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Os Guinness explores roles of ‘fool-bearers’ & ‘fool-makers’

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–“If we intend to change our culture, we must become, like Christ, fool-bearers and fool-makers in our world,” Os Guinness, vice chairman and senior fellow of The Trinity Forum, told students at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

“To the people of his day, Jesus was the ultimate fool-bearer,” who bore “the shame and the guilt and the ridicule of the cross. We must be willing to be fool-bearers like Christ,” said Guinness, a leading Christian apologist.

But Jesus also was a fool-maker, employing the perfect means of persuasion to help his hearers understand the “foolishness” of God’s wisdom, Guinness said.

“In a crazy world, God’s wisdom has to subvert [in] that way,” he said. “Jesus helped people see the true folly of their thinking, and he often did it in the same way that a court jester makes his points, or in the way that the great humanist Erasmus did in his ‘Praise of Folly.'”

The Bible cited three kinds of fools, Guinness said in his message at Golden Gate’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus Nov. 21.

“First, there is the fool proper — the person who, despite all the relativity of folly and heroism in the world, is truly a fool because God says so,” Guinness said, adding, “We should never be this type of fool.”

Second is the fool-bearer, Guinness said. “The prophets were often ridiculed as fools. Paul was a fool-bearer for the sake of the gospel. And Jesus was of course the ultimate example of one who became a ‘fool,’ at least in the eyes of the world.

“The third kind of fool we find in Scripture is the one who is a fool-maker. When Nathan confronted David with his sins of adultery and murder, he showed David to have been a fool. Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal showed them to be fools. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead showed the establishment to be fools.

“My friends, we need to be that kind of fool-bearer and fool-maker in our world if we want to see our culture transformed,” Guinness said.

The great challenge facing the Western church today, he said, is its lack of persuasive power. The Western church (the church in Europe and America) is adept at contextualizing, justifying and converting various people to the gospel, but it is sorely deficient at persuasion, he said, exhorting the students and faculty to take their cues from Jesus when it came to persuasion.

“Jesus was of course the best communicator,” he said. “He made his communication relative to his audience. Jesus never spoke the same way to two people. When his listener was open, Jesus was simple and straightforward, because he knew that they would receive such statements. When his audience was doubtful, Jesus asked questions. Questions have two advantages over statements: they are indirect, and they get the hearer involved.

“Jesus also used reversals, such as the Beatitudes. We need to do the same. People find out you are a Christian and they immediately put you in a box. Your subversive tactic is to blow out of that box. Americans have heard the cliches enough.”

Guinness explained two other methods of persuasion biblical characters used: parables, which add the element of the imagination, and dramatic ploy, such as Elijah’s calling down of fire upon the altar. The use of such persuasive and sometimes subversive tactics, he said, is not manipulation, but simply helping people see the truth for themselves.

“When Jesus referred to the hypocrites who prayed loudly on the street corners ‘in order to be seen by men,’ he didn’t expressly accuse the Pharisees standing at the back of the crowd,” Guinness said. “But the Pharisees knew exactly who he was talking about — they saw the truth for themselves because Jesus persuaded them to see it, not because he manipulated them into seeing it.”

Guinness asked the students and faculty, “Are we prepared to be fool-makers for our Lord to reach our world for him?”

Guinness is the author of “The American Hour,” “The Call,” “Time for Truth” and “Long Journey Home.” His work with the Washington-area Trinity Forum is focused on bridging the gap between academic knowledge and popular knowledge, particularly in matters of public policy.

Guinness answered questions at a luncheon following the chapel service, responding to queries about such topics as New Age religions, the house church movement in China and the need for reaching cultural gatekeepers.

“Change in modern society is brought about by gatekeepers,” Guinness said. “There was an anti-slavery movement in Britain before Wilberforce, but it wasn’t truly effective until Wilberforce put his own political and cultural power behind it. Gatekeepers effect change. I would challenge you to choose 10 gatekeepers or leaders you will pray for regularly, because they are impacting your culture.”

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  • Amanda Phifer