Monday, November 24, 2008

Foolish Reason

Reason only goes so far. A childhood friend who is on the opposite side of the political & spiritual spectrum from me recently commented that although he'd be totally open to debate with me, he realized he has no need to. He's right. The affection I've had for him and his family ever since I was little will never change, nor will his for us. He's super intelligent, so the conversation would definitely be a good one, but a pointless one. It doesn't matter what he believes or does or if I never see him again for 40 years...at the end of those 40 years, if he needed anything (including a kidney) I'd give it.

As I sat still thinking over his comment, I began to wonder about reason in general. If reasoning with one another (and you know I love a good, strong debate) was really the way to arrive anywhere, all the intelligent people in the world would be the happiest. Assuming people could get over themselves and be objective in debate, countries would eventually be run perfectly and consensus would quickly be reached on all the major problems of the world...how to end the HIV epidemic in Africa, whether big government or small government is best for the economy, what the perfect stuffing recipe is for the Thanksgiving turkey. Sadly, all the less intelligent people (I'm talking pure genetics here) would be the, well, sad ones, as they wouldn't have been able to use their reason to run their lives and their finances in the best possible way. But look around. Most of the happiest people aren't from those super-intelligent classes. In fact, the majority of happy people come from amongst those who have less and do less.

Life would be supremely unfair if reason was what made it work. As expected, a bit of scripture popped into my head:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
(1Co 1:26-29)

What is weak, and foolish, and low? Love. (I know, I'm treading on the toes that view love as the highest of all high things. While it is that, it is also the most delicate and despise-able of all high things. Strong and weak at once.) Love displayed itself most fully in the cross, an object of scorn for many extremely intelligent people.

Do you ever have conversations in your head in which you completely confound and rout the wicked or the unbeliever by the elegance, intelligence, and undeniable logic of your argument for God? I do this almost instinctively when I think about issues up for debate, like abortion or creation or the very existence of God. For a long time I've clung to the reality that "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20) and have let it instruct my reaction in conversations that would naturally raise my ire. But I have not considered things one level deeper...down to the question of whether I should even be debating or conversing. (The scripture before James 1:20 actually instructs us to be "slow to speak".)

Back in that 1 Corinthians verse Paul says he was sent to preach the gospel "not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." He says "the world did not know God through wisdom," and even more revealing, says that God set it up that way because of His own wisdom! I'm glad He's so smart. Imagine if it was wisdom that reveals God to us...imagine if it was wisdom that makes us happy...imagine if it was intelligence that solves our problems. The world would be a pitiful place...let's coin a new term...an intelligentsiocracy. (Sam informs me that meritocracy would be the better label, as intelligentsia's connotations are rather negative. But I like the fact that it has negative connotations...that's partly my point!)

Perhaps I will consciously lean more on love and less on reason to convince people of the truth. I am not giving up on reasonable and enjoyable debate. I am just letting my hope rest in something real rather than in my own ability to out-debate someone. Where is it? It is in the foolish, foolish, foolish, foolish love of Christ. What hope!

3 comments:

Lizzie said...

love it, Amy! I didn't realize that Josh had written you too...did you get a long message from him concluding with the news that he was removing us from his facebook "friends"? I haven't responded yet. These are wonderful thoughts, thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Actually, in that passage from 1 Corinthians, Paul isn't really talking about love and apologetics, he is arguing for a method of preaching in which he rejects Greco-Roman rhetoric such as the Sophists used, in favor of a proclamation approach, like that of an ancient herald. Paul certainly is not opposing love and reason. It is more about power...God's power. The Gospel is foolish to everyone who can't understand the shame of the cross, but to the "klatoi," the "called," it is the power of God. Only those to whom God reveals it will it make sense. The role of the preacher is not to persuade, but to proclaim. Don't lean on love, or reason, or anything else that you bring to the table. Just proclaim the foolish message of Christ crucified. God will make it understandable to those he is calling.

Carolyn said...

Hi, Amy!
Your post reminds me of Ephesians 3:19: "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Love passes knowledge!

Which also reminds me of I Corinthians 13:1-3 that I've been thinking about lately -- if I have gifts and give to others and so on, but don't have love, I am nothing. Love is even greater than faith and hope (I Cor.13:13)!

I am challenged to live out a life of Christ's love to others even when I don't feel like it -- as I recognize the many ways I live in my own wisdom and selfishness and not in the abundant love Christ has given to me.