Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

 

Brent Pollard

Last week we noted that one has two reliable sources of wisdom: God and one’s parents. However, we might alter this slightly to include the adjective “godly” to describe our parents. If one’s parents are not godly, then they cannot offer much in the way of wisdom. Everything else is a tertiary source of wisdom. This truth invites harmful consequences for the one listening to the wrong source of wisdom. Solomon warns that sinners seek to seduce you with their words (Proverbs 1.10-19). 

But what do we mean by “sinner”? We have in mind those who habitually sin, not just those who have yet to enter a covenant relationship with God. In other words, these individuals make no pretense of doing good or being righteous. Solomon’s example seems extreme to us since we have a blood-thirsty gang willing to kill to plunder others’ property. How could anyone be seduced into committing an act God hates (Proverbs 6.16-19)? Unfortunately, it is not as difficult as you might think. 

Adolph Hitler remains an easy illustrative target because he is so infamous. However, during an economic depression, Hitler rose to power, promising a return to prosperity. Hitler convinced the Germans that only the Jews stood between them and their restoration. Hitler was charismatic, and he had helpers like Joseph Goebbels, able to package his message for easy consumption. How many otherwise “good” Germans turned a blind eye to atrocities committed under the pretense of creating the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich?  

When Patton discovered the atrocities committed at Buchenwald, he brought the locals into the concentration camp to see what had happened there. Some still feigned ignorance, but one eyewitness at the time declared that one could smell death in the air even outside the camp. “Death” has an unmistakable smell. Visitors to the concentration camps of Europe have told me that the scent lingers today. It is inconceivable that they didn’t know that something nefarious happened behind the locked gates of Buchenwald.   

I’ve watched enough documentaries to note how many older Germans living during that time say that Hitler had them under a spell. And some of the Hitler youth have struggled to adjust to the post-war world. But today, it is common for Germans to refer to the events of the Second World War as the liberation of Germany by the Allied Forces. In other words, contemporary Germans see the period of Nazi rule as an occupation even though the citizenry widely supported Hitler at that time. 

But what of a “softer” despotism? We have U.S. politicians parroting the Marxist ideology of redistribution. (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”) And younger generations are quick to point out the disparity between the salary of the CEO and the employee, even though the CEO may have blood and sweat equity invested in his business and that no job would exist for the employer without him. And there is this disconnect between those desiring that we plunder the “rich” and redistribute to the “poor” and the “foot soldiers” willing to “Occupy Wall Street.” The latter may be ready to commit violence to achieve revolutionary goals, but those sympathetic are likewise content to stay silent as the rabble fights. Lest we forget, the failed economic ideology of Karl Marx has never worked anywhere it has been tried. Furthermore, it has given us men like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, who have killed far more of their citizens than even Hitler did of the Jews.  

It is much easier to follow a multitude to do evil than we care to admit. Thus, Moses warned against such (Exodus 23.2). It is a matter of companionship. As Paul warns, if we surround ourselves with evil people, it will corrupt our good morals (1 Corinthians 15.33). On the other hand, if we tolerate the presence of evil, we will discover its shared nature with yeast that permeates the dough into which one introduces it (1 Corinthians 5.6). This cascading effect is one of the reasons a church must practice discipline when needed (1 Corinthians 5.1ff).  

Lady Wisdom’s call stands in stark contrast (Proverbs 1.20-33). But, like the effort required to enter the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), one must be determined to hear her voice over the noisy crowds (1.21). Lady Wisdom is especially desirous to grab the attention of three groups: simpletons, mockers, and fools. Simpleton sounds derogatory but means that one is gullible. Aren’t the gullible especially vulnerable to the misinformation supplied by the tertiary sources of earthly wisdom? Indeed. And it is not necessarily a matter of ignorance, but lack of experience making them simpletons.  

Mockers, also called scoffers, are those flouting God’s authority. As with the simpleton, this does not mean one is stupid. Instead, a mocker chooses to be such by his disposition. Like the pharaoh to whom Moses spoke, mockers ask, “Who is God that I should hear His voice?” (Exodus 5.2) Finally, we have the fool. As we have said previously, “fool” has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. A biblical fool is a morally deficient person despising wisdom and discipline. Thus, the fool is “happier” living without the intrusive “advice” of a Creator God. 

But as Lady Wisdom warns, her unheard pleas will become a calamity for those refusing her counsel. And on that day, not only will she not be an advocate at one’s side, but she will join the chorus of laughter at their downfall (1.26). Lady Wisdom sounds cruel, but truthfully, she is just a strict teacher. She knows that one eats the fruit of his own way (1.31, cf. Galatians 6.7-8). Thus, she leaves you to your own devices. And the isolation one feels when facing the consequences of his actions is not even abated by the knowledge that God’s grace is available to forgive. The fallen one wishes he could call on Lady Wisdom but realizes that all she can tell him now is, “I tried to tell you.” 

David illustrates this feeling of loneliness in facing the consequences well in Psalm 51. Do you recall his misery? He could feel the separation between himself and God. He cried out to God to restore the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51.12). As recompense, David would then teach others (Psalm 51.13). We might add that bargaining is a noted process of grief. David was grieving. It mattered not that David knew God could forgive him because he still felt that loneliness that began when Nathan pointed the finger at him and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12.7). Lady Wisdom was absent from David. Even if present, all she could have done was remind him of what he had done wrong. 

Today, Lady Wisdom still calls. Can you hear her? You may have to strain to listen to her over the world’s noise. But do not spurn her invitation lest you share the fate of the simpleton, mocker, and fool. Instead, hear her offer of security and peace of mind (1.33) and accept her counsel.   

How Did We Get Here?

How Did We Get Here?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Correlation does not imply causation. I know this. Yet, I still cannot help noticing a concurrent rise of similar outcomes stemming from a conscious or subconscious choice: the decision to ignore God. And I am not the first to see this. One inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote about this phenomenon in the first century AD. Indeed, Paul informed the brethren at Rome that choosing to worship the creature rather than the Creator led to a laundry list of sins (Romans 1.18ff). 

Paul described this descent of man as follows. 

  1. There is a failure to acknowledge and thank God, despite the evidence for God (1.21).  
  2. One turns inward to his thoughts to rationalize his existence (1.21).  
  3. One believes his reasoning is superior to revelation (1.22).  
  4. Man’s folly becomes complete; he worships the creature rather than Creator (1.23). 
  5. Man exchanges the natural for unnatural (1.26-27). 
  6. Unrestrained men plunge deep into their sins while aiding and abetting others in their corruption (1.28-32). 

Current events prompt my reasons for contemplating this progression into darkness. Ours has become a culture of perversion and death. Perhaps, I am as guilty as those who have brought us here by insisting that we can understand the machinations of the fallen man; that there is a basis of rationale. Yet, I feel there is a rough outline paralleling the process described by Paul within the last three hundred years. Paul looked back into the centuries creating the world in which he found himself preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, that world Paul witnessed had not quickly come into being either but had slowly descended into idolatry and sin. Humanity had begun as monotheistic and plunged into polytheism.  

We likely need to go back to the Age of Enlightenment to explain our current situation. First, men began to become less likely to thank and acknowledge God. There was a Creator, but He had only wound up the clock of our universe and walked away. Some refer to this idea as deism. Thus, men like Thomas Paine said one needed to guide himself with a rational mind. Therefore, humanity began looking for alternative explanations for what he previously attributed to the purview of God. Though true that such pursuits brought helpful things like the scientific method, otherwise intelligent men like Thomas Jefferson concluded that the miracles of the Bible were not true and removed them from his Bible.  

Of these new “enlightened” men, one suggested a revolutionary thought that humanity had arisen from natural rather than supernatural processes. Charles Darwin wrote his findings in The Origin of the Species. Darwin was not an atheist, per se. On the contrary, his pedigree included a belief in God. Moreover, Darwin’s grandfather had written poetry mocking the atheist. Yet, somehow Darwin thought God could coincide with the concept of humanity climbing out of the primordial ooze to become the ultimate primate, rather than being fashioned in God’s image (Genesis 1.26-27). And by 1871, in The Descent of Man, even Darwin began wondering aloud that since nature disposed of the unfit, was humanity harming itself by failing to do the same?  

Those moved with interest by Darwin’s novel thoughts took his concept of “the survival of the fittest” and applied it to human reproduction. Whether it was Friedrich Nietzsche’s ubermensch (i.e., superman) or Margaret Sanger’s population control, it was a field of thought known first as Social Darwinism and later eugenics. We bristle at the latter as we think of Adolph Hitler and the murder of six million Jews during World War II. Yet, while we rightfully decry the ideology of the Third Reich, it’s an ugly truth that when Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, 30 U.S. states allowed forced sterilization of those deemed unfit to breed.   

The consequences of the Second World War made eugenics less palatable to the American diet. But it did nothing to remove the ideology. Instead of going away, unpopular ideas like eugenics merely went underground into the ivy-covered walls of “higher learning” to find a simpatico relationship with other equally undesirable ideologies like communism. Here in the bosom of secular scholasticism, agents of societal change grasped the Confucian maxim that planning for a hundred years entails children’s education. And the one idea that provides the semblance of unity to these disparate ideologies is the need to remove the restraints of morality and religion. Nietzsche said God kept man from becoming the ubermensch, and Karl Marx declared faith as the opium of the masses.  

Within the last fifty years, secular academia has taught youth that they are nothing but animals constrained by old standards. They have told young people to question the meaning of the written word and allow for its private interpretation. And if students can deconstruct poems to declare a preferred message, why not other documents like the Bible or U.S. Constitution? A watered-down Gospel allows for the practice of sinful behavior. Repetition normalizes it. Professors and teachers tell young people that the only thing preventing utopia are institutions like the home. Government can be the mother and father. These instructors have even told today’s youth they can deny their biology and create for themselves an identity forged by the fires of faddism.  

I doubt anything I’ve written will convince those not already singing in the choir. As I stated at the outset, correlation does not imply causation. But, in truth, I never thought one article could be sufficient to discuss the ramifications of this observation regarding man’s precipitous fall within the last few centuries according to the paradigm Paul introduces in Romans one. And though we know Solomon stated long ago that there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9-10), we acknowledge that periodic times of awakening and revival have buoyed humanity and temporarily halted his self-destruction.  

Suppose you realize that you are not alone in your conviction that God intended man to be something more significant. In that case, you can merge with that greater community of like-minded believers (cf. Ecclesiastes 4.9-12). God has given us the armor we need for this fight (Ephesians 6.10-17), but we still need our “Band of Brothers” to watch our backs in this war against sin (Galatians 6.1-2,6, 9-10). In the interim, we magnify the God Who grants us victory over this world through faith (1 John 5.4). And we await our Lord’s glorious return (Acts 1.11).