Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cynicism: Highs and Lows

Continuing from "Cynicism: Broken Wisdom."

Joseph, of Technicolor fame, seemed to get the idea that human wisdom is broken and that no human can imagine God’s wisdom. He exemplified the humility of a man whose wisdom was broken. When the Pharaoh called Joseph, saying, “I have heard that when you hear about a dream you can interpret it,” Joseph replied, “It is beyond my power to do this.” (Gen 41:15; cf. Dan 2:27)

What can we know? Can we live wisely at all? The existential despair of this position seems unbearable. Am I doomed to stupidity, indeed, insanity? Gloriously, no! I was reminded of a great promise. How had I forgotten these verses I had memorized in junior high? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let his ask God, who gives freely to all without finding fault, and it will be given him” (James 1:2). Paul affirms that we humans are not doomed: “No one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit, … so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” And “those who are spiritual can evaluate all things…. We understand these [truths from God’s Spirit], for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:11-12, 15-16). Joseph, too, seemed to understand this. After he admitted that he could not himself interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, he said, “But God can tell you what it means” (Gen 41:16; cf. Dan 2:28, 30).

The Pharaoh, upon hearing Joseph’s interpretation, is advised to “find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge” (Gen 41:33; cf. Isa 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19). Cue Joseph. The Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph, says, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God? Clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are” (Gen 41:38-39).

So now I’m hearing two different things: As a fallen man, my own wisdom is broken, and I cannot grasp at God’s; as a man being redeemed, I “have the mind of Christ,” enabling me to “understand the truths of God’s Spirit” and to “evaluate all things.” In one extreme, I’m so low and broken that I’m unable to distinguish anything good or bad. In the other extreme, I’m raised to such ability that I can make every judgment.

How do I reconcile these two extremes? How do I live this out practically?


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