Is the Message of the Cross Foolishness?

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

As I have talked with many atheists and skeptics over the years, the one attitude that comes up over and over is the belief that Christianity is foolish. They argue, God cannot be proved; the Bible is a collection of myths; and dead people don’t come back to life. Anybody who actually believes this stuff must be a simpleminded fool.

My typical response is to point out that the only reason these things seem foolish to them is because of their presuppositions. Most atheists begin with the presupposition that nothing supernatural exists; therefore, any argument for the existence of God must be false. The logic here is totally circular, yet, when I point this out, they can’t seem to understand. Because most atheists presuppose some version of naturalism, they believe that the scientific method is the only way we can know anything for certain. However, the very belief that all knowledge must come through observation of the natural world is self-refuting – one cannot observe that this belief is true. The very foundation of almost all of their arguments is based on a logical fallacy! But when I point out the fallacies in their thinking, they just don’t understand. It is incomprehensible to them that their entire worldview is based on an absurdity.

Most of the atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics I’ve interacted with are quite intelligent. I have often been frustrated by the fact that such obviously intelligent people can’t seem to understand the incongruity of their unbelief. To believe that the entire universe popped into existence all by itself, in all its vastness and complexity, without any supernatural intelligence guiding the process, is absurd. Yet, when I clearly show them why their thinking is preposterous, they just can’t seem to understand. How can intelligent people not understand simple logic, clearly explained?

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who choose to reject God. But, in reality, it is those who reject the Gospel who are fools.

1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
Psalm 14:1

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Paul talks about the cross of Christ being a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. In Paul’s day, the Jews knew a lot about God and the Bible, but most didn’t actually know God. To them, the cross was a “stumbling block.” Today, there are many “religious” people for whom the cross is also a stumbling block. The cross gets in the way of religiosity. The cross means we cannot make ourselves acceptable before a holy God. Only through the blood of Jesus can we be accepted by God.

The Greeks of Paul’s day were nominally polytheistic, but actually lived as atheists or agnostics. Much like today’s humanists, they believed human understanding was the ultimate authority, and they saw the cross of Christ as foolishness.

I finally realize that the reason most skeptics can’t understand the Gospel is not an issue of intelligence – it’s a matter of the will. They don’t understand because they don’t want to understand. 2 Peter 3:5 says that they are “willingly ignorant” – they choose to ignore the truth. Looking back, I was the same way before I received Christ. None of us seeks after God on our own (Romans 3:11); it is only because God seeks after us that any of can respond to the Gospel. The Bible clearly teaches that God seeks everyone in the world (John 3:16), but only those who choose to believe will be saved. And, it’s only after we have received Christ that God opens our minds so that we can really understand.

The cross of Christ seems foolish to those who choose to reject it. But, to those who choose to receive Christ when the Holy Spirit draws them to Himself, the cross is the power of God. The cross has the power to overcome our sin. The cross has the power to restore the relationship between us and God. And, the cross has the power to transform our lives. Real foolishness is to reject the cross.

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