10 marzo 2012

Part 3: On Knowledge

Intro here.
Part 2: On Virtue: here.
Part 4: On Self-control

recap: 2 Pet. 1 gives us a list of qualities that, if we practice them, we "will never fall": Be diligent to add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge... self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love.

My presuppositions: Not only do these qualities come from faith, they also strengthen it. They keep our faith from being ineffective, unfruitful, or generally good-for-nothing. They help us become farsighted and to remember we were cleansed from our former sins.

My questions: Why? How?

Quality two: Knowledge
Knowledge, here used, will include learning, wisdom, and understanding. [Note: One of the reasons it's taken so long to type up "Part three" is the sheer audacity of me having anything to say on knowledge. But, by that token, i'd never write about anything at all except maybe cute quotes from Mexicans and my dreary, carnal responses to mundane life, the latter of which is not interesting at all and would totally disuade me from ever writing. so, pretentious or not, here's "knowledge".]

"Knowledge is power" is a oft-repeated 20th century mantra. I think, po-mo or not, it's true.

Because, you see, we, as God-believing Christ-followers, wrestle not against flesh and blood but against...

1) the flesh's persuasions, petulance, and occasional outright mutiny,
2) the devil (et al.) insinuations and position papers on us and existential reality,
3) the world's perspective and provocations,
4) ignorance's blindness, dimness, and shortsightedness,
5) bad theology's hallucinations.

These are enemies to clear-seeing, fruitful, enduring faith in Christ. On a good day, they can get to us. On a bad one...

Is there a defense? How can we fight them? Do we just have to, as I tell the kiddos, "Suck it up, and take it like a man?" What if the enemies don't fight fair? What if we're too puny and inexperienced to fight, eh, the vast and vicious, devastatingly clever enemies of mankind?

Vicarious experience... and having to learn the hard way.

This is speculation, but I think Job's suffering was greatly, greatly exacerbated because he came before the Psalms chronologically and not just in the table of contents.  Moses, David, Asaph had tough battles made worse because they had never read the Gospels. Heretics have suffered for lack of catechism. People have lost faith for lack of Lewis, Shaeffer, Ravi. People daily go crazy for lack of truth.

...and, for those living A.D., (especially us inhabitants of the year of our Lord 2012), the horrifying and hopeful thing is that it doesn't have to be.

Not that knowledge would have made those early heroes' suffering go away, but that suffering was added on top of what they were already going through. Yet, we benefit from them because they were "constructing knowledge" through their experience. A hard way to do it for them, but we are blessed and taught because in the midst of hardship they were honest, they had faith anyways, and God taught them His mercy existentially.

Today, people still suffer for lack of Psalms, Gospel, catechism. Not just that, people go to hell and refuse heaven because they do not understand... God, reality, themselves.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you..."

Our ignorance is inexcusable. Christ is the Image of the Invisible God, the Word of God, the Logos, the Expression of the Eternal Father. He is not hidden; He is revealed. He is not far; He is so near, so close, that grasping just a little, we might lay hold of Him.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--
the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us."

He is the ultimate possible experiential knowledge. (Christians, in an ironic way, actually are a type of empiricists. We just include data compiled before us and accept that this is one experiment that will take a while before we get the results back on.)

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

But that is not to say we do not compile as much information as we can about those things we hope for, the things we don't yet see. We want them. We're rushing toward them with all the strength we can find. Why would we not want to know more about them?

Faith is not for people who want not to see, not to have evidence. It is for those who are frustrated by our own finiteness in such a vast universe and near such an infinite God. It is for those who want to know as we are known but understand how far we are from that.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork."
The Holy Spirit is our wisdom and counselor. The universe (place) and life (time) compose our classroom and school day. Christ is our theme; the Scriptures are our source. The Church and her theology are our tutors. All knowledge, all questions, all experience are word problems on the test, needing right application of truth to "get them right."

One of the most amazing, freeing things I've ever been taught is that "all truth is God's truth." Dios es, as the Hispanics say, grande. He's really that big. Much of the Christian life is a fight against our misunderstanding of God and reality.  To refuse to seek knowledge- of any healthy kind- is to choose to embrace ignorance, to choose to underestimate Christ, and to choose to be content with fallen, "natural" misunderstandings... presenting one's mind as idiot prey to obliging predators.

And, as a man thinks in his heart, so he is. If our thoughts are erred (and they will be), we will err- in decisions, in actions, in worship, in communication of God. We will turn away from the God who fills heaven and earth because our world is too small for that to mean anything to us.

To refuse to seek knowledge is to hold myself up as sufficient and complete... to proclaim that I've got divinity "in my bag," and " 'No, thank you,' past couple millenia of God-seekers, 'no, thank you' past six thousand years of human recorded experience, 'no, thank you' brilliant investigators of the natural world, 'no, thank you' deep meditators on the human condition, 'no, thank you' new revelations of reality...

...my 24 years hodge-podge of public schooling, leisure reading, undergrad sometimes-studies, chance conversations, and weekly sermons are sufficient to 'get' God... to handle life... to make good decisions and participate in the Divine Nature."

No, thank You, I shan't have any more. I'm fool.

Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you. Love her, and she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

...Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life...

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge... fools despise wisdom and instruction.

All truth is God's truth, but theology is most necessary of it all. Pitting theology against "real" knowledge of God is a damnable false dichotomy. People with experiential knowledge of God and bad theology have been victim to sad and unnecessary suffering and sometimes apostasy. Christians turn away from the real God because they've believed gossip about a fake one.

...because everyone has theology; just not everyone has good theology. Yes, it's possible to know God and not know systematic theology as such, but that's only because God has had mercy and taught systematic theology to that person on a one-on-one, need-to-know basis. Yes, it's possible to know systematic theology and not know God, but that's like saying it's possible to be married to a stranger. Possible, but definitely not the purpose of the institution.

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks,

"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? 
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?"

...for the simple are killed by their turning away, and the 
complacency of fools destroys them.

If physics and poetry can provoke us to worship, good night, what do you think some good commentary will do?! There is much to say on the study of God. Maybe I'm not the best to say it, but I must say something, if only to myself. If we read anything, we ought to read truth about God. Beware having a shallow source pool. If it's true, it's probably been repeated. If it's false, it's probably been refuted. Seek God to give guidance. Be humble (it shouldn't be hard, reading the thoughts of some of the deepest people this earth has known) and seek, seek, seek truth.

Reason is a gift from God. If something is true, especially if something is true about God, it can hold up under intense pressure. Don't be afraid to question or to be dissatisfied, just remember you don't have to refer to God in 3rd person while doing so. Endure ambivalence and uncertainty, but don't get used to them; ultimately, they're temporary.

Above all, the purpose of theology is worship. Worship God when you "get it." Worship God when you don't. Worship God when something clicks. Worship God when you think you're a few screws short and have few hopes of finding them. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, not merely of those who have all their theological ducks in a row. Intellectually discontent or high on a God-epiphany, remember and rejoice that God rejoices to hear: "To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life..."

Addendum: for the knowledge weary

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