First, let me clarify what I mean by knowledge. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” Merriam-Webster adds “the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning” to the meaning. Let me narrow those definitions slightly by referring to knowledge as a familiarity with truth and with the implications of that truth.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, the crisis I mentioned comes when we overvalue knowledge or when we undervalue knowledge. I’ll examine the first in this post, and the second at a later date.
“My goal is that…they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3, NIV)
The world at large often substitutes words like “educated” for knowledgeable. We esteem academia. If someone attends a renowned institution of higher learning, they are considered educated and whatever they say is considered truth. But not everything taught in institutions of higher learning is true. (Much of it is, but much of it isn’t. The same is true in public schools, churches, and blogs.) Therefore, people can become educated in something false, and therefore not have true knowledge. I can become intimately familiar (thus being educated) with the theory that the earth is flat. But that doesn’t make it true, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I am knowledgeable about the shape of our planet. Being educated does not mean that a person doesn’t have knowledge, but it is not an indicator that they have it either.
Genuine knowledge, therefore, is based on actual facts or truth. If you have an educated familiarity with something that is true, you have true knowledge. If you have an educated familiarity with something that is false, your knowledge is actually false, and thus not knowledge in the truest sense of the word. Defining what is true and what is false is obviously paramount, and when one is successful in doing so, one has gained true knowledge.
“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25, NIV)
The second danger in overvaluing knowledge comes when we think that knowledge—real, genuine knowledge based on truth—is the be all end all. As humans, we are limited in our knowledge. No matter how much you or I or we as the human race can learn, there will always be something we don’t know. We cannot have infinite knowledge. And we dare not make the mistake of thinking that what we don’t know doesn’t exist.
Yes, I’m talking about faith. The world has labeled faith and knowledge—or reason, or logic—to be mutually exclusive. That is not the case. The Christian faith—be it the resurrection of Christ or creation vs. evolution (which is another topic and blog post entirely)—while they do require varying degrees of faith, are supported by logic and reason. We tend to think that faith is like the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where in a desperate attempt to save his father, Indy has to step out in faith over a bottomless chasm. Only when he takes a leap of blind faith is he supported by a plank that was previously invisible. And sometimes, faith feels like that. But when we have a thorough knowledge, while some faith is still required, we realize that we are not asked to take a blind leap, but to trust that the plank we see before us is real and will hold us, based on the recountings of others who have crossed the plank, the mathematical calculations provided on the sign beside the cliff, and the word of the One who laid the plank in the first place.
This brings up a lot of individual issues and situations that, while important and valid and worthy of discussion, are not the focus of this post. The focus rather, is to point out how we overvalue knowledge when we seek knowledge not based on truth or when we categorize faith and knowledge as mutually exclusive.
In my next post, I’ll look at the dangers in undervaluing knowledge, which sadly, I find to be a more prevalent condition in Christian circles.