Thursday, March 16, 2023

Sophia? Not so much

Contrary to the reductive way sin is often spoken of in regular discourse, the Pauline epistles evidence not one but three complexly intertwined ways of speaking about what sin is. It is, first, a cosmic condition, an inescapable fact about the (broken) structure of the world in which humans emerge and out of which they cannot extract themselves (see Rom 8:18-26). It is, second, a description of certain behaviors, dispositions, or acts that contravene the moral order of Gods law—“sins” (see Rom 7:5), “trespasses” (see Rom 5:14; Gal 3:19), or “transgressions" (see Rom 5:16–18; 11:11–12). And it is, third, a power (see Rom 7:7–25), something that can, it seems, act within the world, seizing even the best that life can offer to its own destructive purposes.

Precisely because of its multifaceted reality, sin’s reach is broad and its damage deep. What normally appears as wisdom, for example—the quintessence of the philosophical quest—turns out to be nothing of the kind. Foolishness, says Paul, is the real name for human Sophia in the sight of God. Standing the truth on its head, he tells the struggling church in Corinth that genuine wisdom is what looks like foolishness. “Where is the wise man? 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 … [and] we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:20–21). In short, Paul argues, sin blinds us, and our quest for the wise life leads us to reject as foolishness that which is really wise, the crucifixion of Christ (1 Cor 1–3).—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 97

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