Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Foolishness of the Cross

April Fools Day is perhaps a good time to remember the Apostle Paul's statement, "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). I've seen (and been a part of myself) much foolishness within the church for many years, so I want to begin by stating clearly that this is not an encouragement to further foolishness or an excuse for anti-intellectualism.

However, there is a sense of truth about the way that the cross goes against conventional wisdom. All of our social conditioning would lead us to understand that wealth, power and privilege are the recognised measures of success. How are we then to understand suffering and death to be a part of our salvation?

We begin by aligning ourselves, as Jesus did, with the poor and the disinherited. It is only from this perspective that we can start to comprehend Jesus' path to the cross. There is much to the Christian life that doesn't 'make sense' in the way the rest of the world exists: mercy, compassion, loving one's enemies - none of these are 'sensible' even if they appear to be admirable. It reminds me of the often quoted line of Blaise Pascal "The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing". The cross may be foolishness, but sometimes such foolishness is the best path to follow.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What puzzles me is how people like yourself can sustain a belief in Christianity in the light of modern science, biblical criticism, and lack of evidence.

Recently (the last few years), I have been reading much material critical of Christianity - and there is lots to be found on the web. After reading (including the Bible), reflecting, debating with others, I could never adopt a belief system like Christianity.

There seems to be too many problems, too little evidence to believe, what appears to be just another man-made belief/faith system.

You, too, must encounter similar critical material. Do you read it with interest, or put it aside?

How and why can you believe?

JDK said...

It's unfortunate that it comes as such a surprise when we find intelligent people who are also Christians.

I've read lots of material that is critical of Christianity and I'm in complete agreement with much of it! I know many Christians that are good people, but are locked into a pre-modern understanding of reality that sets itself against science and the last 100 years of biblical criticism. I also have to acknowledge that there are some expressions of Christianity that have strayed significantly from what I understand of Jesus.

However, ultimately I find hope in the practice of Christianity - a religion which, at its worst is worthy of rejection but at its best, is worthy of my life. If you live in Melbourne, I'd invite you to visit us at the Brunswick Corps of The Salvation Army and see for yourself.

David said...

You separate practices from belief? Are you being honest? Pardon my apparent cynicism, but I detect the usual duplicitous response - that is, play down the belief aspects when presenting to an "outsider", play up the "behavioural" advantages.

I'd like to say, however, that Christians do not exhibit superior or more desirable behaviour than the general population, and that beliefs are usually more important than what you suggest.

Thankyou for your invitation. I should tell you that I have attended another SA church meeting - was not overwhelmed by the Nazi style hand-waving, and the "enough already" emotionalism-oriented atmosphere.

JDK said...

Hi David,

I'm not saying that beliefs are unimportant, but I do believe that our beliefs are shaped by our experience more than the other way around. That is why, on the whole, Christians are prone to the same failures as the rest of society.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no better than anyone else just because I'm a Christian. However, I would also say that following Jesus gives me a framework that I find helpful in my attempt to lead the best life that I can.

Therefore I choose hope before cynicism; service to others before individualism; and compassion before judgement - at least on my best days :-)

Regards, JDK

David said...

This is good

"hope before cynicism;
service to others before individualism;
and compassion before judgement"

A list of qualities that does not and is not necessarily associated with any particular faith. They are probably good in and of themselves because they are a "healthier" way to live.

I don't see any religion/belief being worthy of one's life. Surely life is more valuable than mere beliefs. Conflict resolution should be an option before a life is taken.

If, as you say (and I would agree) experience shapes beliefs more than beliefs shaping experience, then any religion, or none, or good ideas borrowed from anywhere, are all that is required.

Christianity is not unique as a provider of morally good concepts (and that is debatable in some cases).

JDK said...

David, I believe we have reached some agreement! If you are interested in further correspondence, feel free to e-mail me at jason.davies-kildea@aus.salvationarmy.org otherwise, keep an eye on this blog. I'm sure I can come up with something else worth discussing. Regards, JDK