Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Truth & Wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Last week we looked at the church and the Gospel with the concept of Foolishness & Power. In this sermon from Jan. 30th, Part 3 of our series on 1 Corinthians we build on the immortal verse: "for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us who are being saved it is the power of God"(1Cor 1:18) . In this sermon we'll take a look at truth and the gap/disparity between what is true and what we think is wise. Or, to be more specific, wrestling with the question, "How do you know that the things you take to be true in life, are actually true?" (FYI, the fancy-schmancy word for wrestling with this question is 'episitimology'). We make decisions and declare words or actions to be wise base on what we know to be true. In the biblical world, the Israelites determined things to be true by miracles and power - the Greeks used wisdom, i.e. philosophical wisdom, as the plumb line for truth. In Paul's letter he challenges the Corinthians on what they know and take to be true. The question sticks for us today: what plumb lines do we use to determine truth. Success is very often our plumb line today. If something is successful then the things that drive its success must be true. What are some other plumb lines for truth in our culture today? Here's some food for thought. If an astronomer tells you about some new planet in a far off galaxy that has just been discovered, you believe them, don't you. But when you go to a park and see a bench with a sign on it that says "Wet Paint", what do you do? You walk over and have to touch it, just to make sure! We don't believe the sign that simply says Wet Paint, but we do believe the astronomer who tells us something that most people have absolutely no way of evaluating/testing whether it is legit or not. Is this not a bit topsy turvey? It is, because it challenges what we know to be true. Here's another illustration of the odd and interesting ways we determine truth. Mike Brown, an astronomer, discovered in the '90s what was thought to be the 10th planet in the solar system, outside the orbit of Pluto. For years astronomers have wrestled with the definition of what is actually a planet, and at a huge international astronomers convention in Prague, the topic was to be on the table to settle the definition once for all. If the finalized definition was such that Pluto was axed from the list, then by default Brown's new planet would also be axed. Naturally, folks thought Brown would be in favor of a traditional definiting which would keep Pluto, and consequently his planet, in the list. But he supprised the international community when he published a book called "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" in which he argues against Pluto's planethood on the basis that scientifically it is not a planet! What is really telling about this whole story (don't worry, there's a reason homing in here!) is that at the astronomer summit they passed a resolution that in fact affirmed there are only 8 planets, but then passed a sub-resolution stating that this was based on the classical definition of planets - then they put the whole thing to a vote! There's a gap here between truth (Pluto is not a planet) and the sentiment of intelligent, able scientists who like Pluto and don't want to axe it from the list. If international scientists can do that, then we certainly can do the same in our own lives. The point is this - that knowing something to be true is ultimately dependent on faith. How do you know someone loves you? Surely there are signs and actions, like buying gifts, romantic dinners, taking care of household duties, but people can also fake it. How do you really know that they love you? Ultimately, you have to simply trust that they do. If you doubt the love of your spouse, taking them to a lab to be tested is a very bad idea - it will backfire on you! So this is sound wisdom: that knowing things are true isnot ultimately based on scientific inquirey, 'touching the wet paint', but on faith. Paul points out to the Corinthian church, that when most of them came to know Jesus Christ, very few of them fit the world's "wisdom" in terms of their success, status in life, their intelligence, etc. Did they fit the world's categories of truth? No. But this is good, because if a relationship with God depended on the wisdom of the world we'd all be sunk. It is to the meek that the world will be given (Matthew 5:5). Worldly wisdom says that humble people don't get anything, they become doormats, but God says that those who don't fit the world's plumb lines are the one's that he comforts. That is why the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, those who strive to fit the world's models of wisdom, but for those who are being saved, who trust in Jesus, the Cross is the power of God.

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