Holy Fool’s Talk

We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!

  • 1 Corinthians 4:10

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

  • Titus 3:3-11

I thought, “These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.

  • Jeremiah 5:4

Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:

  • Jeremiah 5:21

“The idea of the holy fool has a long tradition in the West, dating all the way back to Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he asks his followers to be ‘fools for Christ’s sake.’ Throughout the Middle Ages this idea was developed into the popular cultural figure of the saint or sage who was foolish or lacked intelligence, but who was morally good or pure.
“In his book
Minima Moralia, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno calls into question this long tradition. He is suspicious of attempts to (as he puts it) ‘absolve and beatify the blockhead’, and wants to make the case that goodness involves our entire being, both our feeling and our understanding.
“The problem with the idea of the holy fool, Adorno says, is that it divides us into different parts, and in doing so makes us incapable of acting judiciously at all. In reality, judgement is measured by the extent to which we manage to make feeling and understanding cohere. Adorno’s view implies that evil acts are not just failures of feeling, but also failures of intelligence and understanding.  Adorno was a member of the Frankfurt School, a group of philosophers who were interested in the development of capitalism.  He condemned forms of communication such as television and radio, claiming that these have led to the erosion of both intelligence and feeling, and to a decline in the ability to make moral choices and judgements. If we choose to switch off our brains by watching blockbuster movies (insofar as we can choose at all, given the prevailing cultural conditions in which we live), for Adorno, this is a moral choice. Popular culture, he believes, not only makes us stupid; it also makes us unable to act morally.
“Adorno believes that the opposite error to that of imagining that there might be such a thing as a holy fool is imagining that we can judge on intelligence alone, without emotion. This might happen in a court of law; judges have been known to instruct the jury to put all emotion to one side, so that they can come to a cool and measured decision. But in Adorno’s view, we can no more make wise judgements by abandoning emotion than we can by abandoning intelligence.
“When the last trace of emotion has been driven out of our thinking, Adorno writes, we are left with nothing to think about, and the idea that intelligence might benefit ‘from the decay of the emotions’ is simply mistaken. For this reason Adorno believes that the sciences, which are a form of knowledge that do not make reference to our emotions, have, like popular culture, had a dehumanizing effect upon us.
Unexpectedly, it may in fact be the sciences that will ultimately demonstrate the wisdom of Adorno’s central concerns about the severing of intelligence and feeling. Since the 1990s, scientists such as Antonio Damasio have studied emotions and the brain, providing increasing evidence of the many mechanisms by which emotions guide decision-making. So if we are to judge wisely or even to judge at all, we must employ both emotion and intelligence.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) is a philosopher that I would like to study more in depth.  There are two thoughts here.  One is the prevailing thought that Christians do not think or have no capacity for thought.  I might not be perfect or altogether intellectual all the time, but I hope that these posts exhibit thought as well as making people think.

The holy fool is an oxymoron when considering the Biblical definition of fool, someone who does not believe in Christ.  Thus that is not what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 4.  We are to be totally committed.  Odd that we can be totally committed to a wager that we make on a ball game, and no one considers you a fool, but if you totally commit to Jesus then you are a holy fool.

Os Guinness wrote in his book, Fool’s Talk, about how the atmosphere in the secular world gets more and more hostile toward Christians.  Yet, to understand the intricate aspects and layers of the Christian faith, a strong intellect is required – not for salvation, but for a deeper meaning in some aspects.

But there is another topic here and that is the blend of emotional intelligence and intellectual intelligence.  To discern justly, we need to use both our intellect and our feelings.

This could be a natural progression from the first idea.  We need to realize that a Christian can be very intelligent.  We need to know that to unlock the deep truths of our world, we must plumb of intellects to its depths.  And in making just decisions we need to engage our knowledge and our feelings.

But often feelings can go a different direction from our beliefs.  We still have a sin nature.  We can tap into our feelings without running our decision past the Biblical way of looking at a particular topic.

In that aspect, this important aspect of feelings must be addressed.  We must adhere to God’s moral code in making those decisions.

Hopefully, that is what Adorno meant when stating that a just decision requires our intellect and our feelings.  The emotions tell us that our heart is satisfied in this decision and part of out intellectual process is to run the decision past Biblical truth and God’s moral code.  In doing both, I do not know about others, but my feelings would get tied into a knot if I intellectually saw the decision getting into or even close to the edge of a gray area.  My feeling would cause my intellect to try to find a better or more just decision.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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