1 Corinthians 1-2 and Neutrality

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church explaining that when he visited them, he did not use secular rhetorical techniques or think in secular ways or impart secular wisdom (1 Cor 1-2), but rather he imparted words “taught by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13 ESV). He explains that Christians have the mind of Christ, and so they can understand spiritual and theological themes; whereas, the secular person is left to their own natural cognitive devices, and so cannot understand the things of God. Paul refutes the “godless intellectualism”[1] that was being promoted in Corinth. The people of Corinth were overly fixated on human wisdom and the wisdom of the world, and they became culturally arrogant and addicted to power, wealth, style and sophistication. Thus, when Paul preached to them the message of Christ crucified, some considered it folly because the truth of the cross cannot be grasped by the best of human thinking or rhetorical strength, but it is received as a gift by faith and trust.[2] Paul did not compromise the gospel message by changing it to the whims and tastes of the secular Corinthians because that would be to follow the expectations of fallen and sinful humanity.[3]

According to Greg Bahnsen, any philosophy that submits to worldly wisdom or human tradition, instead of Christ, is vain deception and futile in its deductions. All wisdom and knowledge is from God and is located in Christ, and so humanity’s knowledge of the truth is contingent on God’s eternal knowledge.[4] Thus, Christians should root their thinking in Christ and submit “to his epistemic lordship rather than the thought patterns of apostate pseudo-wisdom.”[5] Bahnsen explains that the scriptures present God’s words, and so they have absolute authority and are the ultimate criterion of wisdom and truth. Christians must commit to this presupposition rather than following the secular mindset of neutrality— “a nobody knows as yet attitude.”[6]

Secular thinkers will claim that a neutral mindset, while engaging in study, is the superior intellectual method. They argue that such a neutrality comes from their lack of presuppositions or precommitments. However, this type of “coming from nowhere and going nowhere but making things up as we go”[7] is a myth and a useless intellectual exercise. In reality, no one is neutral, all have thoughts and assumptions. Christians are not the only ones with epistemological presuppositions. “Even those who claim to be ‘detached’ are in reality, servants of hidden precommitments and presuppositions.”[8]

The neutrality mindset in rampant in the present culture, and so “to believe in the triune God of Scripture who speaks and acts in history requires an act of apostasy from the assumed creed of our age.”[9] Christians should ground themselves in scripture, and as they are confronted with new ideas, they will be in a position to critically evaluate those ideas. While engaging with ideas, Christians should not be afraid to pull back on the leash when ideas veer off in the wrong direction—that is, when they advocate neutrality or relativistic truth claims.[10]

[1] Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians. NIVAC, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 56. [2] John Polhill, “The Wisdom of God and Factionalism: 1 Corinthians 1-4,” RevExp 80 (1983): 330 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 57. [3] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, 1 Corinthians, (Wilmington, NC: Glazier, 1979), 14 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 56. [4] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith. (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), 23. [5] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 24. [6] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 4.[7] Michael S. Horton. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011) EPUB edition, Introduction, Part I. A. “Drama: The Greatest Story Ever Told.” [8] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction 5th ed. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), EPUB edition, Part II, ch. 5, “Commitment and Neutrality in Theology.” [9] Horton, Christian, Introduction, Part I. A. “Drama: The Greatest Story Ever Told.” [10]David K. Clark, To Know and Love God : Method for Theology (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2003), XXV.


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