Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Pursuit of Knowledge

I was listening to the radio today and heard an interview with an author of a new book called The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become the Smartest Person in the World. Catchy title, huh? The gimmick was that this guy named A. J. Jacobs felt like he wasn't pushing himself intellectually while writing for Entertainment Weekly about J-Lo, Cher and other such nonsense, so he decided to read. His reading material? The 32-volume Encyclopedia Brittanica! Light reading this wasn't. 33,000 pages. He said it took him about 18 months of reading six hours each day. Can you even imagine? He certainly filled his brain to capacity with all kinds of useless tidbits like the origins of ice hockey and the fact that lightning actually goes from ground to sky instead of the other way around. Unless Mr. Jacobs is trying to take on Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame, I don't see the point. What do you win by being the "smartest person in the world"?

Not that I am against knowledge for knowledge's sake, mind you. I have been gifted by God with a mind that remembers useless facts. I've mentioned this before. I know which group originally recorded "Muskrat Love" (America). I can tell you the capital of Portugal (Lisbon). I can name all 43 U. S. Presidents in order (Just trust me on that one). You don't want to play me in Trivial Pursuit. Knowledge is great. For that matter, encyclopedias are just fine too. My uncle sold World Book Encyclopedia for years and years, so I always had a volume at my fingertips. Knowing things is usually much better than not knowing things.

But knowledge isn't everything. Mr. Jacobs says he likes to drop these little informational gems at cocktail parties to impress people. Personally if someone started telling me about the invention of ice hockey, I'd be slowly backing away and looking for someone else to talk to. Knowledge puffs up, as the Bible says. The smarter we are, the prouder we are. We tend to look down on those who don't know as much as we do. Or at least those who don't know as much as we do on certain selected subjects which we deem "important" in our own subjective way.

Sometimes when I encourage a Christian to share his faith with someone else, he will try to back out. "What if she asks me a question I don't know the answer to?"

What a bizarre fear! Christianity doesn't automatically fill your brain with the mysteries of the universe. Principles of nuclear fusion aren't imparted to you at the altar. At least they certainly missed me. We shouldn't expect to know all the answers. If we knew all the answers, what would theologians have to argue with each other about? If we get a tough question, we just say we don't know, but we'll do some research and check back later. I've done it myself. There is a reason books are written: because we don't carry all knowledge around in our cerebrum, cerebellum and medulla oblongata. (I'm kinda surprised I remembered the parts of the brain!)

The truth is that knowledge is nice, but it doesn't save. There were some renegades in the early church who thought it did, but apparently their knowledge only misled them. That is no excuse to never learn -- especially about Christ. We are called to follow Him, but not from a distance. We are called to know Him. Not just know about Him; although that's a part of knowing Him. Knowing Christ is true Knowledge. I wish people would get that through their heads. I don't envy people who read the encyclopedia, but I do envy people who know Jesus better than I do because they have given themselves where I have held myself back. That is the knowledge I want. Oddly it is also the knowledge I can have simply by seeking Him.

Can you imagine what your relationship with Jesus would be like if you spent six hours a day for 18 months doing nothing but getting to know Him through worship, prayer, evangelism, discussion, Bible study and meditation on the Word? We don't have to set aside that kind of time, but that is the knowledge we must pursue. That is what we must make time for, even if it means missing The West Wing or Survivor or Hee Haw reruns. That is what I want my knowledge to be. Then just maybe I would be the smartest person in the world. But I still wouldn't be much fun at cocktail parties.

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