Beauty or the Grotesque: Women as Paths (& thoughts on the scoffer)

In some recent reading, I came across a passage illustrative of how pride and scoffing often go together. In the 100s A.D. and into the 3rd century, Christianity saw the rise of the apologists, those who rose to defend the reasonableness, the legitimacy, the truth of the Christian worldview. Men such as Justin, Quadratus, Aristides, Tertullian, and others God used to bear witness to the truth of the Scriptures and the biblical worldview and Christ as Lord amidst a polytheistic, pagan Roman Empire replete with Hellenistic philosophy and paganism. It was a time, in fact, very much like our own day in the sense that the Bible was tolerated in some spheres and absolutlely banished from other areas. As long as the Bible was not allowed to actually influence anything, the world system was fine with it.

And in my reading I came across this quote:

“Thus, the enmity against Chrstianity on the part of many cultured pagans was not a purely intellectual matter, but was deeply rooted in class prejudice. The cultured and sophisticated could not conceive the possibility that the Christian rabble could know a truth hidden to them. Their main objection was that Christianity was a religion of barbarians who derived their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but from Jews, a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers. If anything good is to be found in Jewish Scripture–they said–that is because the Jews copied it from the Greeks” (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1, The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1984), 51.

What the Word Says:

Put simply, some people–then as now–scoffed. The scoffer is nothing new in church history. Paul dealt with it head-on. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is a frontal assault on those who scoff:

For the word of the cross is folly 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 discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, ESV)

But the scoffer. Yes, as then, so now. Scoffers abide, but so does the truth of God.

What the Word Says:

A Couple of Women in Scripture: Proverbs is filled with characters: father and son, adulteress and adulterer, etc. But two of the main characters are women who are personified as Lady Wisdom an Lady Folly. Lady Wisdom, for example, is portrayed this way:

Does not wisdom call?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way,
    at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
    at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call,
    and my cry is to the children of man.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
    O fools, learn sense.
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
    and from my lips will come what is right,
for my mouth will utter truth;
    wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
    there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to him who understands,
    and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver,
    and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is better than jewels,
    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
    I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
    and nobles, all who govern justly.
17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
    enduring wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
    and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    in the paths of justice,
21 granting an inheritance to those who love me,
    and filling their treasuries. (Proverbs 8:1-21, ESV)

See the portrayal? Lady Wisdom calls out. She summons people to attend, to listen, to pay attention, to listen up.

But Lady Folly is around, too, casting her nets for all who are the fools:

The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:13-18, ESV)

And I love this truth bomb from Lady Wisdom: “all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36b, ESV).

See it? It’s the same thing as Paul was hammering–namely, that the scoffer, the fool, the one in love with folly … loves death.

Connections to Today:

When you look at the world today, there’s a lot of scoffing towards Christ, is there not? There’s a lot of mocking of the Christian church, is there not? There’s a lot of venom for traditional families, biblical values, Scripture’s teaching about male headship, about one man and one woman married covenantally and raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, etc. The list could go on and on. In sum, scoffers then and scoffers now. Any yet, God’s truth abides. Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly still call out. To whom will we attend?

Encouragement: Remember, dear Christian, when you are mocked, when the world’s systems haul you in, when they scoff at you, rejoice in that day. You are inheriting blessing. Press on.

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