The Voice of the Rooted and the Holy

(Spectrumbot) #1

The image of that little boy is rooted deeply in my mind's eye. He came from a broken home and if I remember right every sibling had been fathered by a different man. We, a group of young bible

workers working in Seattle, had taken him under our wing, which is why he was with us that Sabbath afternoon in the park. Somehow he sensed that it was nearly time to go and not wanting to go he began to slowly drift away from us. By the time someone called out to him to come back so that we could leave he was running at full tilt, his hands over his ears. And as he ran he was yelling out to us, “I can't hear you.”

I have often wondered what it was like to be that little guy—so many people in and out of his life, so little his taste of a steady presence, so little his experience of faithful love. He was growing up in a very broken world, growing up between the two voices, the voice of Lady Wisdom and the voice of Dame Folly. And the irony is that the human heart in such a situation tends to become impatient of constraint, running from the constraints that will lead to life and right into a seeming liberty that leads to bondage.

The miracle that this little boy needed, the miracle that all of us need, is that our hearts should begin to long after that one voice in such a way that we begin to follow after it at all costs, knowing that it is this voice alone which provides for us a true identity and pattern for our lives. There are two things that I see in this Proverbs passage that should be an aid in the development of such a determined pursuit: the fact that it is both a holy voice and a rooted voice that calls us to itself.

The Holy Voice

At some point, if we are to follow on to the end of the great salvation that has been given us, we have to come to a deep conviction regarding the value of the holy and a corresponding revulsion at the suggestions of all other voices. It is typical in a fallen context to regard the holy as somehow limiting, a dour stern attribute that removes from life all of its fun and keeps us from getting what we need. We must not, however, allow the voice of Dame Folly to define the holy for us. Lady Wisdom herself tells us the nature of her speaking. It is noble as opposed to degrading. It is right as opposed to wrong. It is true as opposed to false. Her lips are not even capable of given expression to that which is wicked. Her words are as straight as an arrow, without a hint of perversion in them. In a word, her words are holy.

Once again, we are surrounded with so many voices. But until we come to recognize the vital necessity of that one holy voice, we cannot be free. Jesus is such a wonderful example in this respect. Over the last few months I have been deeply impressed by the way in which His Father's voice was everything to Him. I see in Him such a deeply rooted allegiance. “Man shall not live by bread alone” he quotes, while suffering in the desert, “but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” And later, “The ruler of the world is coming, (Dame Folly), and he has nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, (the holy voice speaking), even so I do.” Here in Jesus is seen the deep conviction regarding the value of the holy. “I know,” He says in another place, “that His commandment is eternal life.”

What about us? Do we see through the promises of the seductress? With corruption surrounding us, with corruption fighting for toehold within us, have our hearts come to see the noble, the right, the true, and the pure as a great refuge, the only refuge in a world gone mad by spiritual adultery. Have we learned the meaning of “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Do we hunger and long for the voice of the holy? May God so grace us, I pray.

The Rooted Voice

It was the early 80's. The postmodern ethos was alive in the world, but largely confined to the halls of academia. Even then the pressure to see all religions as equal and none as privileged had begun to build. And so as I stepped on to the campus of Stanford University to spend a year there in Christian outreach I began to wrestle deeply with the question why I should urge people to become Christians? Why was this voice any more important than other voices? Why should it be listened to instead of the Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim voices, or for that matter the secular humanist voice? I wish I had space here to recount how this question was resolved for me. Suffice it to say that when the answer came it was of deep significance for me. Beyond this I will also say that though this passage in Proverbs was not at that time a part of the insightful moment, it witnesses unequivocally to the same reality, that the voice which addresses us through the Judeo-Christian prophets is a voice that has its origins prior to Creation. Its roots reach back before the world was, and its utterances gave shape to and marked everything that was made. See Proverbs 8:22-31.

This is significant. Prophetic truth is transcendent. It speaks to men of all cultures and all times, challenging the perspectives of time and place, stubbornly refusing to bend itself to them. Times and places are all post fall. This voice speaks from outside that reality. But, someone will protest, these very prophetic messages came in time and place. How then can they have escaped the “taint” of their contexts, the limitations of parochial cultures? This question, however, shows a misunderstanding of the nature of that speaking. The prophetic voice always comes as a challenge and a corrective to human cultures, including the culture that was the original receiver of its utterance. It did not come “through” Hebrew culture, but to and against it where necessary. It is an alien voice in this sense, but in that it speaks to the very conception of man and the essential patterns of his living it is communicable to all cultures in all times and places. The lines in this respect are very clear. If the assumptions of postmodernism are true than the prophetic faith is decimated and dead. We have nothing left to us but a fabric of human speculation and a disassociated “feeling” regarding truth. The door is thrown wide open to an undifferentiated spiritual world. Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly now speak as one, the difference between them lost in a sea of subjectivism and cultural limitation. The philosopher leads and the prophet trails behind. But this need not be. We need not bow to philosophical assertion, for our reference point is not philosophical but prophetic.

I am so glad that Lady Wisdom yet calls. He who has ears to hear let him hear. That holy voice, rooted in the very will of the world's Creator, speaks to us still. Listen to her testament. “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains the favor of the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

does one put a gender to wisdom and folly? Years ago there was a trend the the Presbyterian Church USA leadership was caught up in a gnostic movement with an emphasis upon Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom. That resulted in a major purge of leadership.

the still small voice one should heed, is the Holy Spirit that inspired the authors of the canon as we know it. Wisdom is rightly dividing the Word of Truth.One does not add or detract from Scripture in their search for Truth and wisdom. Tom Z

(jeremy) #3

to me, this is the distinguishing feature of true inspiration…ultimately, it comes as a challenge and corrective to our natural way of thinking and feeling…a person who heeds the prophetic voice, whether in the bible or egw, will progressively remove himself from real sympathy with the world that surrounds him…this has been, and will always be, the true test of discipleship, and fellowship with christ…

(Robert Wilcox) #4

Thomas, It is hard for me to know what to make of your comment. Are you implying that my article has gnostic leanings? Isn’t that really a bit ungenerous on your part? I was simply carrying across the metaphor that I find right in the passage itself. The pronouns she and her are found throughout the whole. Surely you are better acquainted with the use of metaphor then your response implies. Please help me know how I have added and detracted from scripture, if indeed I have done so.

Much regards,


(Steve Mga) #5

Not wanting to detract from the lesson by this thought.
The Hebrew scriptures tend to present God as Genderless. God is presented as Him/Her, She/He, Male/Female qualities and characteristics.
In the case of Wisdom God is presented as a Female calling to us, inviting our attention, inviting us in for entertainment and conversation, an invitation to talk about ourselves and our lives around a comfortable surrounding and hear wise responses to what we have to say.
When we leave, the invitation to return to her abode is given. We are welcome to return for more relaxed conversation in her pleasant environment, to unwind in conversation and company.
Wisdom is presented at various times as Mother, a dear Aunt, Grandmother, a wise Sister.
This seems to be the Gift of Proverbs.

(Graeme Sharrock) #6

In the deep part of our souls, in the place where we are no longer concerned about our creaturely needs or social approval, we hope for a significant and lasting connection to the wisdom, intelligence and compassion of the universe. It is with some satisfaction that we discover this depth dimension to our faith and tradition, to know and feel that " the voice which addresses us through the Judeo-Christian prophets is a voice that has its origins prior to Creation…"

The discovery of this depth of meaning, however, is not a resting place, not a moment of intellectual or theological congratulation. For the ancient Chinese found the same truth at the base of their religion, calling it the Way. This insight was condensed in Taoism as the Way . . .

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.”
― Lao Tzu

Whether Sophia for the Stoics, the Logos for the Platonists, or Chochmah for the Hebrews, this deep principle underlies all. This is a great meeting place for religion, science and philosophy.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #7

Sorry, I not attempting a put down but raising a warning, from an experience out of the past. The entire Episode I mentioned got it start from the same Scriptures. I should have made rhat clear, my apology. Tom Z

(Yoyo7th) #8

I have mentioned in SS class that Christianity is counter culture.
Christianity somewhat tamed the increasing depravity and barbarianism of Europe and as it spread ,the same characteristics of other lands.
But as Satan influenced and corrupted Christianity, by the clergy, into churchianity…the depravity came back

(Yoyo7th) #9

“What about us? Do we see through the promises of the seductress? With corruption surrounding us, with corruption fighting for toehold within us, have our hearts come to see the noble, the right, the true, and the pure as a great refuge, the only refuge in a world gone mad by spiritual adultery.”

Key input Robert.
The contrast continues from 6:23 through 9:18

On horizontal interpersonal relationships:

Ever since the fall of Adam the male has a tendency to put females before God…and females continued in the mode of Eve…being an “agent of Satan”

Proverbs give cues as to how males are unfaithful foolish perverts and
females will be dominating control freak nagging, shrew she-devils. (Gen 3:16)

On a vertical interpersonal relationship:

The church, due to rejecting wisdom is getting sidetracked on one side or another to embrace the “mother of harlots” in Rev 17.
It is going on now as the clergy dispense doctrine that presents God as being either hypo-involved or hyper involved in the affairs of humans.
Hypo which leans to deistic doctrine or hyper which leads to pantheistic doctrine.

Deistic leads to cynicism or neglect in interaction and pantheistic which leads to dysfunctional relationships due to overprotection or busybody nuisance.

I wonder how many see, as I do, how Satan has turned the cross into a curse. even .in the SDA church. There is a hint in this week’s SS quarterly lesson (Sunday)

Wisdom coming through the bible counters this (Rom 5:9 &10)

(Eric Webster) #10

Robert, I would just like to thank you for a beautiful article on Proverbs which you have submitted. It was so well written and the thoughts you expressed were spiritual and powerful. You moved my heart and mind in the right direction. And if anyone has a complaint concerning Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly you took this line of thought straight from Proverbs 8. Any problem should be directed to the writer of Proverbs. Thank you for your brilliant and spiritual presentation.

(Yoyo7th) #11

So many definitions for wisdom…so little time…
In the lesson for this week, it mentions how wisdom is truth…

try this…wisdom is understanding, thinking and living Godly principles.

(Robert Wilcox) #12

Thank you, Eric. The privilege of writing something is that it pushes you to think more deeply about a passage, to dwell in it and reflect upon it. I myself was blessed as I wrote by the same Spirit that blessed you as you read. Many times I bowed my head in prayer while writing, as truths came home to my heart. What a privilege to share together the Spirit’s tutelage!

(Robert Wilcox) #13

I understand, Thomas. You are right to fear the whole goddess of wisdom trajectory. I guess what surprised me is that I am as far from any leanings that direction as the east is from the west. In my mind the voice of wisdom is always and only the voice of God Himself. Perhaps it would have helped if I had not capitalized the words “lady” and “dame.” I did so simply for rhetorical emphasis.

(Yoyo7th) #14

I am thinking that God is reaching the depraved humans where they are at.

Contrasting the attraction of a harlot to that of wisdom…since infidelity and idolatry is so deeply ingrained in the genes.

(Robert Wilcox) #15

Graeme, It seems that you are pushing back a bit, (maybe a lot a bit) against the 2nd half of my article in which I am rejecting the late modern and postmodern commitment to comparitive religion and the idea, popularized by John Hicks, amongst others, that really in the end all religions and all perspectives share in the same Spirit. It is not that I don’t believe that the Spirit of God strives with all men in all places, He does. But that when you begin to look at each of these different faith traditions closely you have to take off your glasses and let everything blur slightly in order to argue that they are saying the same thing. In actual fact, untouched by the strong desire on the part of the researcher to see similarity, they are quite radically different. Even Platonism, which has mingled extensively with the Christian faith in the western tradition, is quite radically different in key respects from the message of the prophets. I would not say that there should be no thought given to the interface of different thought disciplines, science, philosophy, and scripture. But what I find disturbing is that so often when this effort is made the distinctives of Scripture end up getting swallowed up by the grounding assumptions of the other disciplines. One ends up with a philosophical god instead of the God of the scripture. Is it not true, after all, that those who pursue heartily the vision of the philosophical god end up diminishing and even rejecting various aspects of the God of the prophets? They abandon a plain reading of the scripture for a nuanced sophisticated reading which ultimately has as its interpretive foundation a philosophical point of reference which lies outside of the scripture, but which is allowed to hold an authoritative sway over the interpretation of scripture. Why is it that if the voice which speaks in all traditions is the same voice (your assumption if I have heard you right) that one expression of that voice has to keep correcting another expression of that voice. And why does that corrective seem to mostly flow against the voice of the Hebrew prophets when it does get applied instead of the other way around?

Forgive me if I have read too much into what you have said and help me see where I was mistaken.

Much regards,


(Graeme Sharrock) #16

Hi Robert, thanks for responding. Your essay is beautifully written, a trait is always gets my attention!

In my comments, I am broadening the conversation to ask about the depth dimension of all the great civilizational faiths. Isn’t it a natural question, given that we live in this world of many, and information is so freely available today? You will notice that I do not refer to or imply any common Spirit, or that they are the “same thing,” or “same voice,” or that any one voice is “correcting” another, etc. Thou protesteth too much! What should I say about your comments about these deep roots being “radically different”? Does that leave any room for comparative approaches?

If we prefer not to broaden the conversation, then perhaps I could ask some questions about the “roots” idea in your essay. 1. To you, is the wisdom tradition or the prophetic tradition the root? That was not clear to me, and you seem to conflate the two. (You speak about Wisdom, but is it the Prophets who extol wisdom in the OT, or poets and collectors of proverbs?) 2. What about the legal, is it a third? 3. Where is the “holy” itself rooted? (I’m sure you are familiar with Rudolph Otto on that one.)

I would very much appreciate these clarifications.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #17

going back to the story that introduced this essay. the fifth commandment is so critical in our ethos. it seems that the Ten are built upon two pillars. worship of our Creator and honor to our pro creators. That is why holy matriamony is so critical. a union of a man and woman in love with each other and with fidelity and worship of their Creator, Redeemer God. I was one so favored as was my wife. We are products of a Godly home. Thank God our three children reflect that nurture. Thank God for the testimony of His servants preserved through the ages and for scholarly sharing. Tom X

(Robert Wilcox) #18


To be open and honest, I don’t really see the point of communicating further. It seems to me that we are miles apart in our presuppositional framework and will only endlessly talk past each other. It is not that I cannot answer your questions or raise further questions about the statements you have made, but will it really help either of us?

If I was at a point of doubt regarding the perspective I have made my own, then perhaps I would be eager to talk and really hear your perspective. Or if you had begun to doubt that which you have embraced, then further dialogue would perhaps be helpful. But I don’t sense from either side that this is the situation. May God help us both on our journey home.


(Yoyo7th) #19

SDA’s will spend 13 weeks on Proverbs and toss around the word “Wisdom” several times.

Anyone have a pithy definition of Wisdom that they like?

(Thomas J Zwemer) #20

Paul Does in Romans 10: 2-4 Adventism, at least a dominate portion, hold to the Council of Trent view of being made Righteous rather that being declared righteous on the merits of acceptance of Christ 's Righteousness. I’ll give up my filthy rages for His garment any day. That is wisdom. Tom Z