What’s So Foolish About the Gospel?
“For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Is the Gospel foolish? Do ideas of a crucified Savior, exaltation by humiliation, the conquering of death by death, the overcoming of the powers of evil by weakness, et al, convey foolish elements that faith must overcome in order to embrace Christ? Or, put another way, does faith ignore evidence to the contrary and believe the absurd or unreasonable?
For some, true faith is irrational and blind, the embrace of an ideal, regardless of history, reason, and science. The courage to believe despite the evidence displays virtue, they say. Moreover, a faith built on personal experience, with no objective basis in history, reason, and science, cannot be refuted by arguments of history, reason, and science. None can deny or disprove another’s experience, goes the thinking. Perhaps you have heard people teach such a faith, or maybe you recognize elements of this blind faith as your own? What, then, are we to make of this?
A Fallen Perspective and Defective Standard
The true Gospel does appear foolish and undesirable to most of the world, even to deeply religious people. But, does the response of the world indicate a problem with the Gospel or with the world? For instance, does the world exalt holiness? Scripture tells us people love darkness and reject the light (John 3:19), including the light of the Gospel. Indeed, “the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matt. 7:14).
At the same time, can unbelievers partially justify their unbelief by pointing to some of the “foolish” elements of the Gospel noted above? Perhaps, if according to a proper and godly standard the absurd could be found in the Gospel. But none can be found. What about a crucified Savior, weakness overcoming power and evil, and death defeating death? Are not these ideas unreasonable? Maybe, but only according to the fallen eyes of unbelief. In God’s economy, debt requires payment and sin demands death, while voluntary and infinite humiliation and suffering for the underserving displays the highest and most beautiful love. Moreover, the Temple ceremonies of Israel point to the need of a sacrifice, substitute, and mediator, while even unbelievers view such principles as noble, such as jumping in front of a car to save a life, paying another’s debt, or martyrdom for a great cause (though Christ’s sacrifice was far more than mere martyrdom). Regardless, God determines what is right and foolish in the world. Apart from God, no standards of good, bad, wise, or foolish are possible.
Nothing of the Gospel history or message justifies unbelief. Rather, the heart hostile to God cannot see the beauty of God’s holiness and the perfect character it displays. In fact, the world’s foolishness views the infinitely excellent as unworthy of notice or respect, including the revelation of God’s holiness, justice, love, grace, mercy, and wisdom in Christ.
People view Christ and Scripture according to a heart of love or hatred toward the God of the Bible. Those unwilling to acknowledge and submit to God’s authority will interpret reality to support their desire to be independent of God. Nothing that points to the God of Scripture and our debt to love and honor Him will be viewed with an objective “neutrality.” Those set on living as they please will reject the Gospel as foolish and explain the world as giving no evidence of its Designer and Creator.
Also, a blind faith contrary to history, reason, and science is not Christian faith. We swim in a sea of evidence for God’s power, genius, and goodness. The heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19:1), and the “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons” that satisfy our “hearts with food and gladness” declare His goodness (Acts 14:17). Moreover, all people have an inescapable sense of God’s existence and holiness because God has written His law on every heart (Rom. 2:14-15). The evidence appears so obvious in what God has created that all people “know God” and are “without excuse” for not worshipping and giving Him thanks (Rom. 1:18-22). Even though the order, intricacy, and beauty of the universe proclaim its designer in the same way a beautiful painting proclaims the existence and genius of the artist, unbelief denies the knowledge of God from hostility towards His holiness and authority.
Moreover, the mere fact that we reason and conduct science clearly affirms God’s design and power over the universe—random chance produces no “natural” laws by which we think and do science. Reality, as well as science to describe it, cannot exist without God. Indeed, that some scientists observe the amazing order and design of creation and still claim it evolved by time and chance indicates that something other than the scientific method drives their conclusions. The theory of evolution, as impossible and unscientific as it is, serves to explain life without a debt to love and obey the One to whom we owe all things. The same applies to denials of the authority of Scripture. Christ said it this way, “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17). In other words, if you have a heart to do God’s will, you will recognize Christ’s words as the divine expression of God’s will.
Therefore, while true faith involves experience—the heart embracing Christ as God and Savior in love and trust—it also accepts objective reality as created and ordered by God, and Scripture as God’s word. So, what’s so foolish about the Gospel? Nothing. As believers, our eyes have been opened to see and love its excellence, an eternal excellence unseen by hostility and spiritual blindness. “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Thus, we now sing with the saints, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
Related Topics: Apologetics