The Death of Wisdom The Rise of Folly: Why We Must Care
by Dr. Arnold O. Thompson
Christian Faith Publishing

"If wisdom is anything, it is the pursuit for truth."

The clever literary conceit that wisdom is a passenger on the “train of time on a collision course with destiny” ignites this journey through a biblical landscape that earnestly exhorts travelers to keep wisdom alive “before we are all lost in our own folly.” Thompson, a long-time pastor and theological writer, tackles the spiritual problems of today with the metaphor of a runaway train hurtling through modern life, where wisdom takes a back seat.

Technology, money, raw power, and greed (folly) drive the train on this journey. Positive traits, such as human values and truth, are ignored, symbolically dying, and consigned to the rear. A sensible backseat driver, wisdom warns of a crash by those “blinded by their power and privilege.” Thompson takes over the narrative and asks if truth (wisdom) exists at all today, in the era of “‘fake news’ pushed by powerful political officials.” He quickly affirms that, yes, wisdom still exists, even if buried underground by a lack of common sense. Furthermore, wisdom constructed the train: “I, wisdom, was with the Lord when He began His work long before he made anything.” (Prov. 8:22 [NCV])

The personification of wisdom is a time-honored literary device used by writers as far back as Cicero, Homer, and Dante, and wisdom is often feminine. The ancient Romans and Greeks worshipped Minerva and Athena, respectively, the goddesses of wisdom. Other mythological females representing wisdom are Danu (Celtic), Benzaiten (Japanese), Isis (Egyptian), and Saraswati (Hindu). Using the feminine to represent wisdom is also a common religious or philosophical gambit, which Thompson uses well in this series of essays. He acknowledges that wisdom comes from God, is timeless, and is a “she.”

Various well-considered Bible passages anchor the theme of recognizing wisdom and rejecting folly, showcasing Thompson’s erudition. He quotes freely from the acknowledged biblical books of wisdom, including Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. He builds skillful bridges between the ancient texts and modern problems, likening the long-ago problems of kings, queens, prophets, parents, and educators to today’s struggles with leadership, role models, general societal disrespect, and child nurturing. Blending the Bible’s wisdom literature with that from the Torah, the Ten Commandments, the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Koran, and other writings, he provides a scriptural model for understanding wisdom. Building blocks include knowledge, intelligence, creativity, and the twelve steps to success passed down from father to son. Photos and diagrams help further understanding.

Personal anecdotes humanize the theological knowledge contained in the work. Born a Black man in Bermuda, Thompson attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and shares the pain of “sick theological arguments why people of color were inferior to the White race.” His experiences as a builder (like Jesus and Paul) of custom homes taught him the importance of “structural integrity” (wisdom). A boyhood love of nature taught him that God is in each blade of grass. Experiences as the last of eleven children instilled a belief that “regular and meaningful chores” cultivate everyday wisdom.

Thompson urges civilization to travel on the right train tracks, choose a good conductor, and slow down the journey. It should also recognize wisdom and restore her leadership. Scholarly attention to the lessons of the Bible keeps the train of knowledge on track. Personal proverbs from Thompson dock the engine at the end, with wisdom and truth restored to their rightful leads, well ahead of folly. Students of theology and Bible lovers will enjoy this guide to “What is truth?” just as Pontius Pilate famously asked in John 18:38.

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