I’m using Richard Hays’s brilliant commentary on 1 Corinthians this semester and am enjoying it immensely. This is Hays on Paul’s opposition of corrupted human wisdom vs. the shameful cross of Christ.
God, however, has revealed in Christ another kind of wisdom that radically subverts the wisdom of this world: God has chosen to save the world through the cross, through the shameful and powerless death of the crucified Messiah. If that shocking event is the revelation of the deepest truth about the character of God, then our whole way of seeing the world is turned upside down. Everything has to be reevaluated in light of the cross.
Our familiarity with “the cross” as a theme of Christian preaching may tend to obscure the astonishing imaginative power of this passage. Paul has taken the central event at the heart of the Christian story—the death of Jesus—and used it as the lens through which all human experience must be projected and thereby seen afresh. The cross becomes the starting point for an epistemological revolution. Thus, Paul provides the categories necessary for a fresh critical evaluation of divisions in the church and, more fundamentally, of our understanding of wisdom, power, and wealth. For anyone who grasps the paradoxical logic of this text, the world can never look the same again (p. 27).
The cross is the key to understanding reality in God’s new eschatological age. Consequently, to enter the symbolic world of the gospel is to undergo a conversion of the imagination, to see all values transformed by the foolish and weak death of Jesus on the cross (p. 31).