Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Foolishness of the Gospel

I have been thinking about the foolishness of the Gospel, how it is folly to the Greeks with their wisdom, and a stumbling block to the Jews in their religious piety.

For the Greeks, the Gospel was logically absurd. For all the similiarities that some today want to focus on between the Christian faith and some of the Greek myths and mystery religions, they were quite different. Sure, a Greek could envision Zeus coming down (if he still believed in Zeus) and having a roll in the hay with some pretty little thing and a demi-god being born. . . part man, part god. But a virgin giving birth to One who is both True God and True Man - that doesn't make sense in anyway. It's not logically neat. That's why you have 600 years of the Greek speakers in the Church trying to find "logical" loop holes in the doctrine of the incarnation to make it more reasonable.

For the Jews, the Gospel offended their piety. They liked to have God nice and safely away from them - smiling on their actions. The idea that this Man is God - shocking. The fact that this Man who is God would suffer shame and indignation - terrible! That one should suggest that God would let Himself be abused so! The stumbling block to the Jew was his own personal sense of piety - his own idea of how God should behave (and how he should behave towards God).

These two poles still exist today.

Consider how reason (apart from Scripture) impacts the Church. You have the gross liberal who denies what Scripture says simply because it doesn't make sense to his little mind. You have all the rationalistic approaches to mission, outreach, worship - where the human mind trumps the simple proclamation of the Cross (saying "just preaching Christ isn't enough, we also have to _____" is the same thing as saying that the preaching of Christ is folly. . . just a bit more polite). Consider how any doctrine that doesn't make sense is simply cast aside. Like the Greeks, too often people today see folly in the Gospel.

Or consider how personal piety (again, apart from Scripture) impacts the Church. How many people consider the doctrine of the Lord's Supper and go, "Ew." How many today prefer a distant God, an empty Cross, than they do a good depiction of Christ Crucified -- not on theological grounds, but. . . just because? How many end up thinking worship should be shaped by their own personal preferences so that it "feels" right to them? How about wishing to have open communion because it just is "nicer"? There is a lot of "Well, I just don't like that" going around - that's not how I want God to be. Like the Jews, many people get hung up on what God chooses to do.

The Gospel of Christ Crucified plows through these - it is beyond the ability of our reason to comprehend in it's power and glory and might. It goes beyond our own personal, petty desires, and calls us to be united together once again under God, not our own whim. It is the utter foolishness to the world - but to us, we who are being saved, it is God's power and wisdom exercised on our behalf, for our good.

I don't need to understand everything - because I can't "understand" the mystery of the Lord's Supper. I rather hear the Word of Christ and believe. I don't need to like everything - there are many truths in Scripture my sinful flesh doesn't like - but I am called to believe that these are for my good and a blessing to me. Christ has called us by His Gospel, called us out of the darkness of the world, darkness of our reason and personal desires - into His glorious light.

And in spite of what the world or my sinful flesh says, that it a good and glorious thing. God knows better than I how true this is.

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