God’s Critique Of Worldly Wisdom


“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

Detail of the statue “Symbool van Wijsheid” (Symbol of wisdom) by Pieter d’Hont in 1943, but was placed in 1951, the Spinozabridge… Utrecht.


We see in the scriptures that God takes a rather dim view of what many call “wisdom.” Let us make clear at this point that God has nothing against real wisdom.  In fact, the Bible speaks a great deal about the true wisdom, which is necessarily a godly wisdom.  In James 3:17, we see the essence of this heavenly wisdom: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  Of course, all this sort of wisdom is considered foolishness by the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14).

In 1 Corinthians chapters one and two, the apostle Paul deals at some length with worldly wisdom.  He points out how man by all his wisdom could not know God (1 Cor. 1:21).  We remember that even the exceedingly “wise” Greeks remained ignorant of the true God (Acts 17:23), and went so far as to build a statue to this “unknown god.”

We see in Corinthians that God is determined to “destroy the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor.1:19).  There must be some good reasons for this divine determination.


The popular historian, Paul Johnson, reviews some of the lives of the world’s “wise men” in his book, Intellectuals. His information is quite shocking.  He mentions that over the past two hundred years there has been a great increase in the influence of these so-called “intellectuals.”  He points out how for the first time in history, and with great audacity, these worldly-wise men have arisen to mightily shape our modern world.  Let us consider just a few who have exerted the most influence upon us.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78).  He is probably the most influential of these “intellectuals.”  It is of note that Rousseau, like most we will mention, had a tragic family life. All his adult life he was prone to quarrel ferociously with virtually everyone he dealt with. He lied habitually, and on the back streets of Turin he often exposed his bare bottom to women. Johnson calls him a mentally sick person.

He dishonored his parents by showing absolutely no affection for them.  Concerning Therese, his mistress of thirty-three years, he remarked that he never felt a single glimmer of love for her.  When she bore a child he persuaded her to abandon the baby in order to save her “honor.”  The four other children she bore to him were treated in exactly the same manner.  His only love, Sophie d’Houdetot, long after his death, simply referred to him as an “interesting madman.”

Johnson remarks how Rousseau’s ideological offspring fared no better than his actual children and that by his thinking and writing he prepared the blueprint for the principal delusions of the twentieth century.

Karl Marx (1818-1883).  Although Marx presented himself as the hero of the working class, Johnson mentions that he never in his whole life visited a mill, factory, or other industrial workplace.  Later as the Communist League was being formed he made sure that all the working-class socialists were eliminated from positions of influence.

According to Johnson, Marx’s major work, Capital, is filled with discrepancies, distortions and errors.  His work reflects a disregard and even contempt for truth plus a fundamental failure to understand capitalism.  Johnson relates how its content compares with Marx’s own character: his taste for violence, appetite for power, inability to handle money and, his tendency to exploit those around him.

Like Rousseau, Marx quarreled with all his associates.  His life-style was particularly unhealthy in that he seldom took baths; he drank a lot and smoked heavily.  He never attempted to get a job but rather lived off his family and friends.  His mother once wished that her son would accumulate capital rather than merely writing about it.  Finally, it was his friend Engels who arose to support him and his family for the latter part of their lives.

Marx and his wife were once jailed as undesirable expatriates.  While in England, they were also set out on the street for non-payment of rent.  Their household goods were then sold to pay their many debts.  Marx’s children lived tragic lives and died tragic deaths, mostly by suicide.  Finally, during a very dark period of his family’s existence, Marx stooped to father a child through the faithful family servant, Lenchen.  The child was kept hidden lest the image of this “great revolutionary leader” be damaged.

For sure, Marx must take much of the credit for an estimated 83 million deaths world-wide due to the spread of international Communism.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980).  Sartre possessed a personal philosophy that later became known as existentialism.  His personal life, like so many of the so-called intellectuals, was despicable.  He was also notorious for not taking baths and was disgustingly dirty.  He was sexually promiscuous and on one occasion even maintained four mistresses at the same time.  One dangerous and well-known problem according to Johnson was that he also tended to seduce his female students.

In addition, Sartre could consume phenomenal amounts of both alcohol and barbiturates.  Yet, because he was a popular writer and a sort of high priest of many young people, his works received wide acclaim and distribution.  By the 1950s, Sartre’s ideas and his existentialism became much in vogue for the beatnik generation.

Johnson also describes him as the academic godfather of the numerous terrorist groups that began to arise in the late 1960s.  His work did much to inflame Africa and contribute to its many civil wars and murders.  Also, the hideous crimes committed in Cambodia and the death of possibly a third of that nation can be traced directly to his philosophy.


There are many more of these intellectuals but we do not have space to speak about them individually.  Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-89), who is thought by some to be the real architect of our godless era, spent the last ten years of his life insane and under the care of his sister.  Michal Fouchalt (1926-1984), perhaps most prominent of the three founders of Postmodernism, threw himself into the homosexual community in San Francisco and later died of AIDS.  Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), who won world fame as a philosopher and bellicose pacifist, seduced many women in his long career.  Johnson notes how he even seduced the young daughter of his Chicago host.  The Registrar of New York County once suggested publicly that Russell should be “tarred and feathered and driven out of the country.”  Obviously, these philosophers we have mentioned all championed a way of life that didn’t even work for them, much less for others.


We can now better understand why God will destroy the wisdom of the wise.  Yet, while the “intellectuals” press on in their folly, the meek and humble of the earth find and relish true wisdom. Yes, strangely it is part of God’s great wisdom to operate through the “foolishness” of the gospel and through so-called “foolish” people to change and save the world.  Paul says: “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”  Also in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 Paul says: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”

Thus the real wisdom is found in Jesus Christ who is called the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24) and “the truth of God” (Jn. 14:6).  It is God’s wisdom that proud and rebellious people accept his gospel, repent of sin, come to the cross, and be saved.  We might add that the wisdom that comes from God, unlike the wisdom of the world, actually works for us in our daily lives. The meek of the earth have found this true wisdom and have rejoiced in it for ages.

                                                                                                                     -Jim Gerrish

Published 2004

Picture credit Wikimedia Commons