It Is to Be Believed Because It Is Absurd ~ Tertullian

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Many times and often we as clergy are asked to explain things in scripture that don’t quite add up or make sense or aren’t logical.  Many times and often, we find that we cannot.  Therefore we must tell people that this is where faith comes in.  This has been the situation since the beginning of the church.

In today’s Epistle reading, Paul was talking to the Corinthians about things that the Christians there could not explain, specifically the how’s and why’s of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and the whole salvation process.  Christians were seen as foolish.  Those who are called ‘Greeks’ by Paul are actually the Romans, the Greeks, and any who were not Jewish by birth. The thought of an executed carpenter in a remote, troublesome province of the mighty Roman empire being the salvation of the world was simply too much for them to take.  They had no concept of faith, especially faith in a Jewish carpenter who was crucified, executed as a criminal.

They lived in a culture which exalted the achievements of men. The Olympics stemmed out of their fascination and respect for the physical potential of men.   The original athletes competed naked to show off their physical form, and their acts of strength and endurance were the stuff of legend.

The Romans celebrated the power of the state to bring peace and a type of unity to so many diverse provinces. They ruled with an iron fist, and their influence did bring peace the lands they controlled.  The rule of the day was that might was right, and the mightiest ruled over those who were weak. To accept an act of apparent weakness as the saving event of the entire world simply did not mesh with their thinking.

Furthermore, Both Romans and Greeks were also famous for the wisdom of their “high thinkers”. The writing of Plato, Socrates, Cicero and other Greek and Roman thinkers are still considered to be the most intelligent writings by mankind, ever.   They knew they were smart, and they made it very well known to all that they considered themselves the wisest race of people in the known world.   If anyone was going to save the world, it was them, and the world had better listen.  It was this mindset that Paul was dealing with.

Therefore, in Paul’s world, the ‘wise’ were those who relied on the government for guidance.  Anyone else was a fool.  There were two basic categories of people.  Paul states as much, only with a twist.   Paul makes it clear that in his mind, there are only two categories of people: the “perishing” and the “saved.” Ultimately, all must fall into one of these two classes; there is no other.  Paul writes that those who are perishing consider the word of the cross “foolishness.”   Five times in eight verses, Paul will use a form of the word “foolishness.” Now it will help you to know the basic Greek word is moria. In 1:25 it appears as an adjective—moros.   I probably don’t have to tell you that we get the English word “moron” from this Greek word. It has the idea of something that is ridiculous, ignorant, stupid, and contemptible. If someone were to say, “You moron!” you would be insulted, and properly so. But that is the very word that Paul uses here—and not just once, but five times. What Paul is saying is this: Most people consider the cross to be moronic!  Anyone who believed in Christ as their Lord and Savior was and is moronic, a total fool.

One of the Early Fathers of the Church, Tertullian (A.D. 155-225), wrote: “It is to be believed because it is absurd,” and “It is certain because it is impossible.”   Tertullian was a delightful early thinker on the church (which, recall, was neither Roman Catholic nor Baptist nor Lutheran, but merely the Christian church), and one of his more astute comments was: “It is certainly no part of religion to compel religion.”  In other words, you put it out there for the world to see, you set the example, you let them come find out what is different, you share, you care, and you let them choose.   In today’s world, weI might appear to be fools because of our commitment to Christ. It isn’t always popular to believe that Jesus is actually the one-and-only Savior of the world. And many will think the good news of a crucified and resurrected Jesus makes no sense whatsoever. We who seek to be faithful might very well end up looking like “fools for Christ.”

What about you?  Are you willing to love as Christ loved?  Are you willing to exhibit the faith required to be a ‘fool for Christ?

PRAYER: O Lord, you know that I don’t like being seen as a fool. I want people to think well of me, to see me as wise and cultured. So there are times when I am tempted to soft-pedal the Gospel. Forgive me, Lord, for worrying so much about my own image that I fail to speak and live for you.  Help me to be a fool for you. Yet, at the same time, give me wisdom so that I am not just an idiot. Sometimes it seems like Christians, under the banner of being fools for Christ, act in ways that are silly and wrongheaded and dishonoring to you. So help me, I pray, to discern rightly how to live in a countercultural way. Show me when it is, in fact, right to engage the culture and to communicate effectively within it.  All praise be to you, dear Lord Jesus, because you did the utterly “foolish” thing by becoming human and dying on the cross. May I live my whole life in imitation of your self-giving wisdom and your love.   Amen.





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