What is the value of knowing things? How does knowledge affect theology? Is it important that we know anything? Should knowledge be understood as being limited to only knowledge of God and the Bible?
1. Wisdom in the Bible
Wisdom is a theme which runs deep and wide throughout God's word. Perhaps the first thing which must be made clear is that in Old Testament thought, little, if any, distinction is made between the words "knowledge" and "wisdom". In modern thinking, at least for the educated, "wisdom" has the meaning of "applied knowledge". The dictionary defines it as the "ability to discern inner qualities and relationships" or "a wise attitude or course of action." Knowledge, on the other hand, is simply "accumulated information", without the implication of truly understanding and making use of it. Perhaps the distinction can best be illustrated with a story:
A little girl from the backwoods of West Virginia entered the first grade with no understanding of how to speak standard English. Her teacher, a woman educated at New York University, took upon herself the task of correcting this little girl's language. Weeks passed, but no improvement was apparent in her speech patterns. Exasperated, the teacher asked to speak with her briefly after school. "How is it," demanded the teacher, "that after all these weeks in school you still don't know how to speak decent English?"
"Oh, but I does know how," she said.
"Then why do you insist on talking like that?"
"You asked if I knows how. You didn't say nothin' 'bout speakin' how."
Now if the teacher and the little girl had been Hebrew speakers, there would have been no such misunderstanding. According to Hebrew thought, the little girl would not know how to speak standard English, since she doesn't do it. For the Hebrew mind-set of the Bible, all knowledge that is known is expressed, else it isn't known. Thus wisdom is the sum of a person's knowledge. In the Old Testament (as in the New), the value of knowing - of being wise - is of greatest value. Job 28 is a classic expression of this attitude:
There is a mine for silver
and a place where gold is refined.
Iron is taken from the earth,
and copper is smelted with ore.
Man puts an end to the darkness;
he searches the farthest recesses
for ore in the blackest darkness.
Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft,
in places forgotten by the foot of man;
far from men he dangles and sways.
The earth, from which food comes,
is transformed below as by fire;
sapphires come from its rocks,
and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
no falcon's eye has seen it.
Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion prowls there.
Man's hand assaults the flinty rock
and lays bare the roots of the mountains.
He tunnels through the rock;
his eyes see all its treasures.
He searches the sources of the rivers
and brings hidden things to light.
But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
Man does not comprehend its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, "It is not in me";
the sea says, "It is not with me."
It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed in silver.
It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
with precious onyx or sapphires.
Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
it cannot be bought with pure gold.
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eye of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say,
"Only a rumor of it has reached our ears."
God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to man,
"The fear of the Lord -
that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding."
Wisdom is described as an extremely valuable and desirable commodity, beyond compare or price. It is not an object which can be picked up at the corner dime store, nor something that can be mined out of the ocean depths (vs. 14). It is not something which can be located without help. Rather, wisdom is a gift of God. James writes:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
At the end of Job 28, in the last verse, it is recorded that "The fear of the Lord - that is wisdom; and to shun evil is understanding." Does this verse teach the Christian that the sum of knowledge and wisdom is the fear of God, or that all a person needs to know about is "Yahweh"? Probably not. Notice Proverbs 1:7:
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (emphasis added)
At least five passages in Proverbs associate wisdom with the fear of Yahweh (1:7, 29; 2:5; 8:12-14; and 15:33). Wisdom cannot exist apart from the source of wisdom. The first principle of wisdom is the fear of God. It is here that wisdom begins, and it is around this hub that all else revolves. But this fear of God in no way excludes the desire to know and gain knowledge of the universe around us. It is recorded in 1 Kings 3:7-13 that Solomon asked for wisdom. And God gave it to him. In 1 Kings 4:29- 34 his wisdom is described:
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite - wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
G. Can We Know Too Much?
In the world at large, and among many Christians in particular, a very peculiar dogma has arisen: "There are some things in the universe that people just shouldn't know, or shouldn't mess with." This dogma has been a theme in much popular literature, from Frankenstein to the latest horror movie. Item: An episode of Twilight Zone shown on CBS shortly after the Challenger disaster showed a scientist awakening in a distant future, in a time when machines are virtually outlawed. Instead, the mind is used to manipulate the world. But a danger has arisen that can be solved only by making use of the long forbidden nuclear weapons. The people of this time convince the scientist that an asteroid is approaching the Earth and will crash into it, and only a nuclear explosion can stop it. But at the last minute, when it is too late to stop, he discovers it is not an asteroid, but rather a spaceship filled with people from his own time. They are destroyed so that they cannot contaminate the world with the knowledge of nuclear weapons and other evil machines. He ultimately recognizes the "wisdom" of this, and approves.
A class in a small Christian college is dismayed at the thought of artificial insemination and genetic engineering. "We're playing God. It shouldn't be allowed."
A well-known tele-evangelist and his colleagues expressed dismay at the thought that students in some Christian colleges were taught to probe, question, and inquire about the Bible, and were exposed to more than one possible interpretation for a given passage. Shockingly, the students were actually taught to debate theological positions!
Why this fear of knowledge and free inquiry? Biblically, there is only one thing that the human race should never have known: sin. Outside of that, everything is permissible. God has never forbidden knowledge. Instead, the Bible - particularly the Old Testament - stresses the desirability of it. God doesn't want ignorance.
Yet, many think that if you know too much, you will then turn your back on God. After all, it is the scientists, and the theologians, and the colleges that are turning people away from God. "You know too much, and you'll deny God." Such thoughts are challenged by what Charles Dickens wrote in Christmas Carol:
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility...
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit! are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!"
How can a person know too much? Where does the Bible condemn wisdom and knowledge? How does a fear of knowing reconcile itself with Proverbs 1:22?
How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Or how do those who argue that we can know too much reconcile their anti-intellectualism with Proverbs 8:1-11?
Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gates leading into the city,
at the entrances, she cries aloud:
"To you, O men, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, gain understanding.
Listen, for I have worthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are faultless to those who have knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her...."
All the words of wisdom's mouth are just; to the discerning everything she says is right. To those who have knowledge, the ways of wisdom are faultless. Verses 34-36 go on to say:
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from Yahweh.
But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.
The Bible is unequivocal in stating that those who despise knowledge, who wish to remain ignorant, are fools on their way to death. Those anti-intellectuals teaching "Be-ware, lest you know too much", are fools. Don't think that it is only Bible knowledge that is in view in these passages. Solomon's wisdom is described not just in his fear for God, but in the practical matters of life, and in the esoteric matters of natural history: biology and botany. He was a man of letters and art. To think that for some reason God wants Christians to be ignorant, or that we are to be "uncultured barbarians" is certainly unscriptural and dangerous.
Daniel 1:17 records that "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning...." No limits were placed on what they could learn. They were good students, even in a pagan culture; they knew the literature of a polytheistic society. God never said "You don't want to learn about that; you can't know that." Instead, it says that God himself gave the knowledge and understanding for it. God is the source of learning and of knowledge, as the other verses have shown.
H. Wisdom and the Two Revelations of God
What anti-intellectuals sometimes forget is that God's revelation of himself is not limited to the Bible. Rather, his word makes clear that the natural world around us is also a revelation of himself:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Other passages dealing with natural revelation are Psalm 92:1-6 and Psalm 104. God's revelation is the universe around us just as much as the Bible. Everything should be open to study and learning, for in studying about the world around us we can also learn about God. Both the study of nature and the study of the Bible are legitimate and Christ-honoring goals for the Christian. An insatiable curiosity is a gift from God. No branch of knowledge is out-of-bounds. All can be used to the glory of God:
The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;...
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)
If we can maintain the attitude of submission to God, and at all times wish to bring honor and glory to him, then we needn't be afraid of knowledge - only its abuse. Atomic energy can power a city or destroy it. Genetic engineering can cure disease, produce NutrasweetTM, or it could be used to produce a deadly disease. In vitro fertilization makes it possible for childless couples to have children, or it can be used to build a Brave New World - a parentless society. But to oppose research from the fear of the possible evil to which it might be put is irresponsible. Genesis 1:26-28 records:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the Earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Genesis 2:15 records:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Notice Psalm 8:
O Yahweh, our Master,
how majestic is your name in all the Earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have
ordained praise because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the Moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you are mindful of him?
You made him a little lower than God
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Yahweh, our Master,
how majestic is your name in all the Earth!
That human beings "play God" should not be surprising, nor is it necessarily evil, since we are, after all, created in God's image. The world, according to the record of Genesis and Psalms, is ours. We are to subdue it, and rule it, and we are to rule the other living creatures of the planet. To do this right, it is necessary to fully understand all that God has made.
I. Secular vs. Religious
Perhaps one of the problems facing the anti-intellectuals of Christendom is the desire to separate life into the religious and the non-religious (don't confuse this with the question of separation of Church and State, which very clearly is a New Testament principle). We can thank the Middle Ages for much of this sort of thinking. From the Biblical perspective, all aspects of existence are essentially religious. One cannot escape from the presence or influence of God (cf. Jonah and Psalm 139). Whether awake or asleep, working or playing, everything is to be done for God (cf. Deut. 6 and Titus 1:15). Worship is not something done only on Sunday in a building called a church. Worship is something that can be done at all times, in any situation. Worshiping God involves doing what is right, doing the will of God (cf. Isaiah 1:15-17). In Deuteronomy 6:20 God commands human beings to work. Look at what the reformer John Calvin had to say about human labor:
It is to be remarked that the Lord commands every one of us, in all the actions of life, to regard his vocation. For he knows with what great disquietude the human mind is inflamed, with what desultory levity it is hurried hither and thither, and how insatiable is its ambition to grasp different things at once. Therefore, to prevent universal confusion from being produced by our folly and temerity, he has appointed to all their particular duties in different spheres of life. And that no one might rashly transgress the limits prescribed, he has styled such spheres of life vocations, or callings. Every individual's line of life, therefore, is, as it were, a post assigned to him by the Lord, that he may not wander about in uncertainty all his days...It is sufficient if we know that the principle and foundation of right conduct in every case is the vocation of the Lord, and that he who disregards it will never keep the right way in the duties of his station. He may sometimes, perhaps, achieve something apparently laudable; but however it may appear in the eyes of men, it will be rejected at the throne of God; besides which there will be no consistency between the various parts of life.
In Genesis 2:15 God told people to cultivate and care for the Garden of Eden. God also told Adam to name all the animals. It is reasonable to state that labor and the knowledge necessary to subdue the creation of God, is a holy calling from God. The whole created order was made by God for the use and pleasure of the human race, so as to bring glory to God. Therefore the universe is ours to study.
Your Word, O Yahweh, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the Earth,
and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have renewed my life.
Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
To all perfection I see a limit;
but your commands are boundless.
God's word stands firm in the heavens; it is his revelation to the human race, as much as the words of scripture.
J. What About Accommodation?
For many years, people looked at their world, and believed it to be flat, with edges over which they might fall. It is now known that the Earth is not flat, and that it is not possible to fall off the edge. The world is a sphere (roughly), and gravity pulls everything on the surface toward the center of that sphere. That we have come to this conclusion, altering the interpretation of the reality around us, does not speak ill of us. We have advanced and we know more. Scientists are not "reading into" the universe something odd that wasn't really there. They rather simply recognize what was there all along.
Likewise, when the Bible is reinterpreted, it is not an admission by the reinterpreters that there was something wrong with the text, nor does it mean that something is being "read into" it that is odd or wasn't there to begin with. It simply means that we recognize now what was there all along.
In the study of both revelations, advance is inevitable. We are ignorant; changes in the interpretation of the Bible are as inevitable, and no more dangerous, than changes in the interpretation of the universe around us.
Copernicus suspected that one source of potential opposition to his book, On The Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs, might come from Christians who perceived it as a challenge to the authority of Holy Writ. They would, he feared, confuse their interpretation of Scripture with what the Bible actually taught. We must be careful not to do this. Humility with the text is very important. Our interpretations are not God's word, and therefore they may or may not be an accurate reflection of scripture.
A practical example of a failure to understand what the Bible is and is not, and the difference between interpretation and reality, can be shown from a freshman college student's paper:
Evolutionists would seemingly view theistic evolution as 1) an admittance on the part of Christianity that the Bible is lacking in its explanation of man's existence and "needs help;" 2) since the Bible "needs help" in this area, it may, therefore, not be the inerrant stronghold that these same Christians claim it to be.
First, theistic evolution is based too much on supposition. The Bible does not allude to the long periods of time that evolution requires. For Christians to add to the facts presented - an act forbidden by God - gives all the more support to the evolutionists' bad habit of unsubstantiated linkages.
Secondly, as Lightner points out, theistic evolution is a concession to the evolutionists. This meeting in the middle might as well be printed on a banner with the phrase, "We really aren't sure that the Bible is as sound as it should be." Psalm 33:9, however, should be quite satisfying to any Christian who takes the Bible as God's absolute truth: He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.
It would take too much time to go into all the logical fallacies and misstatements contrary to fact in these three paragraphs. The main point to notice is the student's misperception of the Bible. She believes the Bible is complete revelation, rather than what it actually is: sufficient revelation. The Bible does not give us an exhaustive account of reality. It tells us simply what we need to know about God and his dealings with people - not all that we might want to know.
In this freshman's words, we can see an underlying fear of knowledge; she expresses the thought that if something is not in the Bible, then it is forbidden to us. There is also, quite evidently, a failure on her part to understand that what the Bible actually says and what our interpretation of it is, may not be identical. The theistic evolutionary viewpoint is not a "concession" to science (as if science were an enemy!), nor is it an admission of weakness: rather, it is simply an attempt to make sense of the biblical data as it relates to the data from natural revelation.
Certainly, we are free to disagree with theistic evolution, and we may argue (if that is how we feel) that it does not make good sense of the biblical or natural data; but it is not legitimate to condemn it as somehow traitorous to Christianity or to argue that it necessarily weakens or undermines the truth of the Bible.
K. Natural vs. Supernatural
About four hundred years before the time of Christ a philosopher named Plato (427 - 347 BC) developed a dualistic philosophy of the ideal and the real. He argued that mind had an independent reality, and that a distinction exists between the ideal object in the mind of God, and the reality we experience. In fact, Plato argues that the ideal in the mind of God is the only reality, with the objects of the material plane mere shadows by comparison.
As a result, Greek philosophy developed a deep distrust of matter and a corresponding love for the immaterial or spiritual. Then, since this Greek philosophy bore a superficial resemblance to their concepts of the spiritual, some Christians later accepted Platonism and incorporated it into their theological system. Thus, Gnosticism was ultimately born; it vilified the material as corrupt and sinful, in contrast to the spiritual which it saw as good and wonderful.
Though regarded as a heresy in many of its details, during the Middle Ages the Church came to accept the basic gnostic concept of a good spirit and bad matter as if it were divine truth. Not surprisingly, Christians increasingly came to emphasize the importance of the hereafter - to the denigration of the here and now. The practical out workings of this Gnosticism were the growing distinction made between work for the church and secular employment, the consequent separation between clergy and laity, and the development of monasticism. A wall had grown up between the realm of God and the realm of man. And only the realm of God really mattered. Then the Renaissance arrived.
With the Renaissance - the rebirth of humanity - the masses, but especially the elite, reacted at last against this otherworldliness in Christianity; but the impact of the rebirth of humanity on the Church was simply to increase the dichotomy between this world and the next - so much so that the subsequent abdication of the natural realm to the secularists became permanent in the Church. Christianity would content itself with the spiritual and mysterious workings of God. To the secularists could go the mundane things of the world.
The Reformation - which arrived at about the same time -was a reaction to theological faults in the medieval church and a rejection of the hierarchical church structure; the reformers recognized that all Christians were equal and that any employment could be God honoring; suddenly there ceased to be a value distinction - at least theoretically - between a pastor and, for instance, a farmer.
Unfortunately, this rejection of dualism during the Reformation went no further than the job market, and in the end even that small victory did not stick. The natural realm, though recognized as beautiful - and the here and now, though recognized as important, remained - fundamentally - separated from the "spiritual" realm.
As the split between the Church - whether Catholic or Protestant - and the secular world increased, the spiritual world lost ground and shrank. What had, in times past, been recognized as the mysterious workings of God, became relegated to the "mundane". Since science could explain what had previously been the hand of God in the world, it became acceptable to recognize that God, in reality, had nothing to do with the day-to-day functioning of the universe. Removal of "mystery" became the removal of deity. Increasingly it seemed that God was nowhere to be found.
Christians clung desperately to those few questions still without answers, but as those questions were answered, their footholds were lost. With the so called God-of-the-gaps theology in full bloom, the unknown was God only until it became known; after that, God wasn't there after all. The realm of God shrank, and with it, so did God.
What has happened? Today, religion and religious thought are relegated to a no man's land of mysticism and subjectivism, a place where God is somehow less than real, with an existence only as men define Him. Even conservative Christians, who hold to an inerrant scripture and believe in a born again experience, relegate miracles to the past, when "God was doing things differently than he does now" - a theological reaction to the shrinking of God's domain brought about by secularization and modernism, not biblical exegesis. Whether expressed or not, God's reality and power shrank to become nothing more than "God helps those who help themselves." Not surprisingly, some Christians - perhaps most - have become terrified of science and learning, fearing that the last few wisps of their faith are about to be forever yanked from under them when the last mysteries are explained and understood. Modern science looks out at the universe and finds little if any room for God, so small has He shrunk in the minds of Christians.
The fundamental flaw - or heresy, if you will - has been the separation (and the acceptance of this separation) of the natural and supernatural according to Platonic and related thoughts. This heresy has resulted in the belief, current among most, that miracles are "violations" of natural law, when God "rarely" intervenes directly in the life of his universe. Modern Christianity has become almost deistic, thinking that those things we understand, those things we can do, those things that we can predict and those things that therefore are natural and ordinary, have nothing to do with God, except that he started it all up, sometime long ago. God is simply the clock winder and builder, but everything works by itself now. "We must work out our own salvation and live our own lives. It's all up to us!"
When the Bible speaks of God actively orchestrating the birth process, the weather, the feeding of animals, and all the rest, the tendency is to understand it as simply poetic rather than real.
Instead, we should recognize that the concept of "natural" in the Platonic sense of "separate from divine intervention" is fallacious. That we understand how God does many of the wonders of this universe doesn't mean that God isn't involved. He most assuredly is.
Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." (John 5:17)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Col. 1:15-18)
'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' (Acts 17:28)
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place...
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you give the horse his strength
or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make him leap like a locust,
striking terror with his proud snorting?
Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread his wings toward the south?
Does the eagle soar at your command
and build his nest on high?
It is not true that God is "wholly Other" and incomprehensible to man. Much of what God does we do understand and can explain. Should this be a wonder to us? Why, when we are created in his image? Isn't it to be expected that we can understand? Mysteries are not "forbidden" territory or permanently incomprehensible.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him" -
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit....
(1 Cor. 2:6-10a)
The distinction between "supernatural" and "natural" in the universe is an artificial distinction that really isn't there. Instead, everything is supernatural. It is the "natural" - in the sense of a universe operating without God's direct, immediate intervention - that doesn't exist.
Secularists have said "there is no supernatural". Christians must respond, not by saying, "yes, the supernatural also exists," but by insisting, "there is no natural!" Nothing happens apart from God.
K. Problems That Have Developed from the Acceptance of a "Natural" World
1. Degradation of the "miraculous", not because of the proper "testing of the spirits", but because miracles are viewed as inherently "irrational" and therefore disreputable. This derives from a false idea that miracle means "violation of natural law", rather than "God's intervention". All of life is a miracle.
2. The concept that God will handle the "big things" - that is, those items I don't understand or those that seem to be beyond my capabilities or control. This is the "God helps those who help themselves" approach.
3. Consequently, there is a tendency to rely on self rather than the omnipresent and indwelling Holy Spirit, a lessening reliance on grace, increasing legalism, and a tendency to take credit for the good in our lives - i.e. "self-righteousness". We fail to recognize that all the good we do is from the hand of God. As a Christian, I am simply a chosen vessel molded and put to work by God. Apart from him, I am miserable, wretched, blind and doomed to destruction. Yet, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:13)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works,so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
4. Anti-intellectual tendencies are prevalent because of a unnecessary tension between "special" and "general" revelation. The thought exists that if it isn't in the Bible, it doesn't matter or isn't important - with a subsequent denigration of literature, art, philosophy, and science, despite the fact that these are all part of "general" revelation.
5. God is viewed as completely incomprehensible - "Wholly Other".
The strange idea develops that "if we can understand it, then it isn't God."
6. Technophobia blossoms, and Christians become fearful of using modern technology or even modern medicine because they think "human" methods betray a lack of faith, as if God had nothing to do with the development of modern technology, and he is incapable of using it - or more than that, that he has nothing to do with the fact it works at all!
When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, "I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says:
"By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as men gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp."
Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it,
or the saw boast against him who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up,
or a club brandish him who is not wood! (Isaiah 10:12-15)
The king's heart is in the hand of Yahweh;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)
The earth is Yahweh's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;...
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:21-22)
His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:34b-35)
The Christian is responsible for knowing and understanding the Bible. Each individual stands before God as a priest, not needing any human intermediary. This is both a great privilege as well as a great responsibility.
Therefore it is important that the Christian be able to handle the Bible correctly; it will save him or her a world of problems.
Study Bibles From Hell
The title of this section sounds like something that belongs on a horror flick, but no movie could ever be so insidious. Nothing has ever worked so well at quenching the Spirit of God and closing the mind than the omnipresent Study Bible. Notice the words of Charles Caldwell Ryrie, ThD, PhD in his "To The Reader" at the front of the Bible that bears his name:
Every time you read this Bible, whether carefully or casually, be sure to look at the notes at the bottom of the page. These are designed to illuminate and help you understand the verses you are reading. The notes provide a variety of helps ... some define ... doctrines ....
When you wish to study a book of the Bible more systematically, you will want to read the Introduction to that book, which will give you information about the author, background, and contents. A unique feature of this Bible is the outline of each book printed at the end of each Introduction and also interspersed throughout the text. In this way you can readily see as you are reading through a book exactly where you are in the development of the ideas of that book by simply referring to the complete outline in the Introduction. The Introductions will help lead you into the messages of the books; the outlines will help you see the development of the messages; and the notes will help shed light on the messages ....
"Come, let me take the place of the Holy Spirit: I will tell you what to think, how to believe; I have the Truth and I will reveal it to you." Though I don't seriously believe Dr. Ryrie set about to quench the Holy Spirit or to narrow the minds of his readers, his words would have been no different if he had.
It is the Holy Spirit's job to illuminate the words of Scripture and help you understand it. Yet Dr. Scofield wrote:
And yet most [readers of the Bible], even of sincere believers, soon retire from any serious effort to master the content of the sacred writings. The reason is not far to seek. It is found in the fact that no particular portion of Scripture is to be intelligently comprehended apart from some conception of its place in the whole.
How much more wrong he could have been, I don't know. The reason people don't understand the Bible is because of two things: one, they simply fail to read it and two, they fail to let the Holy Spirit fill them - and of course, without the filling of the Spirit, the reading of the Bible is probably the last thing a person would want to do. If you do not have a hunger and thirst for the Word of God, then all the study Bibles in the world won't help you. Only God can fix that. And if you have a hunger and thirst for the Word, the study Bibles will probably get in your way.
Christianity is by grace, not by the numbers. And reading the Bible isn't by the numbers either. A study Bible can very easily lock you into another man's opinion and quench the working of the Spirit as you read and study.
Like commentaries of any sort, they should be resorted to only after the individual has done study of the text on his or her own. And the best study Bibles, like the best commentaries, do not lock you into any one set doctrinal position, but rather give you some sence of the variety that exists within Christianity in those places where multiple interpretations are possible. Allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate you while you read the Bible. The Spirit is much more than just a doctrine.
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares Yahweh. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying 'Know Yahweh,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares Yahweh."For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:33-34; cf. Hebrews 8)
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:27)
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