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Hebrew for Christians
Archimedean Point

The Wisdom of this World

is foolishness unto God...

by John J. Parsons

The "wisdom of this world" (σοφια του κοσμου τουτου) is the prevailing cultural spirit that suppresses the reality of God's Presence and truth.  It is the realm of the savvy, the worldly-wise, the shrewd, the intellectual, the prudent, and even the "doctrinally pure," as we will see. Yeshua once remarked that "the sons of this world are more shrewd (φρονιμως) in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light" (Luke 16:8)

In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to get beyond their "party loyalties" and doctrinal strife in order to understand that Messiah is the Foundation, the Archimedean Point, of all true wisdom about life.  Authentic wisdom is humble in its apprehension of the mysteries of God (μυστηριων θεου). It does not boast in men's ideas or lean upon the calculations of carnal human reason. Indeed, the way of the Spirit is often at odds with the intuitions of reason itself, since it is based not on an ideology or doctrinal "system" but upon the Living Presence of the Teacher.  Therefore Paul said, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise" (1 Cor. 3:18).

Of course Paul didn't mean that Christians were to board some "Ship of Fools" and live as spiritual absurdists in this life. He knew that there were many Scriptures that commanded the pursuit of wisdom, truth, understanding, and so on.  Paul was teaching in a rabbinical style and used hyperbole to make his point.  In light of the truth of the Presence of God Himself, adherence to creedal formulas or allegiance to a particular human teacher makes "wisdom" ultimately foolish and futile.  The need to be "right" is often based on ignorant motivations that cloak an inward condition of pride, vanity, and unbelief. As Abraham Heschel once wrote: "In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves."

In the verse above (1 Cor. 3:19), the Hebrew word translated "folly"is kesilut (כְּסִילוּת), perhaps better understood as stupidity (the Greek word used is μωρια). The "wisdom of this world" is ultimately based on fear that leads to the desire to control others. Sometimes, as in the case of warfare, it leads to acts of violence and murder. Human reason designs and schemes in order to obtain its self-serving ends, whereas heavenly wisdom understands that there is no further "end" in sight than that of the LORD Himself and His Presence....

Every sect or group tends to define and enforce its own sense of "wisdom" (ideology, creed, liturgy, worldview, etc.), though the LORD calls us to resist this spirit in order to function as a true witness of His Presence (1 John 2:15-17). Living this way will invariably result in a "collision" with our surrounding culture as we testify that God is here now.

It is axiomatic, then, that the ideology and coercion of the crowd, the various forms of "worldly wisdom" (including religious wisdom) that seduces us to forget God's Presence, invariably leads to stupidity, blindness, and foolishness. Since the group is unable to apprehend this fact, a "debased" mindset ("group-think") evolves that leads to depravity and the lust to control and enslave others: "Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased (αδοκιμος) mind to do what ought not to be done" (Rom. 1:28).


Our battle today, as it always has been, is to combat the world and its "wisdom" (i.e.,  propaganda, lies, and disinformation) that implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) denies God's Presence (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10-18). This is essentially a spiritual war, since the battlefield is the thickened hearts and dulled minds of those who are in varying states of blindness to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4; 10:4-5). Of course we must begin with ourselves and examine our own inward condition (2 Cor. 13:5). Are we genuinely walking in faith? Do we experience every moment of our lives as a gift from God?  Do we directly encounter the Teacher within our hearts, or are we merely impostors, pretenders, or professors?

If we ask the LORD for spiritual wisdom, He has promised to give it to us (James 1:5). After obtaining wisdom and discernment, we must engage our culture and speak the truth in love. Tzedek tzedek tirdof: "Justice, justice shall you pursue" (Deut. 16:20). To be passive or to resign oneself is to abandon our post. Ask the LORD for the courage to live and speak your convictions.  He is faithful and will preserve all those who call upon Him in the truth.

Proverbs 8:35 BHS

ki motzi matza chayim, va-yafek ratzon me-Adonai

For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD

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