"...the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe....For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Cor 18-21; 25)

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (Rom 1:21-22)
Say the word philosophy to most conservative or fundamentalist Christians and you will probably get the above verses quoted to you at some point. If you raise philosophical objections to their faith or their belief in an inerrant text then they will probably feel these verses are an adequate enough response. They feel they do not need to enter the realm of the philosopher, as their Bible makes it clear that their religion is superior to philosophy.

The circular reasoning is almost comical. It goes something like this:
  1. The Christian message and the Bible are true.
  2. The Bible says philosophy is foolish.
  3. Therefore, philosophical objections to the Christian message and the Bible are foolish.
  4. Therefore, the Christian message and the Bible are true.
How easy for them. How convenient for them.

I remember arguing with Mormons about their 'proofs' for the Book of Mormon. They would quote the promise to those who wished to know if the book was true...from the book itself. There is something there about asking with a pure heart and then you get a 'burning in the bosom' or some other thing. To me though, the whole process seemed like asking a used car salesman if the car he was selling was any good. Of course he'll respond favourably to his product. The Book of Mormon isn't going to suggest a test of itself that will fail. That would just be self defeating for the Mormons. What I wanted from the Mormons was something outside of the Book of Mormon, not verses from within their book. They had very little.

Because of this experience, it unsettled me as a Christian when others would apply similar reasoning as an excuse to avoid philosophy or its objections to the faith. To reject philosophy simply because your religion or inerrant text teaches it is 'foolishness' is no different from what the Mormons do.

Here's my perception of what really goes on in the minds of Christians:

31 comments:

Susan (Ayame) said...

ROTFLMAO!

Excellent little post! I've heard that particular Bible passage before and heard others use it to try to shut down discussions. I've also experienced what you've recounted with Mormons, too. Sounds like you're supposed to get heartburn. ;)

I like the way you broke down the reasoning. It's very silly and very convenient for the believer indeed.

Thanks for the good laugh. :)

John W. Loftus said...

LOL I really like the picture! Again, LOL!

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, I really like the picture too!

Lok said...

To reject philosophy simply because your religion or inerrant text teaches it is 'foolishness' is no different from what the Mormons do.

Agreed - what further annoys me is that whenever there is some part in philosophy (or any other subject matters) supports their view, they embrace it and claim victory while disregarding the rest as useless.

chris said...

If you are interested in debunking Christianity, why do you continually attack straw men?

kraryal said...

Hi Chris,

This is not actually a straw man. My roommate has used this very argument, quoting the same verses.
It is the standard doctrine about philosophy in his church and their sister churches.

You have a better theology, no doubt. However, you may not be representative of the majority of Evangelicals. Many of them seem to have a theology this shallow.

Of course, destroying this particular argument does not do any damage to Christianity except by association.

Lok said...

"Of course, destroying this particular argument does not do any damage to Christianity except by association.

I don't know. The damage here seems bigger than that - this argument is implied in the Bible after all.

adam s said...

This is not a straw man arguement. This is a perfect example of the kind of deceit and manipulation the bible authors used in order to convince naive people that their message is true. They are simply anticipating their ideas being refuted by intelligent people and are setting up roadblocks. Verses such as "he has chosen the foolish things to shame the wise." Is this to say that god created smart people knowing that they wouldnt be able to accept the "foolishness of the gospel?" Rather, it is telling that only gullible, desperate people are going to accept it, and the writers anticipated this. Many scenarios in the bible are deliberately staged in order to preempt any possible dissagreement one might have with the message. The funny thing is, christians consider this stuff to be offensive to those who hate god, but in reality, they are indicative of a mean spirit that permeates christianity. God is the cosmic wife beater who "loves his bride" but must discipline (beat) her in order to help her submit. According to the bible you are either A)hard hearted, blind and foolish and reject god, or B) a lover of truth, loving, and holy. As if life could possibly be this simple.

kraryal said...

Hey Lok,

Implied, perhaps. You could use this as an empirical argument instead. I don't think that has been done well at this point; pardon my ignorance if there is an apologist I'm unaware of who's done so.

After all, that fourth point in the argument isn't necessary in the Bible. Granted that everyone claims it though.

To tie the post with Adam s's comment, the Book of Mormon does the same thing by writing in a relatively modern atheist. Of course, he is possessed by Satan.
Alma 30

Of course life isn't as simple as A) or B), just the afterlife, right?

Lok said...

Well, The implication is not as strong in the couple passages that Troy quoted. I was thinking something along this line:

Colossians 2
6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

I must say the implication is extremely strong here - Paul is asserting any philosophy that contradicts with the Christian faith is "hollow and deceptive," because it "depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ" This argument is pretty much the same as the one Troy points out; only the implication is much stronger. As matter of fact, it is pretty much explicit. Any thing that is not compatible with the Bible can be said as based "on human tradition and the basic principles of this world" - be it science, or philosophy.

In my opinion, it downplays the problem way too much by saying that this sort of circular arguments is not part of Christianity and instead from some bad-thinking Christians. If it actually is not from the Bible then I will have to agree with Chris that this is a straw-man argument to focus on a narrow group of Christians instead Christianity as a whole. However, it is pretty evident that this sort of thinking is encouraged in the Bible.

Yosei said...

Major problem with the Bible is that it cannot be reconciled with modern sensibilities.

Troy Waller said...

Lok,

Agreed - what further annoys me is that whenever there is some part in philosophy (or any other subject matters) supports their view, they embrace it and claim victory while disregarding the rest as useless.

Ain't that the truth? I recall once in an 'End Times' crusade at my church where some
expert' was quoted to support the preacher. It turns out when you continued to read the article, the expert was described as 'a leading evolutionist'. My brother-in-law commented that the preacher probably didn't quote this guy in his creation/evolution cursades! LOL!!!

Chris,

If you are interested in debunking Christianity, why do you continually attack straw men?

Look man, Evangelicalism is such a wide demographic, such a mixed bunch that a criticism against one faction or demographic may be entirely untrue for another one. What I posted was not the 'last word' on all Evengelicals or Fundy-mental-ists, but it certainly true for many.

Adam,
They are simply anticipating their ideas being refuted by intelligent people and are setting up roadblocks.

Exactly. This is what I thought as a Christian. St Paul seems to preempt opposition, but as someone who was always keen to share the gospel, I felt he did it pretty unconvincingly. I felt these verses were fairly useless in a debate with non-believers. "Paul, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, says you're wrong and we're right." No, I never tried it on anyone.

kraryal said...

Hey Lok,

I'd forgotten about that passage. I concede your point; besides, even if that argument wasn't given explicitly in the Bible, enough christians believe it to say bad things about their ideas.

Hi Troy,

Pertinent to your last comment, I viewed this section as a form of preemptive apologetics; in that the apologetics only work on those already converted. Same here; these verses are for the believers, not the unbelievers.

Anonymous said...

There are so many problems with this post that it is hard to know where to begin.

First, notice the way the word “philosophy” is being used in this post. In particular, consider this: “an excuse to avoid philosophy or its objections to the faith. To reject philosophy simply because your religion or inerrant text teaches it is 'foolishness' is no different from what the Mormons do.” There is no one substantive view or position called “philosophy” that is opposed to religion and that religious people reject. It brings to mind people who use the phrase “science says…” Science doesn’t say anything. Scientists do. There are religious philosophers and religious philosophy. It is a misunderstanding of the nature of philosophy to imply that philosophy is antithetical to religion. Some philosophers are antithetical to religion. Other philosophers aren’t.

Second, it’s true that some Christian make the argument that you lay out against philosophical objections to Christianity. Your post implies that this is somehow built into Christianity (hence quoting the Bible). Its not. That is why another poster said it was a straw man. There is a difference between attacking Christianity and attacking something that many Christian believe. The difference lies in whether something is essential to Christianity or at least very broadly and deeply held. The view you are espousing simply isn’t. To be intellectually honest, one should attack the best arguments and best defenders of a position not the worst. Attack Aquinas and Augustine not the far less informed personal opinions of your neighbor or friend and act as if you have somehow leveled a serious charge against Christianity per se. There are many ill-informed atheists out there. It wouldn’t be fair of me to imply that by refuting there bad arguments, I have refuted atheism. I should interact with the best of atheist thinkers Michael Martin, Keith Parsons, Daniel Dennett, not the nerdy guy with a B.S. in engineering who fancies himself a scientist.

Third, you need to do a bit more exegesis. What is Paul referring to when he references “philosophy?” Is it the same way we use the word today? This is important if you are claiming that Bible is against “philosophy.” It is important not to equivocate between the modern definition of philosophy and the way Paul uses it. Paul wasn’t referring to Augustine, Aquinas, W.V.O. Quine, Sellers, Dennett, Searle, etc. Paul was referring to a certain type of Greek quasi-religious philosophy. It appears to be some form of proto-Gnosticism (see Colossians and Ephesians and what he attributes to these “philosophers”).

Anyway, I read this blog and think you guys make some valuable points but please more careful to attack the best representatives of Christianity and be more charitable and careful in your exegesis.

Benny said...

Well said, Anon @ 3:44 pm. I was about to reply in refutation, but I re-read the post, and the final line (the tagline for the photo) does imply that this kind of thinking is held by all Christians. Which is simply not the case. I just want to point out that the state purpose of this blog is to debunk Evangelical Christianity, not Christianity in general. So if evangelicals are prone to using this argument, then it does seem justified to spend the time to refute it.

Lok said...

Anonymous@3:44 PM

You made some good points; however, I have to say I disagree with many of your objection.

You said "notice the way the word “philosophy” is being used in this post" and then bring our attention to a particular claim made by Troy. It's funny that you talk about straw later on; because you are exactly making one. Just look at these quotes from Troy's post

"If you raise philosophical objections to their faith"; and
"Therefore, philosophical objections to the Christian message and the Bible are foolish."


It is obvious that Troy is not talking about philosophy in general, but philosophy that objects the Christian teaching. It seems that if there is anyone who is generalizing philosophy as anti-theistic, it's Paul and Christians who believe in Paul; because it is Paul who uses this term indiscriminately.

"Your post implies that this is somehow built into Christianity (hence quoting the Bible). Its not. That is why another poster said it was a straw man. There is a difference between attacking Christianity and attacking something that many Christian believe."

I agree, as I did in my previous comment, that it would be a strawman if the circular arguments are not inherent in Christianity, but I disagree that it is not implied in the Bible. I quoted another passages where the implication is much stronger. I don't want to repeat myself, if please read my comment @ 3:14AM.

"To be intellectually honest, one should attack the best arguments and best defenders of a position not the worst. Attack Aquinas and Augustine...."

I don't know. It seems you are the one who is making a straw-man. First off, it is obvious that Troy is not trying to debunk Christianity as a whole in this one tiny post. The first thing Troy writes was "say the word philosophy to most conservative or fundamentalist Christians ." To debunk Christianity is objective of this blog, of which every post is a part. Following your logic then the every post here is a straw man because none of them would be sufficient, by itself, to debunk Christianity. Troy wants to point out that there are Christians who like to use certain kinds of circular arguments and he points out that it is a problem inherent in the Bible. To criticize him, stop shifting the focus by saying he is making a straw-man and show us why these Scriptures don't encourage circular reasoning.


"Third, you need to do a bit more exegesis. What is Paul referring to when he references “philosophy?.....Paul was referring to a certain type of Greek quasi-religious philosophy.” I don't see how it is a problem with Troy's point here.

(1) Let's grant you that Paul is referring some sort of "proto-Gnosticism." Even if Paul is referring to just them, so what? it actually supports Troy's point; because Paul has never offered a genuine philosophical argument against the Gnostics. Why the Gnostics was wrong? The argument he used to refute the Gnostics is pretty the same as Troy points out: I am right and they are wrong; therefore you should listen to me, who is right.

(2) Is there proof that Paul is hostile toward JUST the Proto-Gnostic ? Again, look the the passage that Troy quoted: "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" With these general terms that would apply to Xenophanes to Aristotle to Heropohilus, is it plausible to suppose that Paul is talking JUST about the Proto-Gnostics?

mrieder said...

Troy,

Is it your intent to degrade Christians or to show them the error of their ways? If the answer is the former, how does that fit in with your system of morality? If the latter, do you really think this is the best way? I do not intend this to be an argument against atheism or for Christianity, I am simply curious about your motives.

Matt R.

Lynda said...

What I find more objectionable than the use of these verses by gullible and brainwashed Christians, is the type of god in which they have decided to believe.

Read that part of the verse again that goes: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Now think about what kind of god this portrays.

Why would any loving god destroy wisdom? Why would any caring god frustrate intelligence? This is what makes no sense. If one were an "intelligent designer", an all-knowing god wouldn't one try to cooperate with intelligence and inspire wisdom rather than frustrate and destroy it? Honestly, can anyone make any sense whatsoever of this type of god?

Troy Waller said...

Reply to Matt...

I think my motives are a little more complex than the two options you have given me. Nevertheless, let me try to nut it out for you.

Is it your intent to degrade Christians...?

While I was certainly trying to show the silliness of the logic employed by some Christians, I don't know if I was intentionally trying to degrade anyone. That being said, perhaps I was. You see Matt, it was people who thought like this who also tend to be strong on holding themselves and others back from self-discovery, self-expression and an exploration of the folly of faith. So perhaps, without being entirely conscious of it, I was in fact, degrading those kinds of people. Now that you make me aware of it, I can see my attitude to these kinds of poeple is glaringly obvious to anyone who read my post.

If the answer is the former, how does that fit in with your system of morality?

Well, I think in the realm of ideas, nothing is necessarily sacred. Showing the foolishness of a method of denial sits just fine by me.

or to show them the error of their ways?

There's a bit of that but this forum is not the place for that really is it? People who post here have already walked away and those who come to respond by comment are usually quite confident in their supporting or opposing position. If a Christian comes to this website and is encouraged to do further reading and question his or her faith then that's great. The Christian faith deserves to be questioned. But noone is going to be convinced by this website alone.

So no, I don't think my motive is to convince Christians. If that was my motive I would be debating harder other places online, and I am not. More, I like to spell out my reasons for why I 'walked away' and why I 'stay away'. This is the purpose of my personal blog on faithlessness.

Here's a 'motive' you didn't offer, but I put to you. In some ways I see this forum as a place for ex-Chrsitians to float their ideas and prespectives on the faith. It can be purely an inellectual exercise at times and at other times it can be a cathartic way of unpacking some old thought processes and figuring out some new ones. Putting those out for others to comment and give their objections or support. I think it is actually quite healthy (most of the time).

I hope this answers your questions.

TROY

Rich said...

As I read through the verses you posted here it becomes evident to me that Paul is speaking of Christ and specifically of the prophecy's that he would suffer and die for the sins of the world. Up until this point in time there where obviously many philosiphers and scholars who challenged these prophecys. Its already been pointed out that there are philosophers who are both for and against religion today, I don't think it hard to believe that this has been the same throughout time. This scripture is not meant to say that philosophy is foolish, that is too broad a conclusion to reach here. The intent to me here is that Paul wants to point out that the phrophecys of the cross had been fulfilled. That Christ did come and the world knew him not. One big misunderstanding of the time was that Christ was to come and wipe out the enemy of Israel, be this great warrior to free them once and for all. They were looking for the second coming of Christ to happen before the first. To come and rule over the world and abolish all other kings. They missed the part about Christ coming to suffer for our sin and make salvation possible.

Anyway for anyone to take this passage and say that it is telling religions to avoid philosophy as a whole is missing the point of the text. Although I believe that it is saying that philosophy against the true gospel of Christ will be shown to be foolish is accurate. Also just because christians or mormons that you interact with don't have the answers you seek doesn't mean that there are no answers. While I don't know what proofs of the book of mormon you actual were discussing, it sounds like they made an attempt to give you things from outside the book of mormon, like you wanted, but maybe didn't know enough to give you what you were looking for.

Lynda said...

just because christians or mormons that you interact with don't have the answers you seek doesn't mean that there are no answers.

When an atheist asks a christian to support their claims with evidence and logical arguments (i.e. that the scriptures they purport to be authoritative have some concrete external support) they ought to have answers providing that evidence. If they are not able to give logical reasons for believing in their holy book then they must believe in that book without knowing why they themselves do believe. Everyone who expects to provide the Bible as proof of their dogma must know why that book is an authority. If they don't, they should keep their mouths shut.

Rich said...

I don't think that every case comes down to logic as much as it comes down to preference. I do believe that you are correct in saying christians should be prepared to answer for why the believe in the bible. My logical conclusions may not be your logical conclusions but then who is to say which of us is right? Many long discussion like this that will maybe never be resolved.

My point wasn't wether or not a person should be able to give reasons but wether or not they themselves are at a point of knowledge where they can.

SocietyVs said...

"Rather, it is telling that only gullible, desperate people are going to accept it, and the writers anticipated this." (Adam S)

In some senses the argument is accurate - actually people that were/are desperate in conditions of poverty love this faith. Maybe Paul is making the claim on that fact - whereas someone in a lower class in life might not have the education of the rich - which Jesus also resonated with. Also those people that are poor need some help in life - and Jesus and Paul did what they could. No amount of intellect is going to make starvation better.

Anonymous said...

I think that passage is talking about worldly wisdom. It's refering to people that try to use logic and philosophy in an improper manner to try and debunk christianity instead of using it the proper way God intended us to to use it to try and give an answer for the hope we have.

Troy Waller said...

Reply to Anonymous...

I think that passage is talking about worldly wisdom. It's refering to people that try to use logic and philosophy in an improper manner to try and debunk christianity instead of using it the proper way God intended us to to use it to try and give an answer for the hope we have.

Well that settles it then doesn't it. John, pack up the blog, it's all over. The Christians win. ;P

Krystalline Apostate said...

Troy:
Love the pic. Makes me think of that episode of the Simpsons, where Homer fantasizes about taking a 'dirt nap'.
St Paul seems to preempt opposition, but as someone who was always keen to share the gospel, I felt he did it pretty unconvincingly.
No doubt he was fuming at the Greeks in Athens, who called him a 'babbler', would be my guess.

beth said...

Have you ever stopped to think that there is really no such thing as an atheist? To be adamant that there is no God, you must know everything that there is to know. You must have 100 percent of all the knowledge of everything in the universe. Let's assume you have 1 percent (which would be high for the average person) of all knowledge. That means that you do not know 99 percent of all the things there are to know, so you are really agnostic, because you dont know if there is a God because you cannot know everything.

Also, I find it hard to believe that you dont believe that everything has a maker. What if I showed you my home - it is made of bricks and mortar, but then I told you that no one made it - it just appeared here by accident. That's unbelieveable - just like its unbelieveable that the earth and everything and everyone on it just appeared here by accident.

Troy Waller said...

Reply to Beth...

To be adamant that there is no God, you must know everything that there is to know.

I am an Agnostic so I'll let the Atheists defend their position in detail. But I think your argument is flawed in that if you turn it back on yourself then you cannot be a Theist. What don't you know that would undermine your belief? ;p

Also, I find it hard to believe that you dont believe that everything has a maker. What if I showed you my home - it is made of bricks and mortar, but then I told you that no one made it - it just appeared here by accident. That's unbelieveable - just like its unbelieveable that the earth and everything and everyone on it just appeared here by accident.

OK, not a new argument. It is the argument from design or the teleological argument.

Here's the flaw or catch in that one.

1. The complexity of the universe demonstrates a designer or creator.

2. To create such a complex universe, the creator must be far more complex.

3. A far more complex being than the universe must therefore demonstrate the need for a more complex designer and so on and so on.

But Christians stop the process at God. Why? Because they just do. But the problem of design has not been solved.

If you can say, "God always was and needs no designer" then why can't an Atheistt or Agnostic say the same but of the universe or existence? The difference between you and the Atheist is simply the point at which you say 'stop here'.

So, in a nutshell, if you choose to hold on to your argument then it leaves room for someone to say that their 'god' created your 'god' who created the universe.

Selah...

Anonymous said...

Design pressuposes a designer

Anonymous said...

GOOOOOOOOOOD BLOG..! :)

WWJD said...

This passage is actually quoted several times in the bible and obviously can be construed or misconstrued in any way that the reader sees fit. Yes, to the believer it is an encouraging thing to see when the world and their science and theories are all against you, you can draw upon The Word and see that at some point your defence will be upheld. From the other side, for the unbeliever, it can be seen as a broad statement made to cover the bases of those who believe, trying to knock down or refute any opposition to Christianity.

This passage does not necessarily mean that all Christians will be right and all unbelievers will be wrong. In my opinion it is not this cut and dry. I believe that every person living will be "frustrated" by the God of Wonders. In reality we are so small and insignificant in this world that the little knowledge we possess will be struck down at some point.[Just like we have struck down our own knowledge on this earth continually over the passage of time. After all it was around a century ago that it was believed that everything that could be invented had been invented...we always overestimate our knowledge]. At some point in time, and again it is my opinion, that God will show himself and everything man has done to solidify itself as the one great being will be frustrated.

It takes faith to believe in God and all that He has done for us, just like it takes faith to believe in the evolution theories. In both cases not one of us was there to witness the creation or there when a single cell came to be the originator of every living thing in our world today. Faith is the currency of God. No one person is better or worse than the next but the one thing God sets apart one man from the next is faith. "Faith is being sure of what you do not know and certain of what you cannot see". Whether you have faith in your life and what you can do for yourself or faith in a God that can do everything for everyone and infinitely more is up to you. Call it my ultimate insurance policy, my crutch, my very existence, or whatever you may but I have faith in God and the worlds saviour Jesus Christ. An all too known and all too forgotten passage is John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that whomsoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life".

If we can put faith in God and believe in Him then He is willing to forgive every sin of yours and mine and invite us into eternal tranquility with Him. That to me goes against every instinct and every fibre in my body but, I know at some point he will destroy the little wisdom I possess and show me His promise.