Posted by: angmlr007 | 30/01/2012

The Wisdom of God

And so my friend decided to send me a couple more excerpts from the Bible – specifically 1 Corinthians, to make clear his message about the pitfalls of becoming fools in false wisdom of the world. Here was the message I got:

[1 Cor 1:20-21]
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?” {are not evolutionists considered by the world to be wise and the disputers of this modern age?}
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

[1 Cor 2:2-5]
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

[1 Cor 3:18-21]
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” Therefore let no one boast in men.”

Why do I say that evolution is the “Wisdom of the world”?
Why don’t I say that <DNA structure, cell reproduction, cell cycle, genetics, conception> are “wisdom of the world”? Because while <DNA structure/cell cycle> were First Discovered via experiments, evolution was First Hypothesized by generalising the concept/fact of <cousin-species dying out because of unfavourable environments>.
In fact, I could say that <DNA structure/cell cycle> are the wisdom of God, discovered by humans. But evolution cannot be the wisdom of God, because it was not discovered experimentally[i.e. my crude example of generations of mice giving birth to offspring looking more and more like mini-rabbits]. Surely it must be Darwin’s human wisdom because the hypothesis suddenly “dawned” upon him. Look at the lifestyle of Darwin – is there proof of his salvation by the Fruits of the Spirit? If not, it is impossible for him to have Godly wisdom – because there is no fear of God in his eyes.

 

Now that’s something worth talking about. The issue of “wisdom of men” versus the power of God. Here was my response:

 

**************** 

In the few paragraphs that you have quoted, it suggests that God wants His followers to reject the so-called “wisdom of the world” in order to follow Him and the Wisdom of God. Your interpretation is one of the common ones that has been preached by churches from all over the world – and the reason is because I think the phrase “wisdom of men” is often used and misused to represent almost ANY kind of message that the church attempts to condemn. In short, it is one of many tools used to re-educate Christians on the Christian doctrine.

 

 

DEFINITIONS

After seeing your message, I went about to do a little reading, and I figured that perhaps we should start by giving “wisdom” a proper definition.

 

[taken from Dictionary.com]

Wise (adj.): having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.

Wisdom (noun): the quality or state of being wise;  knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

 

Hence, we can see that by definition, the “wisdom of Man” is referring to Man ability to judge and discern what is true or right.

 

At this point, I also thought it would be useful to throw in the definition of “knowledge”, just in case we discuss it later:

 

[taken from Dictionary.com]

Knowledge (noun): acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition:

 

So as you can see, knowledge is a bit more foundational, created via investigation of facts and principles. And wisdom comes about later, when we attempt to decide what is ultimately right or wrong. While it is tempting to use both terms interchangeably, we must make clear the distinction here before we continue this discussion.

 

 

EVOLUTION: KNOWLEDGE, NOT WISDOM

Next, we must decide where does the evolution theory fit in. Evolution was an idea that has been bounced about by naturalists and philosophers since the time of Aristotle, and people were becoming more aware that external factors have the ability to drive changes in species. However, progress in this field was slow, because these early scientists feared the repercussions from the church – a predominant socio-political force of the time, which I am sure you know.

 

The main issue was blown out of proportion, however, when the theory of Evolution was popularized by Charles Darwin, who threw in the theory of natural selection as a mechanism to drive evolution. He based his conjectures and hypotheses on observations he made during his travels, and proposed a system to explain the observations. One would be strongly reminded of Aristotle and his initial theories on physics (which we all know turned out wrong). Remember stuff like “heavy things fall faster than light things”?

 

So what is the process Darwin is going through? He’s making an attempt to create knowledge, not wisdom; taking pieces of information and stringing them together with a potentially viable explanation. Of course, there has yet to be an experiment designed to support this proposal – unlike most other physics experiments dealing with electricity and magnetism – but like many other theories, the concept came first before the experiment.

 

An example I would like to raise is the theory of the ether wind in the 19th century. As a physics major, you are probably aware of the Michelson-Morley experiment, of which its negative results have successfully disproved the existence of the luminiferous ether and paved the way for special relativity. What is curious, however, is that the concept of the ether wind has been believed to be true for almost 200 years, since its initial appearance in the 17th century (i.e. Newton’s time). Why is that so? Because the model constructed by earlier physicists could account and explain observations using the idea of the ether wind. We could say that it was a convenient way to understand the world around us, like how we employ mathematics to create a structured understanding of physics. It took 200 years and the combined genius of Albert Michelson and Edward Morley to design an experiment to put this idea to the test, and finally choose to discard this theory.

 

Another example that I thought would be worth sharing is the story of continental drift and plate tectonics. In the early 20th century, geologist Alfred Wegener proposed the continental drift theory, which was an attempt to account for the idea that the continents used to form one gigantic landmass millions of years ago. Because his tools were limited back then, he could only make use of fossil records from around the world. He observed that similar fossils were found across different continents, even though they are separated by thousands of miles of ocean today. Thus, his theory was created to explain this observation. He didn’t have any experiments he could conduct back then to verify his continental drift idea, but thousands of geologists embraced the proposal nonetheless. It wasn’t perfect, but it certainly did pave the way for the plate tectonics theory, which was actually a refinement of the original continental drift suggestion which Wegener still receives credit for till this day.

 

One final story I would like to throw in is the Big Bang Theory – how the universe began. This is another source of contention between Christian and scientific communities, because of disputes over the words of Genesis. The Big Bang theory was initially thrown in by Georges Lemaître, a physicist and Roman Catholic priest, to describe the origin of the universe as coming from a single point, exploding thereafter and causing the stars and galaxies accelerate away from the Big Bang. When he first came up with the idea, he only had observations of stars and nebula moving away from Earth as his only basis for devising the conjecture – like how Darwin only had observations of the Galapagos finches (among other animals) when writing the Origin of Species. Yet, that was how the theory was given birth. It was never directly verified experimentally, but evidence from WMAP’s picture on cosmic microwave background radiation provided compelling evidence that support the theory.

 

Just because a theory was born purely out of observation doesn’t suggest that it is hogwash. It could merely be a story waiting for its evidence to surface, and true or not, we should not be so hasty to downplay it, for that would not be very scientific at all. Theories can disappear, adapt, and be further refined to give us a more complete understanding of the beautiful cosmos which we live in. Hence, for you to say that knowledge (not wisdom) can only be born out of experiments, and not conceived of a priori is to neglect a significant contribution of scientific discovery over the ages. That, in my opinion, is highly disturbing.

 

 

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM

And so, the next question is: What is the relationship between knowledge and wisdom? Well, knowledge, unlike fact, is not absolute. It changes form and substance over time, as Man seeks to better understand the universe through intellectual exploration (scientific, philosophical, religious, etc.) It is like a tool that is continually refining itself to better serve it’s purpose in the hands of the user.

 

However, wisdom transcends knowledge in that it takes knowledge and constructs a worldview from it (I am assuming that the Wisdom of God is like an intact, complete painting). Unlike knowledge, which comes in bits and pieces from everywhere, wisdom is a more complete picture that tries to sell itself as a whole package. Annother way to see wisdom is the judgment of the known and coming to a conclusion on the value of its truth. To accept truth in the effects of gravity on Earth, is to see wisdom in the laws of Newtonian physics.

 

Hence, the accuracy of worldly knowledge, discovered by man, is in no way equivalent to the acceptance of the “wisdom of man”. This distinction is very subtle, and I am afraid that I am personally unable to differentiate them further any better.

 

In the following sections, I will provide my view of the Bible excerpts you have provided. Please forgive me if they aren’t exactly “Christian” or whatever – I have never been good at reading the Bible. Nonetheless, I shall try my best.

 

 

WISDOM OF MEN, AND WISDOM OF GOD

Now that we have established the difference between knowledge and wisdom, let us progress into distinguishing the “wisdom of men” and the “wisdom of God”

 

Wisdom is a tricky issue, because it involves judgment of what is truth from non-truth, and as we know, judgment is a subjective process. My judgment of the issue could differ from yours, as if could differ from any other man. We can never be certain who is correct. However, the church resolves this problem by making deference to the judgment of God, since we know that God is omniscient and His truth is absolute. Hence, if His truth is absolute, that could mean any form of judgment on our part as Man can never be right, and thus it is said that the “wisdom of the world” is “foolish”. Such is the story in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21.

 

So what defines the wisdom of men? In my humble opinion, the wisdom of men mentioned in the letter of Paul to the Corinthians refers to the worldview that non-followers of Christ attempt to sell to believers. For instance, the wisdom of men would include propositions of multiple deities, or possibly no supernatural powers at all – essentially alternative versions of the truth as put forward through the Wisdom of God. Hence, the wisdom of God is to accept His existence and His omnipotence, and to reject any other supernatural power swimming in the midst of the wisdom of men.

 

Like many Christians, it is tempting to hastily lump the theory of evolution as being “anti-Christian”. However, perhaps we should take a minute to step back and consider how the theory of evolution is in contradiction with the wisdom of God. It is true that the theory (like any other scientific theory that we are able to accept) is devoid of any mention of a supernatural power, but that does not necessitate the elimination of God from the equation. Perhaps God works in ways beyond our understanding, and we are still crawling in the direction towards discovering the grand master plan He has in this world. To reject the theory of evolution before it can bear any fruit, is akin to rejecting the concept of gravity before we can use it to account for the movement of celestial bodies in the cosmos.

 

You mention that Darwin’s discovery “must be Darwin’s human wisdom because the hypothesis suddenly “dawned” upon him”, which is foolish and not of Godly wisdom. First off, the hypothesis didn’t just “dawn” upon him, like a picture in the mind. It is a systematic process of assembling bits and pieces of fact and deliberate connection of the dots. Second, like I mentioned before, this is the process of knowledge construction, and not of wisdom.

 

In light of what I have mentioned in the above paragraphs, I would like to rephrase what you have said: Darwin’s theory is an advancement in human knowledge that brings us one step closer to understanding the Wisdom of God. To attain wisdom, is to understand the value of truth in what we observe, what we know as knowledge. If knowledge has been proven false (i.e. the demolition of evolution), then we know we have been foolish. But until then, we can only continue to grapple in semi-darkness, and hope that the knowledge that we have constructed has been sufficient in bringing us closer to the Wisdom of God that we seek. Of course, there are many ways to reach out to the said Wisdom, but I believe science will one day unite with religion in explaining the universe in one complete picture.

 

In short, the theory of evolution is but a small step in our efforts to reach out and understand the cosmos, and in this process, we are attempting to understand God as well.

 

 

 

FAITH AND HOPE KEEPS YOU IN THE WISDOM OF GOD

1 Corinthians 2:2-5 speaks of faith in the Spirit as “justification” (I put in quotation marks because I wish to distinguish this justification from an experimental type of justification) of the Wisdom and Power of God over the wisdom of men. This excerpt appeals to believers to remain faithful, that even though there are many men in this world who can sell you all forms of “wisdom”, only God’s Will as demonstrated through the Holy Spirit is the key to your faith as a Christian, and nothing more.

 

And as for 1 Corinthians 3:18-21, I wish to question the phrase “wisdom in this world is foolishness in God”. My understanding is that “wisdom” is referring to man’s wisdom in the material, in the mortal world that they can perceive, with the key being a world without God, or a world with false idols and false gods. And since we only worship one Christian God, anything else produced by man in terms of untrue religion can only be a incorrect form of wisdom, and thus such men have been made fools. I dislike this statement made about “wisdom in this world” because churches have this uncanny ability to convince its followers what exactly does this wisdom entail – particularly in areas such as science. Put crudely, the original message can be warped by preachers to sell their own selfish messages, by associating themes such as homosexuality or abortion with the foolish nature of “wisdom of man”.

 

 

GLORY TO GOD THROUGH SERVITUDE AND OBEDIENCE

I don’t know exactly what is your take about Proverbs 9:10, about “fear of the Lord” as the “beginning of wisdom”, but my take is that this phrase is speaking of a Christian’s servitude and obedience to God, not of literal “fear”, or phobia as we perceive in the world. In other words, it is not “deophobia” that brings us to God’s wisdom, but our willingness to submit to Him and listen to his words, and behave in a way as He expects of us, as good followers of Christ.

 

I wish I could comment further from here, but my knowledge of the Bible is very limited, so I can only make personal opinions about my views of Scripture. I have never been comfortable taking a top-down approach from church pastors, but I remain open to hearing what other people have to say about their interpretation of the Bible.

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2452 words. Holy crap.

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