Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Knowledge, Learning and God

     Knowledge is underrated these days – in at least three ways, and all three are of profound important for the Christian enterprise.
     We hear all the time that what you know doesn’t matter so much as what you do. But how is action driven by knowledge, or perspective, or viewpoint? Isn’t knowledge the springboard, the impetus for behavior? If we had more solid thought, wouldn’t our action be more purposeful, and anchored in something meaningful, instead of mere frenetic busy-ness (even in the name of God)?

     In our society, knowledge is reduced to a the lowly status of a means to an end. We get an education – but why? To get a good job, to make money, to get ahead. But once upon a time, knowledge was simply good. To know a fact from history wasn’t potentially valuable; it was itself of great value. If we know something, our minds are then close to God, for God knows history, all that has happened; God knows science, how things work and why they are as they are (since, after all, God made all things); God is the ultimate mind, and when we know, we are close to God.

     Who gave you your brain? God gave us minds whose potential we barely tap. I think God wants us to learn, to know, to be aware, to believe truth matters, to sift through the garbage of chatter and get to the marrow of things. God wants us not to think as the political cranks wish for us to think, all ideology and no fact; God wants us to think deeply, factually, but with wisdom, and perspective – to see what God sees, to understand as God understands.

     Some foolishly think knowledge is at odds with God - that faith is somehow anti-intellectual, or the abandonment of thinking.  God is puzzled, and saddened by this misconception.  God wants more knowledge, always, for truth is at the very heart of God.

     We can’t say I’m too old, or I already know what I need to know. We learn all the time; it may be news of heat in the Midwest, or that a FB friend’s kitten did something cute (with photos supplied); it may be a new conviction you’ve come to after listening to a pundit, or politician, or perhaps Steven Colbert. What am I learning? And from whom? Whom do I trust as teacher? Political ideologues? Novels? My neighbor, or coworker (after a few cocktails)? Jesus invites us to be attentive to what we know, what we focus upon, what we soak up, and why what matters actually matters to us – and if any of what we know brings us closer to God, or makes us wiser.

     Finally, knowledge changes things. Dictators and muckrackers want to shelter us from facts; they prefer we buy into their ideological hysteria. When we know, we understand; when we know, we cut through the nonsense that becomes idolatry and misleads us into bogus behavior and prejudicial judgment. If we know others, we know their foibles, but we also see the image of God in the other person; social psychologists teach us that “familiarity breeds liking” (not contempt). When we know the hard facts, we are motivated to act, to demand things not stay the way they are. We wake up, we now know.

     Jesus didn’t call do-gooders or piety specialists. He called “disciples,” and the word means “students.” Jesus as the teacher, and we are the students, and not just in Sunday School when we are seven years old. Lifelong learning, a quest to plumb the depths of the very soul of God, to think God’s thoughts ever more clearly, to adopt the divine perspective on whatever we perceive in our lives and in the world.

     Nothing is more important for you, for me, and for the future of humanity, than learning. And so we sign up, we embrace some curriculum, not because it is perfect, but because it is there, it is our best chance at knowledge, at mimicking the mind of Christ.

     Our Church, like many churches, offers the marvelous, intriguing, informative set of programs under the banner of Disciple. But we have much more – and even the stuff we put online, emails, YouTubes, and much more, are trustworthy projects to help all of us, together, to know God, and to know what God knows, and to value what God values.