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The Book of Proverbs and a Wisdomless Culture

It's fair to say that the book of Proverbs is little used today. Rarely is it studied or preached from. In contrast, my grandmother's small Gideon Bible has only the New Testament and Proverbs (along with the Psalms) – indicative of how important these texts were. One might think a small Bible would include Exodus (with Moses and the Law), or one of the prophets, but in prior decades the Proverbs and Psalms were chosen as especially important for Christian study. There was also a tendency in former generations to quote a Biblical proverb at an apt teaching moment.

In our current culture, narcissism and materialism dominate, while wisdom and virtue are mostly ignored. David Ford has mounted a push to restore Christian wisdom to theology and the church, but his is a lone voice. As Alasdair MacIntyre and then the Radical Orthodoxy theologians have argued, we are losing our language (and thus appetite) for the virtues and for a shared moral vision. We are left with various opinions, caucuses, entertainment, and consumerism, where we can get what we want when we want. Universities are becoming resort-ified, akin to nice resorts with terrific facilities and spas, and plagiarism is common. And yet, we are left to bowl alone.

In opposition to our larger culture is the book of Proverbs and its attempt to shrewd, wise, and virtuous. Wealth and success are worthy of pursuit and honor, but they are worthless in comparison with the life lived well. So, is there connection that we don't read Proverbs anymore, and we live in such a materialistic, narcissistic, and quick-to-cheat culture?

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