Fools for Christ's Sake
Connie W. Adams
The Corinthian church had many faults to overcome, not the least of which was the tendency to exalt human wisdom above divine simplicity. The simple gospel was foolishness unto the Greeks (1 Cor. 1:23). Apparently, some in the church in Corinth sought a synthesis between the gospel and Greek philosophy. In that number were some who were "puffed up" with human wisdom and who looked with disdain upon Paul and the other apostles. In a passage filled with irony, Paul checks this notion. He said:
For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, be ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things unto this day (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
As gladiators sent into the arena to be slain and devoured by wild beasts as a spectacle to those in the stands, even so, the apostles were looked upon as a curiosity to the world and their debasement provided amusement for the worldly wise. They were counted as filth washed from the body, unworthy of the slightest respect. Paul and his companions suffered such indignity for the sake of the Corinthians and others they taught in order to enhance their spiritual state. It was through the labor of such a despised one that they had received the gospel. "For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (4:15).
The world still considers those who live by the principles of the gospel to be "fools." Let some high ranking official state a religious conviction and watch the secular press go into orbit. A recent instance of this was found in a speech made on April 9, 1996 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before the Mississippi College School of Law. He said, "Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society ... We are fools for Christ's sake . . .We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world . . . Surely those who adhere to all or most of these traditional Christian beliefs are to be regarded as simple-minded." Some of his remarks were draped in sarcasm aimed directly at those worldly sophisticates who deprecate the principles and values which believers in Christ hold dear.
That was enough to start a firestorm. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote: "I think this Supreme Court justice is a cheap shot artist." He characterized Scalia's remarks as "foolishness," said they were "jarring" and suggested that the judge was not suited to sit in on any case involving the separation of church and state. Jamin B. Raskin, professor of constitutional law at American University in Washington, D.C. said Scalia "stepped over the line of what is proper . . . we expect Supreme Court justices to be the most secular of our public servants."
You would think that expressions of faith were new to this justice of the court or to other leaders in our nation. Not so. The first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was John Jay who was also governor of New York at one time. In 1816 he said, "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers" (Johnston, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Vol. 4, p. 393). As late as 1952, justice William O. Douglas wrote: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" (Case of Zorach vs. Clauson). One of the more liberal judges we have ever had was chief justice Earl Warren. Yet, in a speech in 1954 which was reported in Time magazine, he said:
I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses ... whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia . . . or to the Charter of New England . . . or to the Charter of Massachusetts Bay . . . or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut . . . the same objective is present ... a Christian land governed by Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people . . . I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country ("Breakfast in Washington," Time, February 14, 1954, p. 49).
We could multiply quotes from George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan all of whom made public their views concerning the need for adherence to the principles of the Bible and a conviction that there is a divine Providence that guides the destiny of nations. Are we to write them all off as "fools"?
The most despised and scorned people in our land today, the most maligned and misrepresented are those who stand up for Bible principles whether in matters of morals or doctrine. Movies and television shows habitually depict religious figures who represent any aspect of so-called Christianity as hypocritical, wimps, or simpletons. Academia is notorious for heaping scorn upon Bible believers. The press has an obvious bias against Bible believers. They are unable to completely disguise their disdain. Watch for buzz words or phrases which are dead give-ways. "Fire and brimstone fundamentalists" or "Biblical literalists" or "rightwing radical fundamentalists."
Even in conflicts among brethren which involve a liberal vs. conservative stance, those who insist on adherence to what the Bible teaches are described as "legalists," "antis," "theological backwaters." In the nineteenth century conflict over instrumental music and missionary societies, David Lipscomb was caricatured as an old woman trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom. He was "non-progressive." It is not popular to be a faithful Christian. Even among those who profess to follow the Lord, scorn is heaped upon those who are outspoken about what all of us used to consider plain, everyday godly character. Preach on modesty and make it plain enough to be clearly understood and you will soon learn what I mean. Speak on women's role in either the church or the home and be prepared to either take it on the chin or duck! Preach forceful and clear sermons on fundamental truths that draw a line between denominational error and the will of God and then brace yourself. Warn of dangers and trends among us and then be prepared.
Well, brethren, with Paul, if the world, or the brethren, think us "beside ourselves" or consider us "a spectacle" fit only for sport and destruction, then we will just have to be "fools for Christ's sake." Are you willing to pay the price?
(Thanks to the June, 1996 issue of Focus On The Family newsletter by James Dobson for quotes and documentation from justices and presidents.)
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 19, p. 3-4