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1 Corinthians 1:25 reads:

1 Corinthians 1 (NIV)
25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

If Paul believed that God was omniscient and omnipotent I find his word choices quite odd. How can an omniscient God have any foolishness? Would not all His thoughts and actions be equally founded in Wisdom of the highest level? Likewise, how can an omnipotent God have any weakness? Would not all His abilities carry the same weight of the Almighty God?

So for those that hold the doctrines that God is omnipotent and omniscient how do they explain what this verse implies?

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I don't think this is supposed to mean God should be taken as foolish or weak. –  Jan Dvorak Aug 23 '13 at 19:32
    
@JanDvorak I don't think so either; it is obvious that by our own standards God can never seem weak or foolish. But what about His own standards? The verse implies that God can look back on what He has done and say it was foolish. The verse implies that God is changing, which is a concept that cannot exist for an omniscient, omnipotent God. –  fredsbend the Grinch Aug 23 '13 at 19:50
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Could it mean "whatever God's action appears foolish in human eyes, it is much wiser than anything a human could come up with"? That humans find something foolish doesn't mean it is. –  Jan Dvorak Aug 23 '13 at 19:54
    
I like the thought process, but I don't think its actually relevant. Paul's point is about the greatness of God over man - and he is using a metaphor to say that. Even if there were variation within God, his lowest would be higher than your best. Isa 55:8-9 is saying the exact same thing. –  Affable Geek Aug 23 '13 at 19:55
    
@JanDvorak I don't know. That's why I'm asking the question. I didn't think that it could be a text thing. If nothing turns up here I will ask it on the Hermeneutics site. –  fredsbend the Grinch Aug 23 '13 at 19:57

3 Answers 3

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Looking at the context, one can see that the weakness and foolishness are seemingly so from a perspective of Jews (for whom the weakness of the cross is a stumbling block--this seems to be implied in the mocking presented by the chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law in Matthew 27:41-43, that God would express his power by physically saving his servant) or Greeks (for whom the cross seems foolish).

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. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:21-24, NIV)

This can be further seen by how Paul goes on to explain that God chose the weak and foolish things in the world to shame the strong and the wise of this world.

The comparison is between the weakest and most foolish seeming thing--the Messiah crucified (which even Peter, after years of being a student of the Messiah, rejected as weak and foolish)--is greater than any worldly (or even diabolical) strength or wisdom.

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So are you saying it is a textual thing; that I might learn more on the Hermeneutics site? Are you saying that the verse should be read "For [what appears] foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and [what appears] weakness of God is stronger than human strength"? –  fredsbend the Grinch Aug 23 '13 at 20:19
    
@fredsbend I am saying that it is a more poetic/rhetorical use than a "scientific" use. I am not equipped to analyze the Greek text, but simply looking at the literary form of the translation one can see that this is a rhetorical form not the style of a mathematical or scientific text. It would be similar to saying "Yes, God is so weak and so foolish--so incompetent that he overcame sin and death at one stroke!" –  Paul A. Clayton Aug 23 '13 at 20:32
    
Okay. I can see that being a possibility. –  fredsbend the Grinch Aug 23 '13 at 21:19

Two possible explanations.

1. God appears foolish to men:

1 Corinthians 1:25 (New Life Version )

God’s plan looked foolish to men, but it is wiser than the best plans of men. God’s plan which may look weak is stronger than the strongest plans of men.

The very idea that we are all sinners and God Himself had to come down to earth in human form to die for our sins is foolishness to those who do not want to accept it. For example, Islam explicitly states that God will never take the form of human and the idea of God dying on the cross is foolishness. That's what exactly Paul said in verse 18, "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".

2. Metaphorical comparison of God and men: This verse may be read as follows -

Even if a slightly foolishness is found in God, it is still wiser than the highest wisdom of men.

Even if a slightly weakness is found in God, it is still stronger than the strongest of men.

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This verse is an excellent example of how certain elements of the Bible are not meant to be taken literally. St. Paul is using metaphorical language to convey the paradox of the Cross.

It is crucial to look at the broader context of this verse in order to correctly deduce what St Paul is teaching.

Notice the connection between verse 25 and verses 18-21:

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, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.”

Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. (1 Cor. 1:18-21)

St. Paul is catechizing the young Corinthian church in order to prepare them to effectively evangelize the pagan Greeks. We read in Acts Chapter 17 that St. Paul had addressed the Athenians at the Areopagus who were worshiping an “unknown God. “ The Greek philosophers of St. Paul’s day were very proud of their level of philosophical logic and reasoning, and were considered to be extremely “wise.”

One of the most effective ways to evangelize is to meet people where they are and lead them to where they need to be, which is Christ. St. Paul knew this, and was good at it. He was writing to the Corinthians in order to prepare them to go out and evangelize Corinth and the surrounding area. He was teaching that the Greeks would initially perceive the paradox of the Cross as at best foolishness, and at worst insanity.

The paradox of the Cross is, that in the eyes of the world, Christ's crucifixion symbolizes impotence and absurdity. Why would an omnipotent God allow himself to be brutally beaten and nailed to the worst torture device that was ever invented by the Romans? To the “wisest” of Greek philosophers this God would be absolutely foolish to do so. Perhaps the Greeks in Corinth would say about Christians, “These Christians are fools to believe in a defeated God – a God that couldn't even save himself from being crucified!” These insults were hurled at Jesus as he hung suffering on the Cross.

But the Corinthian Christians knew, as we do today, that when they received the Holy Spirit their entire world view was divinely changed. The worldly scales had been removed from their eyes, whether they were rich, poor, educated, or uneducated. They were infused with heavenly wisdom that only comes from above. This wisdom of Christianity inspires us to believe that perfect love empties itself completely in order to save.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8)

The wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit allows us to perceive an all loving God, one who is love, bleeding to death as the “Sacrificial Lamb" for the expiation of our sins.

All wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever (Sirach 1:1)

What St. Paul is metaphorically saying to the Corinthians, which still applies to our skeptical society today, is that from the outside looking in, Christianity is a paradox by nature. It is only from the inside looking out that a person sees the magnificent beauty of a Cathedral’s stained glass window.

St. Paul’s God might have initially seemed to be foolish and eccentric to the Greek philosophers’ listening at Areopagus. The 12 apostles chosen by Jesus to establish a Church and to evangelize the world were simple, uneducated, and obscure men. Their God (which is obviously the same God as St. Paul’s) might have initially seemed to be foolish and eccentric to the Jews and Gentiles at Pentecost. But in reality God’s “foolish” chosen ones were wiser than the world’s “wisest.

As stated above, St. Paul is not saying that God is foolish, but is metaphorically teaching that worldly wisdom is infinitely inferior to the wisdom of God. This verse should not be interpreted as literal.

St. John Chrysostom once preached a homily centered on this verse:

All these things, therefore, Paul bearing in mind, and being struck with astonishment, said that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men; in relation to the Cross, speaking of a folly and weakness, not real but apparent. For he is answering with respect unto the other party's opinion. For that which philosophers were not able by means of reasoning to accomplish, this, what seemed to be foolishness did excellently well. Which then is the wiser, he that persuades the many, or he that persuades few, or rather no one? He who persuades concerning the greatest points, or about matters which are nothing? (μηδὲν όντων Reg. ms. μη δεόντων Bened.) What great labors did Plato endure, and his followers, discoursing to us about a line, and an angle, and a point, and about numbers even and odd, and equal unto one another and unequal, and such-like spiderwebs; (for indeed those webs are not more useless to man's life than were these subjects;) and without doing good to any one great or small by their means, so he made an end of his life. How greatly did he labor, endeavoring to show that the soul was immortal!

See Homily 4 on First Corinthians

St. Thomas Aquinas weighed in on this subject roughly 1000 years later:

Then when he says, for the foolishness of God, he assigns the reason for what he had said and tells how something weak and foolish could be the power and wisdom of God, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men. As if to say: Something divine seems to be foolish, not because it lacks wisdom but because it transcends human wisdom. For men are wont to regard as foolish anything beyond their understanding: “Matters too great for human understanding have been shown you (Sir 3:23). And the weakness of God is stronger than men, because something in God is not called weak on account of a lack of strength but because it exceeds human power, just as He is called invisible, inasmuch as He transcends human sight: “Thou dost show thy strength when men doubt the completeness of thy power” (Wis 12:17). However, this could refer to the mystery of the incarnation, because that which is regarded as foolish and weak in God on the part of the nature He assumed transcends all wisdom and power: “Who is like to you among the strong, O Lord?” (Ex 15:11).

See Commentary On the First Epistle to the Corinthians

Better is one day in God’s court than thousands elsewhere.

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