this very foolish notion should unite all who gather in Christ’s name.
Paul’s appeal is to God’s folly, against the prevailing “wisdom”…

Worldly wisdom – then as now – says that strength comes in similarity.
People gather in groups of like-mindedness,
and protect themselves with the knowledge that the opinion of their group
is the only one they can depend upon.
It doesn’t matter what group we’re talking about
– Racial, cultural, linguistic, denominational –
it amount to the same thing;

I am Canadian – I am Presbyterian – I am Anglophone –
each with our own wisdom – each a manner of identification that comforts us.

But Canadian wisdom assumes our moral superiority on issues of human rights
Presbyterian wisdom demands things done “decently and in good order”
Anglophone wisdom insists that bilingual signs and labels are no longer necessary, since English will soon be a “universal” language.

A day on the street in Toronto soon undoes that “wisdom”.
A glance at the editorial pages tells me
that decently and in good order
is not a trait coveted by denominations,
who seem to be concerned for the preservation of Christianity
as they know and understand it.

This collected “wisdom” continues to cause nothing but problems.
We are at odds over language. Over culture.
Over solutions to the problems of economic inequality that are as old as time.

Denominational differences (and even differences within denominations!)
over how to present the gospel and how best to live our faith
result in indifference, and occasionally, ridicule.
Our wisdom is not cutting it, and Paul would be just as vigorous now as he was then:
“Where are those wise ones? The debaters?
Those who push their own agenda so ruthlessly? – what good has come from them? –
hasn’t God confounded them all by a direct approach
-Christ crucified and risen!”
This “wisdom” – the things we argue over –
the things we hold over one another as non negotiable –
are all turned to foolishness by God’s message to us in Christ.
A message of death overturned
– a message of unconditional love –
a message of worship renewed and faith made real.

It is…foolishness – – so what do we do with it?
We embrace it.

For only an idea so foolish as “love your neighbour” has any hope of success.
The very idea of “blessing those who curse you” is so crazy, that it just might work.
Signs and wisdom, desired by the masses, are not to be trusted,
but what the world calls foolish, we call the very power of God.
Risen on the third day.

Wrestle with that if you must. Explain it if you can.
But I, for one, am in favour of that glorious sort of foolishness.


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