Competing wisdoms


First published: 23 October 2014 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 16 February 2017 (GMT+10)

The Bible is a very binary book. It does not wallow in greys and pastels, but sets out the grand issues in bold black-and-white terms that demand of us a commitment, a response, leaving us no place for dithering. Jesus famously said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). There is no middle ground!

Paul told the Corinthians that his commission from Christ was “to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void” (1 Corinthians 1:17). This message would be seen as folly to those lost in their sin, but welcomed as the power of God by those whom He is saving (1 Corinthians 1:18–19). Thus the “wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20) is at loggerheads with the saving, Christ-centered, cross-centered “wisdom of God” (v. 21).

Paul sets up two competing wisdoms between which there can be no compromise. But he did not invent this state of affairs. In fact, this dichotomy goes back to nearly the beginning of Scripture. The first collision occurs in Genesis 3.

In Genesis 3, we witness the introduction of the world’s wisdom, as set forth by its first philosopher, Satan:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Notice the wily serpent’s stance: he is a created being (v. 1), talking to another created being about God, in the third person. By his very framing of the question, Satan has subtly moved God from being the sovereign and ever-present Lord who is owed devotion and obedience to being a topic, an object of debate. Satan speaks critically about God, calling God’s character and competence into question. He enlists Eve in this debate as a judge, with him, of God.

The assumption from the outset, then, is God is in the defendant’s seat. God is the accused. With that comes the companion assumption that we have the right, the ability, and the qualifications to be His judges.

Here Satan, first philosopher of the world’s wisdom, has found his first pupils in Eve and Adam. Remember God’s order:

  • God appointed Adam and Eve to rule creation. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
  • God appointed Adam to lead Eve. After Adam had been formed and tasked first (Genesis 2:5-8, 15-17), Eve was brought in as his complement, to help him (Genesis 2:18). Adam’s naming of Eve was a clear act of authority (Genesis 2:23; cf. v. 20).
  • Satan—using a creature’s body—goes to Eve to persuade her to lead Adam to rebel against God.

Worldly wisdom’s first lesson has five principles:

1. God’s WORD is insufficient

God had told Adam everything he needed to know about the tree in Genesis 2:16–17. All of Adam’s needs would be met by the other herbage; only this tree was forbidden and would be fatal to him. So Adam had both the moral guidance and the factual information he needed.

However, Satan says God did not speak fully nor truly. So far from dealing death, the tree would bring enlightenment, independence, power, and freedom. So in fact, what they most needed to know, God did not tell them—and what He did tell them was wrong. So they ‘need’ to look to another source.

Regardless of the topic, this is the world’s starting-point: the Word of God is both insufficient and unreliable. This applies whether we’re talking about morality (and especially sexuality) or science.

2. God’s WISDOM is uncompelling

It was God’s judgment that they did not need this fruit. But Satan insisted that he knew the real scoop, and had a better idea. If Eve really wanted to be wise, she would eat.

So Satan was calling Eve to set aside God’s wisdom, and to replace it with her own wisdom—which is to replace it with Satan’s wisdom. She must act on the basis of that wisdom instead of the wisdom of the Creator God.

So whatever Scripture might say about marriage, humanity, children, life, The Experts know better. We know better. But of course the result is spiritual, intellectual, and moral chaos. How else can we explain the recent German ethics council’s pronouncement that incest is a fundamental human right?1

3. God’s CHARACTER is dubious

Do you see what’s behind “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” It is an incredulous exclamation. Satan is saying:

“You have real needs, Eve. God is harsh and narrow, and does not care about your real needs. God is holding you back. I’m your true friend, and (unlike God) I want what’s really best for you!”

The serpent says that the Creator of all can’t be trusted to give His creatures what they need. We’re on our own—with a little help from our new ‘best friend forever’, Satan.

And so, for instance, the real reason God doesn’t want us indulging our every sexual whim is because He’s a spoil-sport. Whenever God says no to what I want to do, it is because He doesn’t want me to be happy. His word is insufficient to lead me to real joy. I must make my own way, following my own drives. According to the world’s wisdom, your heart will never steer you wrong—but God will.

4. God’s JUDGMENT is debatable

God says there will be judgment for transgression of His law. However, Satan knows better! Not only will violating God’s law not bring bad consequences; in truth, it will bring good consequences! Eve’s eyes would be opened, she would be like God, knowing good and evil … on her own terms.

The expression “good and evil” is a merism, a figure of speech that means picking out two poles of a concept and including everything in-between. To search ‘high and low’ is to search everywhere. So to know ‘good and evil’ would mean to know those two opposites, and everything in-between.

So it is the promise of autonomy, of being a rule unto myself. Eve would be her own moral judge. She would be able to size things up and come to her own conclusions, either independently of God or (as in this case) actually contrary to God’s judgment.

5. The only sufficient judge of reality is ME

Note Satan’s voice, his tone, if you will. He doesn’t overtly assert his authority or demand obedience—He simply assumes the position, speaks as the authority, and calls Eve to be her own authority. No reality-based syllogism could ever make a cogent case that the creature is wiser than its Creator; so the position simply has to be assumed and insisted on.

This is exactly what happens here in v. 6:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

This is a massive, tremendous revolution—and not a good one. By her thoughts and choices, Eve is saying

“I will set God aside. I will set God’s words aside. I will set the totality of God’s mind and judgment aside. I am free and right to do that. In His place, I will substitute my perception, my evaluation, and my judgment. Instead of God, there will be me.”

This is autonomy, and it is how it spreads: One sees, one takes, one eats…and then one gives. The sad history of Israel during the time of the Judges is twice summed up, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25).

The culmination of all this is the modern false gospel, the Gospel of Hollywood and everything else: we all must seek our own happiness by following our own hearts. What is the unspoken presumption of this false gospel?

  • God’s word is an insufficient guide to happiness.
  • God doesn’t really know or care what’s best for us.
  • What God thinks about reality just isn’t so; and
  • You and I are really the only ones who can say what’s right for us—not God!

This is the wisdom of the world. The specifics are just so many rhinestones on a cheap costume. The heart of all of it is: “I will be as god”—and we’re no more conscious of it than a catfish is of being in muddy water.

The problem

The problem with worldly wisdom is found back in the very first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God conceived, created, defined, rules, and judges all the universe. God alone is ultimate. Therefore, creation and all creatures (including us!) are derived and dependent

That is why Genesis 1:1 is the most offensive verse in the Bible. If this verse is true, then every premise and postulate of the world’s wisdom is a lie. This is why men respond in such fury against even the namby-pambiness of Intelligent Design. If there’s a Designer, then I am not ultimate—and if that is the case, everything collapses.

If we turn to the last pages of the Bible, we see this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21:1)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)

God is Lord, on His throne. He designed and created the original universe, which was ruined by sin. God will design and create the new heavens and new earth. So we see here: God’s words (not Satan’s, not ours) that are faithful and true, and God’s deeds (not Satan’s, not ours) that are final and determinative. Worldly wisdom is false, temporary, and doomed.

The solution

Our only hope lies in the wisdom of God, which centers in the cross of Jesus Christ. We must turn from the pipe-dream of our own ultimacy, bow before the ultimacy of the Lord God. It is only when we start from God’s ultimacy, and the sufficiency of His Word, that we have any hope of true wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).

References and notes

  1. Huggler, J., Incest a ‘fundamental right’, German committee says,, 24 September 2014. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Creation, Fall, Restoration
by Andrew S Kulikovsky
US $24.00
Soft Cover
Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Mike S.
Superb article, Dan, thank you so much.
In this world of 'fake news' and 'alternative facts'??
it is so heartening to have the real facts spelled out with uncompromising clarity. I really wonder what the response would be if all the serious national newspapers around God's world were to publish this article on their front pages. How about giving it a try? At the very least we would raise a hearty cheer from the Bible believers! Keep up the great work, CMI, we would be impoverished and weakened without you.
Kay C.
This piece is wonderful, not just in sound reasoning, but in absolute SCRIPTURAL TRUTH!
Oh, that this article was mandatory reading in all of this nation's educational institutions, whether elementary or college level!

Thank you! Blessings in Christ to each of you!
murk P.
That's how its done. Correctly dividing. Awesome. It is like a rare treat (sadly). When Eve listened to the second voice (Serpent) re: reality she compared the two views of reality. And decided to pick one. At this point it was to late. As the battle was not picking the correct one but the deception she bought was that she was qualified to pick. As if a branch can leave the tree and go shopping for another. the subtle deception was as you articulated in a different way, was undermining God and getting her to evaluate two opposing sides without getting her to realize that she was in effect attempting to be God. She thought she was judging who was sovereign over reality without realizing that taking this position required her to be. Subtle it is deception and this constituted the fall of man Since God is just He determined an overt act was required (as our law systems still do) Eating of the fruit. thank you for putting this out there
Richar G.
This is such an important article; showing the Great Significance of the Biblical account of our origins and how the world came to be created.

I know of no other book or religious text in history that provides such a clear answer to the questions of the origin of evil, and the reason for all the suffering in the world.

The fact of the matter is that we are stuck on the materialistic aspects of this world, not realising that we find our true meaning & purpose in the Spiritual working through the physical.

When Moses said (and Jesus affirmed) that man does not live by bread alone, but by Every Word That Proceeds out of The Mouth of The LORD (Deut 8:1-3) they were speaking to the very core of A Person (John 6:63). That is why the Greatest Commandment is to Love the Most High with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (Deut 6: 4-9, Matt 22:34-40).

Furthermore, Jesus stated that True Love towards GOD is to be found through exercising Faith in Him, Trust in GOD and Obedience to The Father's Will (Matt 7:21-28, John 14:15-24). After an extensive search for the Meaning & Purpose of our life - King Solomon reached the same conclusion! (Ecc 12:13-14).

We often here it said that we are "Creatures of Habit!" but in reality "We Are What We Think!" (Prov 23:7). Therefore, there's such an emphasis in the whole bible for believer to safeguard their hearts and minds (Phil 4:6-7), that we may be transformed by the Renewing of Our Minds (Rom 12:1-2) because we now have the Mind of Christ (The Anointing of God's Holy Spirit) - John 2: 20-27.

The Apostles made great store in highlighting the difference in behaviours between those who have the Wisdom of God and those who operate according to worldly wisdom. (James 4:13-18) And warned us not to love The World (1 John 2:15-17)
Brian M.
This is the best article on this sight yet. Absolutely loved it.
Patrick P.
It is interesting to note the admonition by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 (Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.) which warn us not to go beyond what is written. If all those who claim to be Christians heeded this admonition we would not have to contend with theist evolutionists and their ilk muddying the waters of creation.
Geoff C. W.
Ephesians 5:21 doesn't make sense if it's taken as meaning everyone should submit to everyone. Then we would have parents submitting to children, masters submitting to servants, police submitting to the public, etc. Given that that doesn't make sense, we should probably read that verse as being a summary of the context, saying 'all those in positions of submission should submit to those in authority over them'.
Johnny E.
Loved the article, it was solid exegesis, which makes the most sense if Genesis is taken as plainly written.

I enjoy TeamPyro's (pyromaniacs) work so I was excited to see Dan Phillips authoring an article on CMI.

I wonder if the most offensive verse in the Bible is Gen 1:1 though? Is there a case that John 14:6 is the most offensive?: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". I say so because people from Islamic, Jewish or vague deist may agree with Gen 1:1 but not John 14:6. Of course, John 14:6 rests on Gen 1:1 being true.

Clearly both verses are offensive to secular 'wisdom' however.

Thanks again CMI and Dan for a great article.
Jonathan W.
"The assumption from the outset, then, is God is in the defendant’s seat. God is the accused. With that comes the companion assumption that we have the right, the ability, and the qualifications to be His judges."

This was the primary reason I couldn't stand the movie God's Not Dead. While the acting and script were otherwise painful to endure, the student telling the class that God was on trial and they were the jury made it something I would encourage Christians to avoid. Thank you for the excellent article.
Michael R.
Thank you for your excellent article. We see these strategic attacks against God in all facets of life in the world we live in. Those of us with young children should take heed and prepare them for what they will face even in the earliest years of school.
Joel B.
Great article defining clearly the scriptural explanation of Gods order for man, woman, plants and animals and the "devil spin" presented in a fashion so as to entice without offense.
The same can be said for "intelligent design", good call on the "namby pambinas" as ID wants, for some reason, to make the clear teaching of scripture palatable to anyone who may struggle with the concept of "In the beginning God created..."
Keep it up, great job!
Maty T.
Simply excellent!

The human race lives in a universe God created, one of intricate design and beauty. The first humans, Adam and Eve were placed in it with the same beautiful design but asked to choose life over death, harmony with God over sin. We are the descendants of that choice our original parents made and live in a world that in large part is one Satan revels in because it's of his making. But God gave the ultimate sacrifice so His precious children would have that life option and live forever apart from Satan and his world. Our world simply follows Adam and Eves logic and reject God thereby embracing Satan and his evil ways.

The world is dying , never to be again and no amount of scientific discovery without God is going to stop it from dying. The victory over sin, death, and Satan has already been accomplished by the creator of everything. Anything less than this realization and acceptance is well, just foolhardy and laughable.
Ron G.
Best article I have read on CMI. Explains precisely how people think today and how they convince themselves they don't need God in their lives. Thank you
Anthony W.
The world is going mad! I looked up the article referred to in the, and as if that wasn't bad enough, my search for 'incest' turned up story after story of the shift towards acceptance of this act. There was even a story about an Australian judge who is under investigation for some very suspect comments on the issue. It shouldn't be surprising I guess, you can't cut off the root but keep enjoying the fruit.
Dr. Colin D. L.
You Asked for comments ! Well Mine is that this missive is BRILLIANT... The topic of "Why does God allow sin" is often handled with kid gloves. Plus "Original sin" is not as easy to pin down, in words for the general public, as one might think But; this missive is better than most. The most common thought I come across is "Well why didn't God simply make everything so sin did not exist in the first place". This missive gives as good an answer as I have come across so for. Thank you to who ever at CMI wrote it. Bless to all at CMI simply for being there. Cheers from Dr. Col Limore NSW. Baruch Haba B'Shem Adonai, Shalom.
Philip T.
I disagree with the statement: God appointed Adam to lead Eve. After Adam had been formed and tasked first (Genesis 2:5-8, 15-17), Eve was brought in as his complement, to help him (Genesis 2:18). Adam’s naming of Eve was a clear act of authority (Genesis 2:23; cf. v. 20).

If the order of creation gives authority, man would not have authority over the animals which precede him. If Eve being Adam's help implies authority, then David must also be in authority over the God Psalms 70:5. Adam did not give the name "Eve" until Genesis 3:20 not 2:23. This was after the fall and after God had said man and woman shall try to dominate each other Genesis 3:16.

My Bible say that we should all be "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:21
Lita Cosner
Philip, in Genesis 2:23, Adam named his wife 'Woman'. In 3:20, he named her "Eve". Naming is a clear act of authority; however you want to interpret this passage, it's not very egalitarian. Also, if you want to argue that the order of creation isn't important, you'll have to take that up with Paul (1 Timothy 2:13).

Ephesians 5:22 comes after 5:21, so however you're going to interpret the latter, it can't nullify the former.

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