The Folly of the Fool (7)
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” Matthew 12.28, 29
The ultimate Fact
From the examples of Jesus and Paul, we see that it is possible to answer the fool according to his folly – his false premises and shaky reasoning – without falling into the trap of accommodating the Gospel to the reasoning frameworks of wrong-believing worldviews. We can answer the fool according to his folly, without becoming snared in reason, so that some of our wrong-believing friend’s confidence in his own views may be called into question, if not undermined.
Only the grace of God, operating by His Word and Spirit, can bring new life to dead souls. Reason rightly employed can create an avenue for grace, but grace comes only at God’s pleasure, according to His timing.
Jesus used three lines of defense in answering the fools of His day. At each step of His response, He reasoned with them to help them see, first, that their explanation of Him and His work was riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. Their worldview was constructed on false reasoning and betrayed a foundation of folly. He invited them to consider whether their explanations were reasonable, whether they made sense; and by His own use of reason, He exposed the folly of their conclusions.
Next, He demonstrated, in a most reasonable manner, that their claims about Him – that He was in league with the devil – were incongruent with reality. They did not fit with their experience in the world. Would they say the same about their own exorcists? No. Their explanation of Jesus’ power was not congruent with the facts of how the world works. Their folly was again exposed by Jesus’ careful use of reason.
We saw that the apostle Paul, in his sermon on Mars Hill, followed a similar approach, challenging his hearers by reason to consider their practices and beliefs in a brighter light and from a different perspective.
Jesus’ final line of defense in answering the fools who were opposing Him was to point out that their worldview could not account for Him, given its own inconsistency and incongruency. He was right there in front of them, and He was not what they claimed Him to be. He had to be what He said He was, not what they claimed. They could not account for Him, and they must not ignore Him.
So likewise did Paul in Athens, pointing to Jesus as the only true way to know God.
Jesus is a fact for which wrong-believing worldviews can offer no credible account within the faulty framework of their foolish thinking. The fact of Jesus stands before every lie-based, flimsy, wrong-believing worldview as both a rebuke and a resource for hope. And we, having sanctified Jesus as Lord in our own hearts, must be ready to give an answer for the hope He gives us, with all gentleness and respect.
Not a true worldview
The worldview which Jesus’ detractors held up against Him was not comprehensive, and thus not a true worldview. On its own terms and from within its own framework of thought, it could neither reasonably nor effectively explain the phenomenon of Jesus Christ in terms that made sense. Jesus exposed the folly of their thinking, leaving them to stumble over their words with nothing left to say.
Jesus said that, to understand Him and His works, they would have to accept His claims, turning away from their folly to believe that what they were seeing in Him was a manifestation of a larger, more comprehensive, consistent, and congruent worldview – the Kingdom of God. Here was a worldview which, like their own, must be accepted by faith, not faith in men’s best ideas, but in the revelation of God in His Word.
To really understand Jesus and begin to account for Him, they would first have to put their faith in Jesus. They would have to repent of their wrong beliefs and receive Him on His terms, not theirs.
This left His detractors with two choices. Either they could accept what Jesus declared – the coming of the Kingdom, centered in Him and His redeeming and liberating work – as the real deal; or they could continue to stand stubbornly on what everyone present would have seen to be an unworkable, unreliable worldview.
For us and our conversations with wrong-believing friends, this means that we must come back to the beginning and explain once again what the Bible teaches about Jesus. We have been appointed as witnesses to Jesus. We must proclaim Jesus and we must live Him. This is not likely to persuade all those who are perhaps beginning to see the bankruptcy of their cherished but unexamined worldview; nevertheless, even getting this far has merit. It may open a crack in the ceiling of their “under the sun” worldview which can allow the light of truth to enter their souls, perhaps for the first time.
Leave ‘em questioning
We recall the instructive words of Michael Polanyi, about sowing doubts and unsettledness into the false worldviews of our wrong-believing friends: “Yet where the metaphysical believer cannot hope to convince, he may still strive to convert. Though powerless to argue with the nihilist, he may yet succeed in conveying to him the intimation of a mental satisfaction which is lacking; and this intimation may start in him a process of conversion” (emphasis added).
In the book of Acts, great numbers of those who opposed Jesus, even those who put Him to death, later came to be among His most devoted followers (cf. Acts 6.1-7). How did this happen?
Their conversion to Christ may have been incubated in just such situations as we have been exploring in this study, where the folly of their beliefs, lifestyle, and explanation of the world began to unravel as Jesus’ followers faithfully demonstrated and proclaimed the reality of His resurrection, bearing powerful witness through consistent lives of love and the bold witness to the Gospel. Over time, those first believers were able, by answering the fools of their day according to the folly of their unbelieving worldviews, to serve as agents of grace resulting in salvation in those who were being liberated to full and abundant life in Christ.
We must answer the fools, the wrong-believers, of our day, not on their own terms, but certainly according to their folly, and we must persevere in love and conversation. The Lord of the harvest will do what He will with the seeds we sow. Our responsibility is to speak and live the truth in love, and leave the work of conversion to the Lord.
1. We must not vaunt or rely on our own cleverness as we use reason to help people see Jesus as He truly is. Explain.
2. We’re not seeking to “triumph” over someone else or their views. What is our objective in answering the fool?
3. What should we expect as responses to our answering the fool according to his folly?
Next steps – Preparation: How should you prepare each day for the opportunities God will give you for showing and telling Jesus in your Personal Mission Field?
T. M. Moore
You can download this and all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here. For a series of discussions on improving your conversational skills, begin here in our Personal Mission Field Workshop to learn the art of Christian conversation.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.