In I Corinthians 1:20 the Apostle Paul asks a rhetorical question:
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (I Corinthians 1:20)
The answer to Paul’s question of “where are these people?” is: Not in church! These three groups of people are people who claim to be smarter and more intelligent than others, and yet they are so foolish that they are unable to grasp the basic, underlying truth of the universe: the gospel of Jesus Christ. These people are blinded by their own pride.
The wise person is someone who has figured out some truth by virtue of his own intellect or experience. This kind of person might be particularly knowledgeable in a specific field such as science, or law, or politics. They may have discovered a kind of truth. That is they might know the truth about how corrupt politicians behave, or they might know the truth about how certain chemical compounds react with other chemical compounds. But this truth is ultimately meaningless in light of eternity. This kind of learning is finite. What they need is a relationship with God. Unfortunately, their high opinion of their own intellect usually causes them to despise a relationship with God.
The teacher of the law is a Jewish scholar who has spent his life studying and preaching the Old Testament Torah. These people might be experts in the grammar and syntax of the original language, they might have all the regulations memorized, and yet they may still lack the humility to understand the greater principle of salvation by grace through faith which pervades the pages of the Old Testament. In the modern context I would include scholars of the New Testament in this criticism as well, or scholars of “Canon law.” The fact is that there are many people who spend their entire lives studying the primary and secondary religious writings of the judeo-Christian culture who are never smart enough to come to a saving relationship with Yahweh, creator of the universe.
Finally, a Philosopher is someone who questions everything. They think they are so smart in the way they flippantly tear down and discard other people’s world-views. But they have never been able to replace the things they destroy with anything edifying or particularly logical. Each philsopher’s work is destroyed by the next philosopher after him. There is no hope in Philosophy; just confusion.