For Knowledge’s Sake

I’ve always been someone who loved to learn.  I love going to lectures, sitting in classes, reading books and doing all sorts of independent study.  I love sharing  the things I learn with other people as I learn.  Sometimes there’s a practical purpose to the knowledge I accumulate.

Other times, I find myself just collecting knowledge for fun. No matter the reason for collecting knowledge, I have always found the pursuit of it worthwhile, and I have always found my life enriched in many ways.

Several times recently I have had the idea almost pounded into my head that there’s no place for the accumulation of knowledge for its own merit.

To begin with, our church has a formal discipleship program.  For the cornerstone of the program, they have keyed levels of discipleship to 2 Peter 1:5-7.  These verses say:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

Using these verses, they explain that Peter is establishing an order in which you grow spiritually.  In these scheme, you begin with faith in Jesus.  Then, you add virtue (or right behavior) .  Following that, you add knowledge.  Then, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally, charity.

I don’t know that the Bible is mandating a specific and formal pattern for spiritual growth here, but I also don’t know that it isn’t.  I don’t personally feel there is enough evidence here to merit a whole formation of spiritual growth, but it is an interesting idea, and it’s one that our church has codified.  If you’re looking for a commentary that leans toward these as ordered steps, I would recommend Matthew Henry.  (I always enjoy him!)

However, that is not the focus of this post.  That was just an explanatory aside so that you understand what I was going to say next.

So, in this pattern of spiritual growth, you obey what God has shown you, and as you obey, you are given more knowledge.  The knowledge isn’t for knowledge’s sake.  Instead, the knowledge is given for virtue’s sake.

That’s a lovely way to view it in many respects.  After all, when I have knowledge that I am not using, then that knowledge is laying fallow.  However, I think that proponents of this idea haven’t realized how many aspects of life they are collecting knowledge for just the sake of learning/knowledge/schooling. These facts are being put into use and aren’t making them better, but they could be, and they are responsible for what they do with that knowledge. (I’m making a note right now so that I can spin this off into another blog post because our responsibility for our knowledge is just as important as any other aspect of this.)

The second place where I saw this idea was in Veronica Roth’s Divergent.  I have been reading it lately, trying to see what all the fuss was about, and I discovered that one of the factions was the “Erudite” faction.  The faction members were interested in knowledge and learning, but in the eyes of another faction, this is what they looked like:

Valuing knowledge above all else results in a lust for power, and that leads men into dark and empty places.

I had never associated knowledge with the acquisition of power, but I sheepishly began to think of all the times I had encountered people (sometimes people in the mirror) who would take knowledge and use it like a weapon.

I stand a little convicted here.

However, I still think the acquisition of knowledge is worthy in its own right.  I think it is important to gain knowledge because that knowledge shapes your beliefs and your view of the world.  Shaping your view of the world is what changes your walk, often allows you to have faith, and changes your life.

Still, to have knowledge, you need to have a virtuous reason for collecting it.  You need to be able to connect it to your life, and I think you need to be able to use the knowledge that you gain.  Otherwise, what is the point?  There is no point to just gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake.


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