Missing the Heart of the Matter

I have purposely stayed out of the current political and cultural conversations that have carried the headlines since the latest school shootings.  I’ve been heartbroken at the pain that the families and survivors of this violence have felt, and heartbroken over the levels of vitriol and derision that have escalated in our “debates” about the solution to our cultural crisis. I sympathize with those who are frustrated by the empty promises of “thoughts and prayers” when thoughts and prayers don’t lead to compassionate and sensible responses.  And at the same time, I am dismayed when genuine “thoughts and prayers” are ridiculed and rejected.

I’ve stayed out of the conversation because I haven’t had much to add. Then today, in studying for a lesson from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, I read the following from John MacArthur*.  I think he summarizes what’s really wrong in our culture, and what we need most.

How much closer to peace is man than he was a century ago – or a millennium ago? How much closer are to we eliminating poverty, hunger, ignorance, crime, and immorality than men were in Paul’s day? Our advances in knowledge and technology and communication have not really advanced us. It is from among those who are intelligent and clever that the worst exploiters, deceivers, and oppressors comes. We are more educated than our forefathers but we are not more moral. We have more means of helping each other but we are not less selfish. We have more means of communication but we do not understand each other any better. We have more psychology and education, and more crime and more war. We have not changed, except in finding more ways to express and excuse our human nature. Throughout human history wisdom has never basically changed and has never solved the basic problems of man.

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?”

Where have all the clever arguments and impressive rhetoric brought you? Are you better off because of them – or simply more self-satisfied and complacent?  Don’t you see that all the wisdom of your wise men, your scribes, and your debaters is folly? Nothing really changes. Life has the same problems; men have the same struggles.

Could the apostle have written anything more appropriate for our own day? Where have our great thinkers – our philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, economists, scientists, and statesmen – brought us? Never before has mankind been so fearful of self-destruction or been so self-consciously perplexed, confused, and corrupt.  Modern human wisdom has failed just as ancient human wisdom failed, except that its failures come faster and spread farther.  The outer life improves in a material way, while the inner life seems to have correspondingly less meaning. The real issues are not solved.

Human wisdom sometimes sees the immediate cause of a problem but it does not see the root, which is always sin. It may see that selfishness is a cause of injustice, but it has no way to remove selfishness.  It may see that hatred causes misery and pain and destruction, but it has no cure for hatred. It can see plainly that man does not get along with man, but does not se that the real cause is that man does not get along with God. Human wisdom cannot see because it will not see.  As long as it looks on God’s wisdom as foolishness, its own wisdom will be foolish. In other words, human wisdom itself is a basic part of the problem.

Peace, joy, hope, harmony, brotherhood, and every other aspiration of man is out of his reach as long as he follows his own way in trying to achieve them. He who sees the cross as folly is doomed to his own folly… The more man looks to himself and depends on himself, the worse his situation becomes. As his dependence on his wisdom increases, so do his problems.

This is God’s plan, as the words “in the wisdom of God” indicate. God wisely established it this way, that man could not know Him by the wisdom of the world. Man cannot solve his problems because he will not recognize their source, which is sin, or their solution, which is salvation.  Man’s own sinful nature is the cause of his problems, and he cannot change his nature. Even if human wisdom could recognize the problem it does not have the power to change it. But God has the power. God was well-please through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. He chose to use that which the world’s wisdom counts as moronic, as foolishness, to save those of the world who would simply believe. Believing implies complete assent to all the truth of the saving gospel. For those who will exchange their wisdom for His, God offers transformation, regeneration, new birth, and new life through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ, His Son. This “foolishness” is man’s only hope.

* MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Moody Press, Chicago. 1984) pg 42-44.
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About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.
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