Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wisdom and Revelation

Today, Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection. Friends in New Zealand had already posted in Facebook “Jesus is risen” or “Christ is risen.” My response is partly “So what?” Not because I speak in disbelief but because like Keith Green, I want to say “Christ is risen from the dead but we can't even get out of bed.” What is the point of celebrating his resurrection if it makes no difference to the way that we live and work. Life will go on tomorrow as it did yesterday. This celebration will come again and make little difference unless we wake up to Christ's message to us and we begin to live it out on a daily basis. Christ rose from the dead and we need to stand up and live out his life amongst men.

I don't mean that we preach sin, repentance, and salvation but we live out “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We are Christ to this world; the shalom activist, who brings justice, peace, and equality to all of creation. Like Jesus, we bring release to captives (Luke 4:18), peace to the society (Matthew 5:9), and a challenge to the powerful. We need to be preaching new ways of living that are based on the Kingdom of God being in existence now and not simply calling for repentance and future salvation.

Behind this call lies the same tension as that is revealed in Job 4:12-21. How much of our call is based on the wisdom tradition and how much on revelation? God gives us insight to see things in a new way and through Jesus' resurrection to see that he is not bounded by the perceived rules of this world. If death could not hold him captive then why should we be held captive by human wisdom and rules. We need to break free of the shackles and learn to put God's way ahead of human created rules.

Gibson (1985) in his commentary on Job talks of how the wisdom movement “studied and deduced and observed, and did not need. Or so it thought, to look for guidance from on high” (p 39). Yet, as Gibson goes on to point out, revelation from God wasn't something just for the New Testament. Revelation played an important part in Israel's history. But it isn't revelation alone. Combined with revelation is careful study and a seeking of understanding.

The question is which takes precedence? Do we depend more on wisdom (study, deductions, and observation – I add peer review and critical evaluation) or do we allow revelation to guide our search for wisdom? I contend that in our search for wisdom, we can constrain our thoughts too much to what already exists and forget that we should be challenging existing wisdom.

My thoughts on this frequently come back to economics and the current recession. We will not solve the economic problems by holding fast to the current economic rules. I contend that we need to break the rules that create credit through the introduction of debt. However, credit cannot be created without limitations.

Governments need to use new measures to assess government spending and income. The way of filling the gap needs to be debt free credit but not an endless supply. The limit needs to be based on something other than desire. I contend that this has to be need, real need and not artificial need created by marketing campaigns and building for redundancy or waste.

Just to reinforce this last point, a digital camera is replaced by a new model every year (I brought my Canon EOS 300D on 2004 and since then there have been five new models). The iPhone and iPad have new releases annually. Our society seeks to upgrade with each new release but fails to ask what happens to the redundant models. We generate waste rather than meet genuine need.

We need to refocus our fundamental wisdom if we are to resolve this world's problems. Revelation and wisdom need to work together.


John C.L. Gibson (1985) Job, Edinburgh, The Saint Andrew Press.

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