Knowledge and Wisdom

If you’ve already glimpsed my beautiful graphic, you might think you know what this post is about. This is not my typical blog post as I branch out and express some of my thoughts.

I will have the privilege of teaching a Bible study on Proverbs this fall. Sunday in class, I envisioned a picture to help illustrate NOT just the moral premise of the book of Proverbs and the rhetoric of all wisdom literature BUT primarily an epistemological [i.e., about knowledge] dilemma in which humans find themselves, particularly as creatures.

Many have questioned the Biblical account of the garden of Eden, particularly as it informs the goodness of God. All of Scripture insists on God’s goodness, His trustworthiness, and His fairness. Why, then, would God put a tree in the middle of the garden that could send Adam and Eve to hell? Why is it possible to die in Paradise? In all honesty, I do not know. All I can say is that I think it contributes such a unique narrative tension, and usually I try to explain it away with human will and how God wasn’t going to force us to love Him, but there are still some question marks there for me.

What I will say, by way of hairpin segue, is that humans do not know the consequences of their actions until the consequences are upon them. That is, humans do not have experiential, empirical knowledge of the consequences of their actions until such knowledge is possible and inevitable. I do not want to wander too far afield, because I am only an amateur epistemologist and I do have a point for this post, but the question is, do I really need to burn my hand on every heating element in order to know that it is too hot and I should not touch it?

Enter wisdom. I think a good working definition for wisdom could be [and I am not being technical here at all, I’m not acquainted with all the epistemological jargon] indirect knowledge of consequences for human behavior. Wisdom could be defined as first-hand accounts of consequences. And so my graphic:

canyon.of.consequences

Consequences will never be the same!

The reason we should heed wisdom and be wise is because we did not decide the way the world works–God did–and we cannot see past the tip of our noses concerning consequences. Wisdom is the voice of someone who has been there, done that, and may even still have a vantage point to confirm that when God says ‘you shall surely die,’ He’s not lying. I find it funny and frightening that I and other people can be more afraid of, say, heights or the dark, than the fog of war that obscures future consequences. We should be so concerned that we are not wandering further and further down into a labyrinth of bad decisions which might seem passable for now but ends in a trap. But the only way we can avoid that is by keeping ourselves according to God’s word. God sees all, there is no such hindrance as time on His sight, and without being asked, shoves wisdom into our hands and blares it at us from the busy street corner. What a good God!

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Nathan

learner, thinker, writer, doer - not necessarily in that order

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