Solid Snippet Article #032

Dangerous Dogma

The Dangers of Knowledge Vs. Love
February 2012

Throughout my life, I have always leaned toward the contemplative Christianity stream. I love knowledge. I see it as a door to open my relationship with Christ to new and deeper levels. To understand more is to be able to apply more to my walk with Him and to please Him more. I was born into and minister in a fellowship in which some tend to think that having much knowledge destroys the Spiritís ability to use a person. I have always struggled against this idea, even as a younger person.

Should there even be a dichotomy between knowledge and love? This idea generally comes from some of Paulís writings, especially where Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1; 13:4). The idea of being puffed up speaks of an attitude of arrogance, and believe me, in the education profession there is plenty arrogance to go around. I have loved my education, the advancement in knowledge and understanding. But I have noticed this false dichotomy placed on education by others in my fellowship.

Some suggest that knowledge ruins your ministry, that it makes it harder for God to use you. For many this may seem strange, but there is a slight point to its assertions. When I was going to Bible college and Seminary, I was constantly on guard against allowing myself to become so academically entangled to ideas that I would develop an arrogance about things that I thought had no effectiveness in the Christian mind. As a case in point, I have found that Godís Spirit will command us to do things that donít make any logical sense to us. This does not mean that they are not logical, for later we often find why God had asked us to do them. There were times when God had to command me to worship Him in a different way, to step out for Him in a group of academic peers and look like a fool. The point was to help me realize that Iím there for God, not for others. And I discovered that my disobedience was not about my ďhigher understandingĒ of something, but rather my fear of what people would think.

The hardest lesson I learned in academia was that while I was developing a clearer mental discipline and honing my critical thinking skills, I must refrain from forming a critical spirit. I would sit in chapels with my Greek New Testament and frown upon mispronounced Greek words, turn my mind off to whatever the speaker was saying, and not get anything out of the service. I began to realize that I get out of a service what I put into it. When I check out because of one little thing, I miss what God has for me. But that had very little to do with the knowledge I possessed. It had everything to do with my attitude.

I believe this is the point that Paul makes, especially in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 where he even states that ďIf I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not loveÖI am nothing (1 Cor 13:2). We can certainly grow in understanding and knowledge. We can learn many things, and part of being a disciple is using our minds to glorify God (Matt 22:37). If you looked at Jesusí quote of the original Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, you would find that He added ďmind.Ē One of the ways that we can love God is by using the brains He gave us and meditating on Him and His Word.

But knowledge has this way of creeping into our psyche, of inflaming our ego. When we know something and share it, and people tell us how smart we are, it gets us into trouble. Instead of serving others by sharing what we have learned, we think weíre more than we are. We develop a complex, and that causes arrogance and pride to rear their ugly heads. This truly comes out in discussions of theology and the Bible. Some people want to start a discussion, but not for mutual growth and consideration. They want to show off their knowledge, to shut others down. This is not acting in love.

The Love Chapter teaches us that love will outlive knowledge (1 Cor 13:8-10). Dogma becomes dangerous when it is not thought out and discussed in love. When I first became the pastor of New Life Assembly, there was a person visiting us on Wednesday nights. The church had been in-between pastors, and there was interest in what he shared from time to time on the Wednesday nights he would come to the churchís Bible study. He was a King James Only believer who had a thorough interest in Bible translations. He was indeed quite knowledgeable. As the new pastor of the church, I was letting the current teacher finish his section in Scripture. So Iím sitting in the audience. This person knew I was the new pastor, and wanted to talk to me, as a ďyoung pupĒ about which translation was the best to build my ministry on.

What he didnít know is that I have a BA in Biblical Languages, and Iím not held to an English translation. I can dig deeper, and do every day. I donít dig deeper to get one up on my opponents. I dig deeper because I want to go deeper in my understanding, and relationship with God. This man spent an hour and a half discussing his views with me. I listened intently, thinking about what he said, and held up my side of the conversation.

It came down to him telling me things that, because I am a critical thinker, I could see holes in. I didnít have much confidence because I was indeed a fresh and brand new pastor. But my critical thinking skills kept me from accepting some strange moments in our conversation. I finally told this person that I would be using the translation I was familiar with. I stated my concerns with his favorite translation and outlined my position. I did it in love. I didnít resent him then, and I donít now. I believe that we can have a discussion, and that most of our discussions bring clarity to our understanding. I know that God has used my knowledge to help others understand Him better.

God wants us to use our minds. He wants us to search the Scriptures and understand Him better. His Spirit can use us in greater ways when we know Him more deeply, not in lesser ways. And yet at the same time, as we hone our skills and knowledge, we must also keep our pride in tow, not allowing that pride to have a foothold. We must serve in our knowledge and lovingly, not with an arrogant attitude. It is not about whether we can have knowledge or love. Itís about how to lovingly use our knowledge. Itís about our attitude in the gaining and dispensing of knowledge.

When we discuss the Bible, theology, principles of ministry and the host of other things that require us to know and to impart knowledge, we must do it in a way that glorifies God. You can be right about something but wrong in the way that you share it. The attitude that we speak our knowledge in is just as important as the information we pass along. For God to use us in our knowledge, we must be humble and loving, kind and well-mannered. That is what it means to have the mind of Christ.

If God can keep our attitude in check, I believe that knowledge is of great benefit, because knowledge is required to have wisdom. And wisdom promises us life and favor from the Lord. Make sure that you know how to think critically without developing a critical spirit. Be open to Godís wisdom and knowledge, but always use these tools in humble and God-honoring ways, and surely knowledge and contemplation will take you deeper in your walk and love for God and His people!