3 Types of Fool

In his book Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, Os Guinness portrays three types of fools in the Bible: The Fool Proper, The Fool Bearer, and The Fool Maker. I found it a fascinating discussion.

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There are three types of fool in the Bible, and Erasmus restored the way of the third fool to recover the power of subversive persuasion in order to make his point. His point is crucial to our discussion, for the way of the third fool carries the power of the cross and contains the secret of creative persuasion that our Christian advocacy needs today.

The first type of fool in the Bible is the character that might be called the fool proper. … [T]here is one fool in the Bible whose folly is seen as absolutely foolish and who is pronounced a real fool—the person who is truly, objectively and actually a fool because God says so: the practical atheist who has no fear of the Lord and roundly refuses to acknowledge God in practice. …

[T]his first type of fool offers little help to us, except to stand as a warning sign to mark off a way of life that people of faith should avoid. …

The second type of fool in the Bible is quite different and takes us significantly closer to the secret of persuasion. This is the fool bearer, the person who is not actually a fool at all, but who is prepared to be seen and treated as a fool—the “fool for Christ’s sake.” [1 Corinthians 4:10] …

The apostles were anything but fools, but they were ready to be seen as fools and treated as fools. … On the great day that is coming, truth will be set right and they would be vindicated. But until then, Paul would gladly bear any derision and rejection that came his way so long as he was able to preach the gospel and remain true to his calling.

… Followers of Jesus who count the cost and are wiling to take up their crosses after him must have broad shoulders. …

If the specific words “fools for Christ’s sake” go back to Paul’s letter to Corinth, the idea of the fool bearer goes back earlier still. King David, for example, danced in public with such abandoned joy before the Lord that his own wife Michal thought he was a fool, and the prophet Jeremiah lamented that his stand for God had reduced him painfully to a laughing stock among his own people. Faithfulness in a fallen world carries a cost.

All these examples fade into insignificance beside the supreme fool bearer in the Scriptures. This is of course Jesus himself, when he was made a mock king. … Jesus was cruelly mocked before the highest religious leaders of his day, before the representatives of the best law of the day, and before the mightiest political and military power of his day.

This point leads us right to the third type of fool in the Bible—the fool maker. The fool maker is the person who (once again) is not a fool at all, but who is prepared to be seen and treated as a fool, so that from the position of derided folly, he or she may be able to bounce back and play the jester, addressing truth to power, pricking the balloons of the high and mighty, and telling the emperor that he has no clothes. This, says, Paul, is what God did on the cross. If Jesus was the supreme fool bearer, God is the supreme fool maker. …

It takes the full folly and weakness of the cross to find us out and win us back.