Puritan Gems

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Knowledge Of God Part II

Introduction To Epistemology

In order to exhibit how all men know God, we need to look closer at Epistemology, the study of knowledge. In doing so, we will contrast the biblical view of knowledge with the world's view. The Bible tells us that there are two kinds of knowledge.

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." (James 3:13-17)

Godly Wisdom vs. Worldly Wisdom – James 3
Godly WisdomWorldly Wisdom
Good ConductBitter Jealousy
Meakness Of WisdomSelfish Ambition
PeaceableFalse To The Truth
Open To ReasonEvery Vile Practice
Full Of Mercy And Good Fruits

James doesn’t chastise people for having wisdom, but he does draw a hard line between the wisdom that comes down from above, and the wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:20-24)

We see again that the true wisdom, the wisdom of God, is contrasted with the wisdom of this world. It is important to understand that the world cannot know God sufficiently through worldly wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:21) As a Christian Apologist, it is a mistake to think that unbelief is caused by a lack of information.  Natural revelation fails as the basis for apologetics because the unbeliever already knows God through natural revelation (Romans 1:19). This knowledge makes the unbeliever to be without excuse, and that is essentially all that it does.

The Greeks in particular, were known for their pursuit of wisdom. (1 Corinthians 1:22). What does this kind of wisdom offer?

"I said in my heart, "I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge." And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." (Ecclesiastes 1:16-18)

It’s amazing how little has really changed since then. Like the Greeks, modern men seem to worship wisdom. Just ask any academic or politician what he thinks solutions are to war, poverty, hunger, AIDS, racism, or any number of ills you can imagine. There solution is almost always the same, "education". If we just become more educated, they say, or if we can just “create a smarter planet”, then we can solve all of the worlds problems and create Utopia.

But Solomon found just the opposite to be true. “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18) The more we know about our world and our present condition, the less hope we have in the temporal life, which is what Solomon means by the phrase “under the sun”.

This, of course, is not a plea for anti-intellectualism, for wisdom does have temporal benefits.

"Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, "What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?" And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!" (Ecclesiastes 2:13-16)

There is a benefit to wisdom. We become better at our jobs. We can know more about the world around us and be better prepared to deal with it. So education has it’s place. However, in the end, Solomon tells us that education “under the sun” is vanity and striving after the wind. How dies the wise man? Even as the fool.

May we be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and learn to love the Lord with all of our minds, for this is the wisdom from above, without which we cannot truly know anything.