The Foolishness of Man

It is an obvious truth to anyone that has even a remotely acute sense of perception that we live in an increasingly technological world. The last century has seen more rapid advancement with regard to technology than all of the previous eras of human history combined. Such a swift expansion did not just affect one field of human life, or even several, but has manifested itself across postmodern society as a whole, to the point that it is virtually inescapable. Much like anything else, this technology can be used for good or for evil, to glorify the God of Heaven or to dishonor Him. Some of the dangers that come with an accelerated increase in technological accessibility are obvious, while others are more subtle, almost unnoticeable. Sometimes, it is these subtle dangers that can reveal the most about mankind in its fallen and corrupt condition. One such danger involves the spread of information.

We’ve all undoubtedly heard our fair share of conspiracy theories. In the “age of information,” it often seems that there is more false information passed around than genuine. While we could debate for time immeasurable on the cause(s) behind this rise of false information, what we seek to focus on here in this article is what it reveals about the natural state of man. And, with full disclosure at the forefront of the author’s mind, it becomes necessary to relay to the audience the basis of what likely seems an incredibly obscure topic. Conspiracy theories? What could this possibly have to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Several days ago, I had a conversation with a gentleman that turned out to be quite bizarre. What started off as a friendly conversation about the current state of foreign and domestic affairs quickly descended into a one-sided monologue (on the part of the gentleman) regarding strange and peculiar theories about who is really controlling things on the world stage. Fantastical nonsense of ancient races of shape-shifting extra-terrestrials who have total domination of the world was the domineering storyline for the remainder of the conversation. What I was almost immediately struck by, following the conversation’s downward spiral, was this individual’s absolute lack of regard for the fact that there is a sovereign God in heaven who is not surprised by a single event that ever occurs on this earth or in the cosmos.

Perhaps the most striking thing that this interaction pointed out to me was that the vast majority of individuals in the world today will believe anything except for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not a new feeling or observation, however. The Apostle Paul, when writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Corinthians, says this:

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. (1 Cor. 1:18)

We see here that for believers (“us who are being saved”), the Gospel (“word of the cross”) is the power of God, but to unbelievers (“those who are perishing”), it is foolishness. So, we recognize that the English word “folly,” translated from the Greek μωρία (mória), means “foolishness;” but what’s more, mória literally means “dull,” as in “lacking sharpness” (Strong’s Concordance, Gk 3472). If an object, idea, concept, or human is “dull,” it is another way of saying that it is not smart, that it is dumb…it makes no sense. We learn from this verse that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is utter nonsense to the unsaved, to those rejectors of Jesus Christ.

Pastor and renowned Bible-teacher John MacArthur comments on 1 Corinthians 1:18:

“Every person is either in the process of salvation (though not completed until the redemption of the body) or the process of destruction. One’s response to the cross of Christ determines which. To the Christ-rejectors who are in the process of being destroyed the gospel is nonsense. To those who are believers it is powerful wisdom.”

The logical question to ask after reading this verse would be, “Why is the Gospel foolishness to some and salvation to others? What is the difference between believers and unbelievers in this sense?” Many in our culture today would automatically default to the position that it is because of man’s supposed free and unbiased choice that some people believe and many never do. The broader evangelical church, especially in the southern United States, is infatuated with the idea of man having total autonomy, or control, in relation to his free will. The concept of free will is so highly esteemed in American culture today that in some churches it almost seems to be worshipped. Many popular evangelical leaders, and most American Christians today would heartily agree with the maxim, “God is sovereignly in control of everything…but man has free will to choose God.” Yet, a line of thinking such as this defies logic on the most basic of levels. Either God is sovereign over absolutely everything that comes to pass, including the will of sinful man, or He isn’t. In other words, either God is truly God, or He isn’t. It was the late Dr. R.C. Sproul who often said that if a single microscopic particle, one tiny, infinitesimal molecule is running loose outside of God’s control, then God is not God. This is what the concept of God’s sovereignty truly means!

So, we affirm that God is sovereign over the affairs of men, that God is in control of all that comes to pass, that not even one maverick molecule runs loose anywhere in the universe because we know that God is truly the Creator and Sustainer of the entire created medium (Job 38). What, however, does the holy Word of God say about man’s free will regarding his ability to choose to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What does the Bible say about man’s natural tendencies and ultimate moral capabilities?

The verses cited below by no means offer a comprehensive understanding of this concept; rather, they form a representative indication of what the Bible really says about man’s natural state:

  • The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14)
  • “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)              
  • “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13)
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

As stated before, this selection of verses is far from a comprehensive description of the entirety of the Biblical doctrine of radical corruption (total depravity). Instead, they are merely a sampling of what the Word of God has to say about man in his natural condition. In short, the Bible makes abundantly clear that man in his natural, unregenerate state is unable to come to God in and of and through himself; he must be regenerated by the sovereign work of the Spirit of God (Eph. 2, John 3). Man’s will is hopelessly bent toward sin and wickedness. Man has free will, but that will is free only insofar as it is “deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). It is not a neutral free will by any stretch of the imagination.

Where does that leave us then with the prompt that was initially put forward in this article regarding the propensity of people to believe anything besides the Gospel? First, we realize that salvation is completely of God; the Divine Initiative is applied to the elect of God through unmerited grace. We call it “unmerited” because if it were merited, it would no longer be grace (Eph. 2:8-9). It is impossible to deserve grace, which is the reason it’s called “grace”: it’s undeserved! That realization brings us to this point: even though salvation is completely based on the Divine Initiative, we are instructed time and again in Scripture to preach the Gospel to the nations (Matt. 10:7, 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; 2 Tim. 4:2). These are not merely suggestions but commands. We ARE to spread the gospel, telling those we meet of the person and work of Jesus Christ and His vicarious, substitutionary death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. We could sum it up basically like this: we can spread the seeds, but we cannot make them grow. That is the gift of God, totally, completely, and wholly. Therefore, we go forth, preaching the gospel indiscriminately, in all its power and fullness. And we come to the final understanding that the foolish and conspiratorial notions of men will ultimately be humbled and brought low before the mighty throne of Christ.

Thanks be to God.

Connor Knudsen

References

MacArthur, John (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Nelson New King James Version, 2nd Ed.

“Strong’s Greek 3472. Mória.” Strong’s Concordance, retrieved from Biblehub.com

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