What is wisdom?

As a child in Sunday School we lustily sang the always boisterous song, “The Wise Man Built His House on the Rock and the Foolish Man …”. The song was acted out, and our favorite part was falling onto the floor. And we had no question which side we were on. I have no truck with the song; I do have to say, though, that the song made play out of what has to be seen as nightmare or celebration. The subject is so serious one has to think that the profundity of it all is extinguished in playful song. Allison calls the ending of the Sermon an “ominous parable.”

The Sermon on the Mount closes with a summons to follow Jesus and a warning of the consequences. The “wise” person hears the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (all of them) and practices them; the “foolish” person hears the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (all of them) and does not practice them. Wisdom, according to Jesus, is to follow him. The Ego of it all is revealing: either Jesus is the Lord who alters BC into AD, or he is (what CS Lewis called) a lunatic or a liar. The “I am the Bread” and “I am the Way, the truth and the life” is all here in the Sermon on the Mount.
Let me return to Kevin Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine: theological truths are not simply propositions to believe but a “script” to be “dramatized” by God’s good people. In other words, the gospel is both proclamation and performance: in fact, the gospel’s proclamation is only fully accomplished in performance. Jesus is saying the same thing: “doers” is his word.
Sin, for Jesus, is not like that of the gnostics or the Platonists of his day: sin cannot be reduced to ideas nor can wisdom be reduced to ideas. Sin is hyper-relational, and that means wisdom is also hyper-relational. We are summoned by Jesus to live his words, not just to learn them and love them — but to live them by loving God and loving others as missional people.
This summons of Jesus however is not law: it is relationship. We are to live with Jesus, and living with him embraces us with God’s grace, and that grace transforms us, and it empowers us to be agents of grace in this world. We live out embracing grace, gracious Christianity, and a generous orthodoxy. “Live out” is the point.
This has been a good series for me; a big thank you to all you readers.
My next series will be two parts: the Muslim view of Jesus and the Mormon view of Jesus.

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  • Duane Young

    Thank you, Teacher! Great series. It is always enjoyable when someone turns a jewel in the light and new facets appear. You made this jewel of a sermon sparkle in new ways.

  • Ben

    Thank you very much for a great series!

  • Thanks friends.

  • I add my thanks too! I wish I would have seen these things years ago.

  • Scot, I’m wondering. Lewis was/is widely regarded as a Platonist of a certain sort. What do you make of this comment, considering he was an eminently practical man (not just about ideas).

  • Kenny,
    Not sure to which “this comment” you are referring.

  • I simply meant to ask what you thought of the alleged tension between an Idealist Platonism (as sometimes espoused by Lewis), and the pragmatism of being ‘pastoral’. That Jesus’ view of sin was tangible, whereas a Platonist might suggest that wrong actions stem from lack of knowledge. Sorry for my lack of clarity there.

  • Kenny,
    Since I’m not expert on Lewis, I’m not quite sure what to say. Jesus wasn’t a Platonist, though, and neither was he (thankfully) Aristotelian, which means I don’t have to focus on those two Greek men of letters.