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Friday, March 18, 2016

Not Many Wise

So, the pastor was preaching from Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth when we came across this item.
I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:3-5)
He said before that, "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2) He said "I was weak" and "in fear" and "not persuasive". Now, isn't that odd? Oh, he tells why: "so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."

Well, now, isn't that strange? We have a whole field in Christendom that we call "Apologetics" that is devoted to the defense of the faith. We are commanded to always be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you," (1 Peter 3:15), and to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 1:3) And Paul says he didn't want them to have their faith resting on the wisdom of men.

Well, now, I can already hear today's Christians standing up to duel with Paul. "Hey! You have to be wise and eloquent and know the facts. You can't defend the truth with just the power of God or even the Word of God." (I've actually heard them argue that.) "You need good arguments and good logic." They'll even argue that the basis of Christian truth is human reason. But it wasn't me; it was Paul who said he was weak and not eloquent "so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men."

We are supposed to be ready to answer, to contend, to give an account. It is commanded. But rest assured it is not human logic that is the bottom line. That's why, when you hear about the latest discovery in science that supports Christianity or a really good apologetic line of reasoning defending God, it's best not to get too excited. We're not grounding our faith in the wisdom of men; we're basing our faith on the power of God.


Alec said...

Hi Stan.

Someone said that Christian apologetics were important for Christians, not the unsaved. This has always made the most sense to me. Non-Christians will never believe the gospel without God giving them the faith.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

The mark of a true Christian is humility. When combined with intelligence and scholarship, what a gift to all of us. But how rare.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (1 Corinthians 1:26)

Unfortunately for all of us, we have a lot of Christian "wise guys" and not so many "wise men". And the "wise guys" are the celebrities.


Stan said...

I believe that Christian apologetics bolsters the faith of Christians. As such, I don't think of it as important for non-Christians. On the other hand, we're required to be ready to make a defense (the Greek word behind that is the word from which we get "apologetics") and to contend for the faith. That is, we are to stand on faith alone, just not faith that is alone. The best example of that I can find is my mother. A year ago she had hip replacement surgery. Today she can stand. She keeps her can nearby, not because she needs it -- she can stand -- but because 1) it removes the concern some well-meaning people might have to help her out and 2) is a comfort from time to time when walking in some places. She's standing on her own two legs ("faith"), but keeps support handy ("apologetics").

Alec said...

we are to stand on faith alone, just not faith that is alone.

Well put. Thanks!

David said...

I've always thought of apologetics as a defense, not offense. You're not trying convince someone else of your salvation, you just have to show that it's not just on a whim, it for show, or anything other than the reasonable act that it is. Apologetics seems to have become a tool for evangelism but it is merely your reason for faith. As long as your faith is reasonable, and not based on "my parents said so" or "that's how I've always believed" or some other easily delayed defence. It's why so many young people go into college as Christians and come out something else. They have no reason for their faith. Apologetics keeps your faith grounded when the enemy attacks. The Word is the sword, apologetics is the shield.

Stan said...

I don't know, David. Peter says we need to stand ready to defend. That's true. To "give a reason". But Jude says we must "contend for the faith". That sounds more like offense, doesn't it? Well, except that Jude is concerned about those "among us" who are distorting the faith. So, maybe not offense there, either.

David said...

There is definitely an "offensive" side to evangelism, I just don't think apologetics is part of it. It may just be me splitting hairs, but we do the same when we try to distinguish grace from mercy. By definition they are different, but not nearly so different in practice, at least not in terms of salvation. It also says to contend for THE faith, not your faith which would be different from defending your faith, not the faith. Minor differences with different goals, as I see it.