If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There Is No One To Hear It, How Do You Know It Made a Sound? Because the Squirrels go Crazy

“Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 2;6)

If they speak the “absurdities of their experiences” it might be said that they stayed too shallow for too long so as to mistake the bloopers for the movie itself.

This one, too, is a beaut, from the same chapter: “But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually.  However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” (2:14)

One gets to understand the other, but it does not work in reverse.

It is plain how “puffed up” they were by how the apostle leaned into them about the “wisdom” they appeared to be in love with:

“Let no one be seducing himself: If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own cunning.”  (18-19)

True today as well, surely. If the “wisdom of this world” was worth the digital bits taken to print it, wouldn’t the world that it has collectively produced have more to show for itself?

The wise ones ponder appreciably Plato’s description of reality, that we see only the shadow because of the head restraints. But the lowly ones, workmen to the core, say: “Why don’t they just invent tin shears to cut through the restraints so they can turn around the see the real thing? It is not too much different from how Lee Chugg responded to the learned question: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to observe it, how does one know that it really make a noise?”

“Because the squirrels go crazy!” he would shoot back.

“For behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame;  and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God. But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom; that it may be just as it is written: ‘He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.’” (1: 26-31)

The founders of the faith, the 12, were “unlettered and ordinary.” They always remained so. (Acts 4:13)

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The Apostle Meanders as Usual - or Does He?

The apostle writes, in chapter 8 of the first letter to the Corinthians, about not doing what one has every right to do so as not to stumble new or weak ones: 

“Now concerning foods offered to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up....we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one...Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  (8:2-8)

“He is still at it in chapter 10! Talk about long-winded!

“Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; but if anyone should say to you: “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience.  Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other person. (10:25-33)

But the chapter in between—he meanders off into something totally different! It’s his modus operandi—meandering all over about everything. Or does it only seem like he is meandering? 

Excerpts from the chapter in between, 9: “What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not partake of some of the milk of the flock?” (vs 7)

Nobody. They never do it.

“Am I saying these things from a human viewpoint? Or does not the Law also say these things?  For it is written in the Law was a of Moses: “You must not muzzle a bull when it is threshing out the grain.” Is it bulls that God is concerned about?” (8-9)

Well, I guess so. I mean, that’s what it says.

“Or is it actually for our sakes that he says it? It was really written for our sakes, because the man who plows and the man who threshes ought to do so in the hope of receiving a share.” (10)

Oh yeah, that’s right.

“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material support from you?  If other men have this rightful claim over you, do we not have it much more so?” (10-11)

It almost sounds like he is angling for a paycheck. Or is he?

“Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we are enduring all things so that we might not in any way hinder the good news about the Christ.” (12)

No, apparently not. He doesn’t in any way want to “hinder the good news about the Christ.”

“Do you not know that the men performing sacred duties eat the things of the temple, and that those regularly serving at the altar receive a share from the altar?  In this way, too, the Lord commanded for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news.” (13-14)

Wait. Now it seems like he is going back to a paycheck.

“But I have not made use of a single one of these provisions. Indeed, I have not written these things so that this would be done for me, for it would be better to die than—no man will take away my grounds for boasting!” (15)

No. I guess not. What does he mean about boasting?

“Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” (16)

Okay, it is not about the fact that he is preaching.

“If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but even if I do it against my will, I still have a stewardship entrusted to me.  What, then, is my reward? That when I declare the good news, I may offer the good news without cost, to avoid abusing my authority in the good news.” (17-18)

Is it that he does it without cost?

“For though I am free from all people, I have made myself the slave to all, so that I may gain as many people as possible.”

Looks that way. Slaves don’t pull down a paycheck, after all, and he has made himself one.

“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law.  To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law.  To the weak I became weak, in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.  But I do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others.” (20-23)

Okay. He does whatever he has to do to cater to those to whom he visits.

“Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.  Now everyone competing in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Of course, they do it to receive a crown that can perish, but we, one that does not perish.  Therefore, the way I am running is not aimlessly; the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air...” (24-26)

“but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (27)

It’s as though he says: “And you people are whining about food? Look at Barnabas and me.” So chapter 9 is not such a meandering after all. Rather, it is an example of how putting oneself out in a small way is nothing compared to putting oneself out in a large way, like he was doing.

It all comes together at the end: “even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” (10:33)

And—it is just me?—I cannot help but think of Hester Prynne, from The Scarlet Letter:

“It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society. The thought suffices them, without investing itself in the flesh and blood of action.”

Isn’t it? You don’t whine and cry over small things, as though these are the things by which you are defined. You do these things without fuss so as to focus on the big things. They are not at all in the same class. Even an accumulation of the small things does not equate to one of the big things. They are on different planes.

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More Corinthians here

 

 

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The Inspiration of the ‘Serenity Prayer’?

“Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Corinthians 7:21) 

I like this. Improve your circumstances if you have opportunity, but if not, don’t worry about it; it is not the overriding issue, because: “anyone in [the] Lord that was called when a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he that was called when a freeman is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men” 

as though THEIR arrangements were the meaningful ones. 

Seldom is there slavery today—it is illegal, but there are plenty of circumstances of economic slavery that are very hard on people. The verse is actually no more than the ‘Serenity prayer’ about changing what one can, accepting what one can’t, and being smart enough to know the difference. 

Perhaps it is even the inspiration for it.

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More Corinthians here

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‘Ruling as Kings Already Are You?’

“Some are puffed up as though I were in fact not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if Jehovah wills, and I shall get to know, not the speech of those who are puffed up, but [their] power.  For the kingdom of God [lies] not in speech, but in power.  What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and mildness of spirit?” 1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Let no one say that there is not authority in the Christian congregation. Paul was coming, and he was not going to be so easy hoing. He couldn’t just be blown off as a meddling outsider. He had some authority behind him. What other conclusion can one reach? This was an early stage of his wrestling with the “superfine apostles,” (2 Corinthians 11:5) comfortable local figures, “puffed up” over their Greek wisdom, probably, Corinth being a center of the culture. They wanted the apostle’s office but not his his work.

“You men already have your fill, do you? You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you? And I wish indeed that you had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with you as kings.  For it seems to me that God has put us the apostles last on exhibition as men appointed to death, because we have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.  We are fools because of Christ, but you are discreet in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are in good repute, but we are in dishonor.  Down to this very hour we continue to hunger and also to thirst and to be scantily clothed and to be knocked about and to be homeless  and to toil, working with our own hands. When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up;  when being defamed, we entreat; we have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.”  4:8-13

They were comfortable. They were established. They wanted to keep it that way. They were ruling as kings now. They didn’t want to wait for any “appointed time.” Next thing you know there will be no appointed time. They wanted nothing to do with the showtime Paul was advancing—the one of trudging “through the dust” (the root meaning of the Greek word translated “minister.”) They didn’t want dishonor, hunger, thirst, mistreatment. They certainly didn’t want anyone to regard them as “the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.”

Next thing you know they would be arranging a paycheck for themselves. Since they were eloquent, maybe they could arrange for the “less wise” members to PAY for their preaching before the congregation and become pewsitters, and both of them thereby imagine that they are fulfilling an obligation to God. No, it is not hard to imagine oneself seeing the beginnings of a separate clergy class. 

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"We Are Wise and Learned Adults, Far Too Clever to Be Sold Adam and Eve. What's Next - Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

I like the way Paul deliberately dialed back on the ‘wisdom.’ Most of his contemporaries would have had to because they didn’t have it. Not so Paul, who was highly educated, and could have gone toe to toe with these characters. He deliberately chose not to. 

And so I, when I came to you brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,  that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)

The upshot is that you treat a highly educated person pretty much like anyone else, with only minor adjustments. They just as much as anyone else, have no clue as to why there is suffering, why people die, what happens when they do, why governments suck & so forth. The explanation for them too will lie in discerning what "Jesus Christ, and him impaled" means in practical terms. People do not understand this. Even religious people, as they say to you "Christ died for our sins" are almost always unable to explain just how and why that works.

Show the high-brow people something about Adam & Eve from Genesis, for example, and there is no reason that you can not present it as a metaphor, its underlying message to be deciphered. Let me tell you, there are many people who will be intrigued, rise to the challenge, and even be flattered that you count them smart enough to figure it out. Whereas if you said from the get-go that it was all literal to people conditioned to reject the idea, you know what the reaction would be: “We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next? Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?”

Focus on the meaning of the account itself (Genesis 3:1-5) without regard to whether it is literal or not. Sometimes when people see how much sense something makes, they reappraise their initial assumptions. 

For a concise explanation of the subject itself, without regard for whether it is metaphor or not - in fact, taking for granted that it is not - I don't think you can do much better than the short clip presented on the JW website:

 

 

 

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