Thursday, October 28, 2004

God and foolishness

Julie the ImpQueen writes:

i'm wondering about the "foolishness of God" and how it fits in with your current views on theism.. explanation, perhaps, for the suspension of logic, or what?

My pat answer to your question, which risks being smart-allecky (so I apologize in advance), is that if I don't conceive of God anthropomorphically (or have at least put the question of God's who-ness aside), it follows that I won't give much credence to the notion of a "foolish" God, any more than I would to the notion of a "wise" God.

The more respectful response to your question is to ask for clarification. I wish I knew my Bible better, but are you alluding to the Bible verse that goes something like, "God's foolishness is greater than human wisdom"*? If so, then I'd say the traditional theological answer would be something like:

The image of "God's foolishness" isn't meant to imply that God has foolish moments. It's simply an image to show the unreachably infinite character of God's wisdom. Far from suggesting that "God has lapses in judgement," it's saying something more like, "IF God were ever to have a lapse in judgement, his error(s) would STILL be infinitely more exalted than the best human wisdom could ever muster."

Caveat: different theologians will argue differently, and I personally don't agree with the above interpretation of the verse since I'm a nontheist.

You're doubtless aware that the various major traditions all have some version of the "holy fool," who's usually a person that somehow manifests the divine in a very unconventional (but nevertheless profound) way. Hinduism also has the concept of "lila," or divine play(fulness), something seen in the dice-game episode in the Mahabharata (a huge epic that includes a few chapters collectively known as the Bhagavad Gita). The Greek pantheon is positively dripping with cosmic goofiness. Whether the holy fool is himself/herself a manifestation of godly foolishness-- or simply manifesting the holy through his own foolishness-- is something for the thinker to chew over.

*Found it: 1 Corinthians 1:25, NRSV: "For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."


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