Love That Jesus Calls the Weak

I want to be like Jonathan Edwards, don’t you? The guy was amazing. He was a polymath, an incomparable scholar, “probably the greatest America mind ever” (as they say). Writing a treatise on spiders was like a few rounds of Angry Birds to him. He was the pastor-theologian. A school president. A missionary to unreached peoples. A leader in a movement that changed America. He was a giant.

Paul Talks About Us

And then the Apostle Paul reminds us with the Corinthians: “not many of you” were wise or powerful or noble. “Not many of you.” It doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does to most of us.

Most of us don’t come to faith in Jesus with the intellectual respect of secular scholars. Most of our conversion stories don’t include anything close to a Nebuchadnezzer-like experience of boasting in our kingdom. Most of us weren’t born into noble families with financial freight and international influence. It doesn’t take any soul-searching to figure this out. Quite simply, we understand that Paul is talking to us.

Feeling Our Weakness

We understand that we’re weak. We’re weak and called by God and so we enter seminary for theological and pastoral training. Yet here’s the thing: we want to be trained, yes. To grow and to learn, yes — but it's not to become unweak.

1 Corinthians 1 can begin to make less sense to us. We learn dense theological truth, and fumble through the original languages, and consult high-level scholarship, and sign up for a Student Membership in ETS. We’re trying to get stronger. We either don’t feel very foolish in the way we’re able to dissect Edwards’s Essay on the Trinity, or perhaps we realize we’re so far off the map that we resent God making us the way he did. Why can't I be smarter! Forget Edwards, who cares?

Christ Crucified

Whichever we are, let’s come together, each with our own measure of faith assigned by God, and let’s love that Jesus calls the weak. Let’s love the biblical narrative: how Abraham embarrassed himself twice in the pseudo-sister incidents, how insignifcant Judah should have been, how Gideon was just Gideon, how David was the little one. . . .

That no matter how remarkable our giftings may be or how simple our understanding is, the message we proclaim is stupid to the world. Let us be known less for our strengths in academic rigor and more for how that rigor goes deeper in grasping what it means that a man was crucified to save the world.

Intellectual proficiency takes a back seat when our only hope is in what some call offensive, and others call folly.

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How to Stay Christian in Seminary:

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.