Homilies | Posted 08.02.2017

“So that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.”

“So that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.”  (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Inscribed on the tomb of Karl Marx in London is his famous saying:  “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways.  The point is to change it.”   He was all too aware that endless discussions and theories about how things are merely produce descriptions of our world; they do nothing to alter it.

Ancient times were possibly the heyday of human thought concerning our world, and especially about the place of human persons within it.  For Plato and other great Greek Philosophers the human person was essentially a spirit dwelling in a body in the way that you and I live in a suit of clothes.  When a person dies they simply discard their body, which is a kind of burden, and then live on as their true selves, as their spirits which are not subject to death.  One modern follower of this school of thought claimed that he took his body for a walk in the same sense as a person takes a dog for a walk.  He is attached to his body, but does not need it.

All these notions, of course, do not make any difference; at best they describe the world, but as Marx pointed out, they do not change it.

Paul had had an experience which was no theory.  He had actually encountered Jesus the Nazarene alive, the man who had been crucified, and had died rejected.  Paul was forced to admit that this man had risen from the dead, and was now active and exercising power from on high.  This was no theory, this was an event; it had taken place, it had consequences, it altered history.

Let us be clear that the core conviction of the Christian religion, is that a real man, someone like you are I, had truly died, and this man had been raised by God from the tomb, given exalted status, and was now active beyond the grave.   It has huge implications.  It tells us about who this Jesus really is, and it lets us know that we too are to live beyond this life.  And as Paul was so keen to point out, this was an event that had happened; it is not some theory about an immortal soul.

And so Paul spent his life preaching to the cities and countries of the Mediterranean, explaining that in Jesus, and especially in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus lies the key to all human history.    In modern terms he was like a man who has suddenly discovered nuclear energy, and realises there is vast power lying all about him in the world.   So then, Paul had an overwhelming vision making him see the crucifixion of Christ as the transforming event of all time; something to which he had previously been blind.  His message must impact on us: the world has been changed; we do not merely interpret it.