What is wisdom? I’ll spare the Webster definition and leap to more practical definitions. Some people might think it is intelligence. Some may say wisdom is where book smarts and common sense meet. Still others will insist that it is something only acquired over time. Whatever your definition of wisdom, it’s universally revered. No one ever said that wisdom is over rated, and I think most would agree that foolishness is the antonym of wisdom. Mr. T pities those people.
So if we don’t want to be foolish, and we aspire to be wise, how do we do it? Is wisdom like skill? Does one have to be born with it and develop it? I may want to have a crossover like Stephen Curry and be able to dunk like Lebron James, but try as I may, it ain’t gonna happen. Is wisdom like that? Or is wisdom like learning? Do we simply collect and catalogue information the same way we do education. When I was in kindergarten, I couldn’t read, by the time I graduated high school I could balance a chemical equation. I could do this because I harnessed my ability to read and retain information. Does learning about wisdom make me wise?
Proverbs 9:10 tells us “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us that we are in Christ, and that Christ has become wisdom and righteousness for us. This is great news. This means that if I fear God (understanding fearing God is likely a post in and of itself) and abide in Christ, wisdom is developed in me and for me. I don’t need to have been born a sage guru to be wise. In fact, being intelligent isn’t even a prerequisite. Learning about wisdom is the outpouring of someone who is in Christ.
Beyond the fear of the Lord and being in Christ, for direction in developing wisdom, I need only point to Proverbs. It is full of guidance towards wisdom. The rest of the book is replete with warnings to avoid scoffers . . . begging the question: “what is a scoffer?” A scoffer is another name for a fool. A fool isn’t someone who is stupid, but someone who willfully avoids wisdom. If you’re not familiar with the term “YOLO”, congratulations, you have avoided foolishness.
Not all foolishness is as easy to spot as someone throwing caution to the wind screaming YOLO while they destroy themselves. Foolishness sometimes looks like intellectualism. Anytime we are too assured in our own knowledge, we can invite foolish pride. For example: your’e not stupid if you are able to train your dog to drive a car, but you are foolish if you let him drive you home. Maybe a bad example.
I see plenty examples of knowledgeable foolishness in medicine. Doctors who are so secure in their knowledge, that they pay little attention to prescribing guide lines, and unwittingly harm their patients. I’ve seen some of the smartest people I know begin to feel they are beyond reproach, and end up being escorted out of the building by security. You don’t have to be dumb to be foolish, you just have to scoff at wisdom. Whoever says “I know best” has committed the first step towards scoffing, and has set an autopilot course towards destruction.
Other scoffing is more overt, but has become common place, and seems difficult to defend against. It often comes in the form of scoffing at God. Very few people openly ridicule God, but often they simply dismiss His importance or the assertion that He has anything to do with the physical universe (much less that He created it).
This is a tough one, honestly. I’ve studied more biology, physics and chemistry than I ever wanted. I am not an expert in any of these fields by any stretch of the imagination, but I had to be proficient (for a little while anyway) at a minimum. I can tell you that science presumes no divine interventions. I’ve never had a physics problem on a test, in which “then God” was a part of the equation. Unbelievable ingenuity lies at the heart of each principle in science. I’m routinely blown away that someone had the intelligence and expressive ability to describe how the world works. This has led to some scoffing, however.
I can’t tell you the number of times in college, med school and beyond, people would be flabbergasted that I was a “real Christian”. I actually believed the Bible, and that was something foolish to many.
“So you think the world is 6,000 years old!?”
“So you think dinosaurs were on the ark?”
“So you think fossils were put there by the devil?”
Any number of odd questions were hurled my way, and I was tasked with explaining things to them, that they had never looked into themselves, and that they presumed was absurd. Super fair if you ask me. By the way, I don’t think fossils were placed by the devil (just for the record). This is like me asking someone who read the entire Lord of the Rings collection to defend why there is stupid elvish dialogue, and dismissing it as stupid fantasy fiction with no plot. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings, but I’ve already decided it is stupid (that is an accurate description of my own foolishness, because I do think Lord of the Rings is stupid).
Pointing out problems with the Bible from a scientific standpoint isn’t only scoffing, it’s actually demonstrating exactly what the Bible warns will happen. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, and I paraphrase here, that the wisdom of God appears as foolishness, and that He has made foolish the wisdom of the world. He has done this so that no one can boast. In other words, the two are supposed to be in contrast. There is nothing wrong with science, it is not evil, but it will never substitute the wisdom of God, nor will it ever understand/describe God. It is foolishness, however, for science to attempt to do away with God is foolishness.
If you are still reading, I’ll assume you can indulge a little scientific thought experiment/lesson.
Most of us know that magnets have a positive (+) terminal and a negative (-) terminal. If you push the positive towards the positive of another magnet, the two will repel. If you approach the positive terminal with the negative of another magnet, they will attract. This force happens throughout nature. Like charges repel, and opposites attract. This happens on a molecular, atomic and subatomic levels. It’s why water and oil don’t mix, it’s why electricity flows and nuclear fission happens. If you have two charges that are the same, they will push away until balanced by space or equal strength of another force. This is constant, unchanging and reliable . . . except in the nucleus of an atom. An atom is made of a nucleus of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons with negatively charged electrons swirling around it in orbits. They are very tightly packed, and consist of like charges, in such close proximity, that it is the most dense thing we can measure in any conceivable space. It is so dense, that the attractive force it has is strong enough to keep the highly energetic electrons in orderly orbit. I’ve heard it said that if we scaled the nucleus of an atom up to the size of a golf ball, the closest electron would be 300 yards away. Now that is some tightly packed matter! So why doesn’t it fling apart? The charges should push away from one another, and every atom should cease to exist . . . which would be bad. So why don’t they? Gravity? No. Gravity is much too weak of a force to hold them together. So if not gravity, what then?
There is a yet not understood force known as “the strong force” that holds the nucleus together. Little is known about “the strong force” and it is the topic of some speculation. Millions of dollars are being spent to form theories regarding these forces at particle accelerators around the world, but no theory yet describes this force or where it originated.
Colossians 1:16-17 might have a clue.
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The collective earthly wisdom struggles to understand why the basic building blocks of the universe do not defend into chaos, but scoffs at the concept of a creator. I’d rather be a dumb wise guy than a genius scoffer any day.