"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)

Volume Five, Number One Spring 1997



Farrell Till

Have you ever thought about the implications of Adam's and Eve's sins? They ate of the tree of knowledge (Gen. 3:6), and act that opened their eyes (v:7), and so God drove them from the Garden of Eden, because "the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (v:22). In other words, their sin was the acquisition of knowledge. It was a sin so great that the petulant Yahweh not only banished them from the garden but pronounced an everlasting curse on them and all their descendants.

The condemnation of knowledge implied in this story established a policy that was generallybut not alwaysfollowed by the other biblical writers. That policy was to discourage and even sometimes to condemn the acquisition of knowledge. Perhaps no single biblical writer ridiculed knowledge any more than the apostle Paul, who is considered by many scholars to be the real founder of Christianity. His strongest denunciation of knowledge was made in his first letter to the Corinthian church:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and the base things of the world that are despised has God chosen, yes, and the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence (1:1829).

Ever since Paul penned this statement, Bible believers have used it to justify every form of ignorance imaginable. If anyone dares suggest that the idea of a human sacrifice for the vicarious atonement of the sins of mankind is ridiculous, the Christian will merely see this as proof that his belief is right. "Yes," he will say, "that is exactly what Paul said. It pleased God to save the world through the foolishness of preaching. You can't understand it because you seek after worldly wisdom, but God chose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and this is exactly what has happened to you. You have allowed the wisdom of the world to blind you to the truth. God's wisdom is greater than man's wisdom, and when you understand that, you will understand why the sacrifice of his son for the sins of mankind was necessary."

Yeah, right. And if the Christians who parrot such nonsense as this ever learn to recognize circular reasoning, they might begin to see the foolishness in their own "wisdom." With that type of reasoning, one could justify any kind of belief. Flatearthersand believe it or not there are somedismiss all scientific evidence for the rotundity of the earth as just "the wisdom of the world." Creationscientists (an oxymoron if ever there was one) reject as "man's wisdom" all scientific findings that dispute their youngearth, creationists views. Just cite any kind of scientific or scholarly information that conflicts with what the Bible teaches, and bibliolaters will poohpooh it as "the wisdom of the world."

In the "Mailbag" column of this issue (p.12) [The Skeptical Review], we are publishing the letter of a subscriber in Texas, who boasts of having a faith that is stronger than ever after having read "all issues of TSR, plus other publications, debates, etc. of Mr. Till and other skeptics, current and past." Readers will see that he takes refuge in the wisdomoftheworld bastion of Bible fundamentalism. He dismisses Till and other skeptics who write for TSR as "wisdomolaters," who have "sold their souls for a mess of pottageman's wisdom." A detailed response follows this letter in the "Mailbag" column, so here we will merely not that history has proven repeatedly that this "mess of pottage" that skeptics have sold their souls for is superior to the "wisdom of God" that bibliolaters have put their trust in. Presumably by the wisdom of God, Jesus attacked human illness by casting out devils, but the wisdom of the world invented microscopes, discovered microbes and viruses, and then conquered diseases with vaccines and drugs. The wisdom of God rebuked Galileo, but the wisdom of the world has long confirmed that he was right about the heliocentric nature of our solar system. The wisdom of the world discovered that smallpox could be prevented through vaccination, but through the wisdom of God, preachers opposed it as witchcraft and the work of Satan. Whenever the wisdom of the world has clashed with the "wisdom of God," the wisdom of the world has had a consistent way of proving itself right.

So let bibliolaters scoff at the "wisdom" of the world all they want to. In this controversy, we will put our trust in the side with the better track record. Flatearthers, for example, are absolutely right when they say that the Bible teaches a flat-earth cosmology, but one would have to be hopelessly naive to accept that view over the compelling scientific evidence that proves the earth is spherical. Bible fundamentalists are also right when they say that the Bible teaches that life on earth resulted from acts of special creation that God performed over a period of six days about 6,000 years ago, but geology, archaeology, paleontology, microbiology, chemistry, astronomy, and various other branches of science indicate an entirely different scenario. According to Richard Dawkins, whose scientific credentials are known world-wide, "Darwin's theory is now supported by all the available relevant evidence, and its truth is not disputed by any serious modern biologist" ("The Necessity of Darwinism," New Scientist, April 15, 1982, p.130). To Bible fundamentalists, however, this is merely "the wisdom of the world" speaking, and no matter how many worldclass scientists like Dawkins say that Darwin's theory is supported by all the available scientific evidence, they are going to continue pressing to have their nonsense taught as "science" in our public schools. Ron Patterson pegged them right when he said, quot;Socalled scientific creationism is really nothing more than an attempt to give credence to an ancient Hebrew myth by trying to prove that virtually all the world's biologists, geologists, and paleontologists are a bunch of incompetent buffoons" (The Freethought Exchange, September/October, 1994,p50).

The right course to take in controversies like these can easily be determined by application of a principle that Bob Hypes stated in a recent TSR article: "No reasonable person can believe that the guesses of preliterate man, upon which the myths of gods and the supernatural are based, were true" ("Religion and How I Lost It," Winter, 1995, p.11). This, of course, is a difficult worldview for Bible fundamentalists to accept, but perhaps they should take notice of something the apostle Paul said in the passage quoted earlier: "For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh... are called" (1 Cor. 1:26). Sociological studies have confirmed the truth of what Paul said here. The more educated people are, the less likely they are to practice orthodox religion. Religious orthodoxy, therefore, depends on ignorance. Many beliefs of today's most radical Bible fundamentalists would have been considered rank heresy by the most educated Christians of a thousand years ago. Knowledge caused the change and will continue to change religious thinking, because not even the most fanatical Bible fundamentalist can live in our scientific era without absorbing at least some of the "wisdom of the world" that is so despised in fundamentalist circles.

Meanwhile, knowing the threat that knowledge poses to them and the institutions from which they derive their livelihood, clergymen will continue to ridicule the "wisdom of the world" in order to cultivate the colossal ignorance that is necessary for fundamentalist religion to survive [Farrell's address is P.O. Box 717, Canton, IL 61520-0717]

CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.

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