Okay, time for me to address something that has been a recurring theme in discussions on nearly any topic that involves those within the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. Sometimes is brandished as a rebuttal, sometimes it’s humbly submitted as a concern or fear; but it is used none-the-less. It’s dangerous because it’s a lie. Truth frees while falsehood keeps us bound! Even little lies form strong shackles – sometimes the strongest. This horrible idea that keeps popping up is this – Knowledge is dangerous and to be avoided.
The idea wears many costumes, but it’s always the same underneath. Some will say, “I don’t want to just be seeking after knowledge, I just want to know God.” Some will use Scripture, “Knowledge puffs up.” (We’ll look at this passage in a bit.), two others more abundantly used but absolutely horrendous are, “The Greeks always searched for something new.”, and “Where do we first see Satan? At the tree of Knowledge!”
In a movement that uses fear and guilt to control, this type of argument is to be expected. As stated before, some use it because they really are afraid of leaving the faith. They have been told that if you question what you’ve been told then you will enter the slippery slope of apostasy. They have believed that the desire to know truth is actually from the devil, and that “blind faith” is actually what God desires. (Lie.From.Hell.) Others don’t like the thought of questioning their already established system of beliefs. They aren’t concerned with seeking truth, they just want comfort and that feeling of security so they use the argument to keep from examining their beliefs.
Is knowledge bad? Knowledge is not bad. Let’s look at some Scripture passages:
Proverbs 18:15 “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks it” It is wise to seek after knowledge. There is no limitation as to how much. It just says seek it.
Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter
and the glory of kings to investigate a matter.” God desires us to search out knowledge, for as we discover it we are in essence thinking His thoughts after Him.
John 8:32 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Knowledge frees. If we think we know something, but what we “know” is false, then we really don’t know it. To know something is to know truth about that thing. Real knowledge is truth. Now, what we do with that knowledge is another story. =)
Acts 17:2-3 “As usual, Paul went to the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.’ ” Paul used logic/knowledge to reason with people out of the Scriptures. He didn’t step onto the synagogue steps and just say, “Believe in Jesus! I’m not going to entertain your vain questions, you just need to blindly believe what I say!” No, No. He reasoned with them. He used his mind, and WANTED them to use theirs.
2 Peter 1:5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, ” If knowledge is bad then why are we told to get more of it to add on top of faith and integrity. This adding of knowledge is part of our taking hold of the promises He has given us and being able to run away from the corruption that is in the world. Knowledge helps us flee corruption? Yep!
John 16:30 “Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.” If knowledge is bad then what does that mean of Jesus, Who has all knowledge? (hint.. it’s a trick question. Knowledge isn’t bad.) This passage combats the lie that TOO MUCH knowledge is a bad thing. This simply isn’t true, it’s not the amount of knowledge we have, but how we have it that matters (keep reading for an explanation of that).
Okay, so what about them there Greeks and their “never-ending newness search”, or what Paul said in I Corinthians 8 about knowledge puffin up?
The Greeks Acts 17:21 is the passage being referred to, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.” This argument is often used because, to the one using it, the thing they are using it against is new to them. This is what makes this passage of scripture the wrong weapon for remaining ignorant. N.T. Wright’s translation of the verse is helpful: “All the Athenians, and the foreigners who live there, spend their time simply and solely in telling and hearing the latest novelty.” Just because something is new to you, doesn’t mean it’s new. It is possible that we have not been told the truth about something and by examining facts, we will be shown that what we currently hold is the “novelty”. Remember, truth isn’t relative to us. The “old paths” far exceed the fundamentalists movement (I would say are outside of it actually, but that’s for another day).
We are to be growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). Examining our beliefs against Scripture and changing them as we are convinced of their error by Scripture is not falling away from Jesus, but running to Him! The lie that knowledge is evil binds you from actually following Jesus.
The Puffiness of it all Paul says in I Corinthians 8:1-2 “About food offered to idols: We know that ‘we all have knowledge.’ Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it. ” This is Paul, so we gott’a put our thinking caps on a minute. While Paul is specifically addressing the freedom to eat food offered to idols, this passage still applies to the topic at hand. So, let’s first recast the passage with the assumption that knowledge is evil as it invariably leads to arrogance and apostasy: “We are arrogant and on the road to apostasy that, we all are are arrogant and on the road to apostasy. Knowledge is that thing that makes us arrogant and on the road to apostasy, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything (which means he is arrogant and on the road to apostasy), he is not yet arrogant and on the road to apostasy as he should be.“ Confused? Yeah, I hear ya. Paul isn’t saying here that knowledge is evil. What he is saying is that the flesh takes knowledge and uses it to fuel pride. The flesh converts anything, even grace, into fuel for pride. This is why Paul said that if we think we know something (the sense being in an arrogant way as we would not be using that knowledge in love for others) then we really don’t KNOW it as we should. What was happening at the time Paul wrote this letter was some people understood that it was okay to eat food that had been offered to false gods while other believers struggled with this. The knowledge to eat was accurate, but those who had it were not using it in love. They were eating regardless of the company, not giving any thought to the weaker brother/sister. The eaters thought they knew something, but they didn’t know it as they should. They weren’t wrong in their knowledge, and Paul isn’t condemning their lack of ignorance. Paul’s is saying we are to live in love. Paul had knowledge that this was the way to live because Paul had knowledge of Jesus.
So, don’t fear knowledge. Seek for it. Seek it humbly, knowing we can misuse it; but don’t let that knowledge keep you from seeking knowledge (yeah, I know, sounds like such a self-defeating argument as you think about it, doesn’t it?). I said earlier that the flesh converts anything to fuel pride, even grace. This is true (Romans 6:1), but it didn’t stop Paul from preaching grace; and it should stop you from seeking knowledge… that is unless you’re unwise, bound by fear, don’t care for sanctification, hate freedom, don’t wish to think God’s thoughts after Him, and don’t really want the truth.
You can tell me I’m wrong, but then.. what do you KNOW? 😉