|Is wisdom bad, according to 1 Cor. 2?|
1 Cor. 2:1-2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I recently ran into a Christian postmodernist who argued that these verses rule out the use of apologetics such as we do here. There are three errors in this argument.
First, it has equated "wisdom" with arguments and the presentation of evidence.
That is a false equation. Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge -- in common parlance, good sense. So this statement by Paul says nothing about presenting of evidence.
Second, while my opponent had at least rightly gathered that it is human wisdom, not divine wisdom, that is being criticized here, we may ask: Why would not apologetic arguments be reflective of some aspect of divine wisdom?
Clearly, one of Paul's issues with human wisdom here is that it is often wrong about the things of God. If an argument is correct about something God did, then why is it not reflective of the sort of wisdom that originates in the divine? Clearly this is not beyond humans: Proverbs exhorts humans to acquire wisdom, and in Acts 6, Stephen for example is said to possess wisdom (and the Spirit) that could not be refuted by his adversaries.
Third, Paul's usage here is that of a rhetorical catchphrase.
Paul is making a point against the human wisdom that a divine man would never submit to a shameful death like crucifixion. His opponents are emphasizing the glories of themselves human speakers. The specific cite of the crucifixion here is not meant to indicate the whole of Paul's message, or to say anything about methods used to present it; it is a slam at Paul's opponents, who are pomping themselves, in contrast to Jesus who died shamefully.
Paul is shaming his opponents by indicating how their method of delivering a message -- with pneumatic displays and so forth, seeking honor -- contrasts with what happened to Christ. There is nothing here that denies the use of evidence or reasoning, and nothing at all of the message of Paul being validated by an encounter with the Spirit.
Indeed, some have taken this passage to mean that Paul, a wide user of the ancient art of rhetoric, rejected the use of rhetoric; in this light, it is rather a case of rhetorical irony, as Paul apparently rejects rhetoric while demonstrating his rhetorical skill --ths allowing him to reject the Corinthians' own boastful rhetoric while subtly showing it to those who value it so highly. See J. R. Levison, "Did the Spirit Inspire Rhetoric?" in Persuasive Artistry, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991, 38.)