Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The foolishness of God

One of the big "scandals" (there are several) of orthodox Christianity is that it's open to the stupid.

There: I said it. Stupid. I don't mean the "willingly ignorant" (cf. 2 Peter 3.5) -- those who refuse to hear the word of God -- but the stupid and the unlearned. There's always a strain going through the church which posits intelligence as a prerequisite to the cross, and that's false. At its worst, it becomes almost a variety of gnosticism, the ancient heresy that there's a hidden and secret knowledge that's available only to the initiated.

I'm convinced this is part of the objection to baptizing infants: some are irritated because these children can't possibly be Christians -- how can they know anything?

None of this, of course, takes away from deep and solid learning. The church has always had -- and needs -- those who deal intellectually with the faith, and are able to do the big battles of the mind that every generation has.

But the faith is open to all. The smallest child can be washed in Baptism and thereby believe. The mentally retarded, the unlearned, even the wisest scholar: all come to faith by receiving God's gifts and mercies.

St. Paul dealt with this at Corinth (I Cor. 1.18-29): "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? 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 stumblingblock, 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. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence."

The church brings together a lot of different people. We are brought together, not because we share common interests and backgrounds, but because we are beggars given to by God.

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