Not Many Wise – Part Three

1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:5 This week’s lessons teach us that the world’s foolishness is the wisdom and power of God.
True wisdom.

Yesterday’s lesson mentioned Carl Sagan’s book and television series on evolution, Cosmos. Today I want to point out the great errors in Sagan’s approach to things. Let me suggest a few. The first is the error of supposing that all there is can be observed by the human eye. I cannot see anything spiritual, but I can see planets, and atoms, and the relationships between those things. So I assume that that is all there is. If all I can imagine is only what I can see – and that is what Sagan is talking about – that is utter foolishness because at the beginning, in a most unscientific way, it excludes the possibility of the existence of a God who stands over and beyond the creation.

Another error is the supposition that the impersonal, which the universe, the cosmos, obviously is, can somehow create the personal. You notice the personal language here: the universe made us. Usually when you think of making something, you think of intention, mind, purpose. Somehow, all of this is given to an impersonal something. The impersonal something, the universe, somehow has personality in order to make us. But, of course, that is not what Sagan is saying. He is saying it all happened by chance. We simply evolved. But we are persons; we have purpose. So, he says that all of this came about somehow in an impersonal way from that which is impersonal. I maintain that is foolishness.

Perhaps the greatest of all foolishness is to suppose that somehow in that kind of a closed, materialistic system excluding God, moral purpose and moral obligation can come about. If I am the accident of the universe, why do I owe anybody anything? I don’t. I am not answerable to anything. How am I answerable to an impersonal universe? It just happened that way. Yet, Sagan cannot live with that kind of a universe. So, he projects moral values into it. It is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (v. 19).

Let me say that if there were no other reason for believing what Paul says, we still have the great fact of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus, in Christian theology, is God. So, here is a case of man killing God when God places himself within the power of man. But look, even if you exclude the divinity of Christ, Jesus was, nevertheless, by the acknowledged judgment of the majority of men and women on the face of the planet, the most perfect man who ever lived. Yet, what was the response of human beings toward him? They killed him. Where is the folly of the so-called wisdom of the world more clearly seen than at that crucifixion?

The second section of Paul’s treatment of wisdom and folly here is the power of what the world would call the “foolishness of God.” Later on, Paul is going to show that it is not at all foolish. As a matter of fact, it is a deep wisdom – wisdom even beyond the Apostle Paul because there are things about it that he does not fully understand. He says so elsewhere. But, nevertheless, this Gospel, this cross, which is the burden of his message and which is the burden of this book, is, in the eyes of the world, utterly foolish. You can talk about psychology and learn a great deal about it. You can talk about how men think and how men think women react, and all of those things. The world will say, “Ah, my, what a wise man that person is. What a wise woman she is to be talking that way and to know all of that.” You can talk about sociology and evolution, and various aspects of today’s modern science, and people say, “Oh, my, what a brilliant person he is.” You talk about God who so loved the world that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die in order that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. What does the world say? The world says, “I never heard anything so foolish in my life.” Yet, that is the Gospel. That is the power of God. That is what changes lives. That is reality.

Study Questions
  1. What are some of the errors of Sagan’s thinking?
  2. What are the moral implications of an impersonal universe?
  3. Where was the folly of this world most clearly demonstrated?

Key Point
The Gospel is the power of God. That is what changes lives. That is reality.

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