Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. -I Corinthians 1:20-25 ESVThis verse has often to employed to argue for a kind of anti-intellectualism. Often any view which attempts to express itself intelligently and looks beyond cultural assumption is immediately referred to as "human reasoning" or "worldly wisdom" and promptly discarded. This interpretation of this text closes the mind and causes mental and spiritual stagnation. But I propose that Paul is not stating that we need to resist wisdom or critical thinking. There are many references of Scripture (like the entire book of Proverbs for instance) that make it clear that God respects wisdom and critical thinking.
If we assume that all of which God gives us is good, though corruptible, then we should resist any theology that renders a natural aspect of humanity untrustworthy and wicked. This would go with sex, emotions, particularity, genders, races, and, of course, cognitive faculties. If God gave us these things, then they are innately good, and must be honored. This does not mean we treat them as infallible authorities, for the human condition has completely fallen, and all aspects of our humanity are corrupted. But we also should not shun our humanity either.
Personally, I do not believe the anti-intellectual stance of modern evangelicalism has anything to do with inherit Christianity. Instead, I think it is caused by an attempt counter the overdeveloped intellectualism of modernism. But is this appropriate? Does God defy sense? Does God expect us to do foolish things simply because He's foolish? Shall we excuse irrational theological positions for simply being "mystery"? I believe not, and to do so misses the greater meaning of this text.
The subject of the discussion here is the crucifixion. This is rather important to remember because the ultimate question that Paul is answering here is, "Was Christ dying on the cross the wise thing to do?"
Wisdom in the knowledge of the right thing to do at the right time. Well, in English that is true. In Greek, wisdom more refers to learning and understanding. It refers to the philosophy, which itself simply means the love of wisdom. So when Paul refers to the wisdom of the world, he is referring to the world's understanding of the way things work. This doesn't necessarily refer to all categories of theological and philosophical thought, but merely referring to the perspective that the world has.
In this sense, the anti-intellectuals have a point. Christianity is, by its roots, a popular religion. The gospel itself is simple, and should be kept that way. When we move beyond the birth/death/resurrection/return of Christ, we have moved beyond the basics. It's not wrong to move beyond the basics, but it is wrong to treat those things which are not the basics as if they were, which is Paul's point.
To the Greek's, this was utter foolishness, because that's just not how God should behave. God is perfect and transcendent. He is in control of all things. He wouldn't risk the cosmos to die for mere human beings. God is beyond such things. This was the basic (and rather oversimplified) reaction of the Greeks to the gospel of Christ. This is what Paul was rejecting.
However, Paul claims that this merely seems foolish, yet it is truly wise. But what is wise about it? What was so wise about Christ dying on the cross? Was it the logical thing to do?
I believe, and this is merely my opinion here, that Paul didn't mean that God was more logical than the Greeks, but that God's view was higher than the Greeks, for there is something higher than logic: love.
Christ did not die on the cross because it was the logical thing to do. Christ died on the cross because it was the compassionate thing to do. Christ loved us; He loved us to death. In the end, this is wisdom in the traditional sense, because Christ dies for us before we accept Him, and regardless of whether we accept Him or not. That's not the point. The point is that He loves us, and He seeks our redemption.
We often do foolish things for love. Sometimes we do things that are just silly, like watching Fried Green Tomatoes. Other times, we do things which are sacrificial, like leaping into fires on the off chance we can reach our loved ones in time. Other times, we do things that are simply hopeless, like a mother visiting her son in jail. Love compels us to act for the other, regardless of whether or not it is wise.
Yet it is wiser to hold on to the things that you love, and to take care of them than simply to always do what should be done. God is wiser than the wisdom of the world, because He takes care of the things that really matters: His children. Ultimately, this is the aspect of God that the Greeks just couldn't get. And ultimately, this act which is foolishness to the world, out shines their wisdom because of what God can accomplish through His reckless love.
Isn't it grand that we serves such a God?
The point of this text isn't that we should abandon all forms of higher learning. It also doesn't mean that we should accept contradictory things to keep our theology simple. We can be thoughtful and extensive in our theological musings.
The point is that in our theological pursuits we should never lose sight of the heart. Compassion is greater than wisdom, and we shouldn't allow our philosophies to come between us and the heart of God. Indeed, we should judge our philosophies and theologies by whether or not it upholds the heart of God.