Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Knowledge vs wisdom

It is absolutely amazing the sheer amounts of data available to us today.  I get a dozen or so magazines, for free, every month that are various trade journals, a couple of political newsletters, and a couple from different Christian organizations.  The trade journals are mainly computer and IT related, although I haven't cancelled the ones I started when I was selling insurance, primarily to try and keep an eye on the current healthcare debacle and it's effects on the industry (and in turn, the effects on us the consumers).  Those are just the printed ones I can get for free.  Visit your local bookstore and gaze in awe at the long stretch of magazine racks, covering music, sports, news, technology, art, movies, religion, lifestyles, et al.  Don't check the one at the grocery store, their selection is dwindling rapidly.  Then there is my inbox, which is flooded daily by news, devotionals, music reviews, free stuff and industry updates, most of which I signed up for.  Many of those emails are lists of white papers about the latest cloud computing security features or how to archive the new crop of data (ironic, no?).  Moving out into the rest of the internet, there are millions of hours of talks, radio shows, and sermons, along with podcasts, blogs, videoblogs, Youtube channels, all with more insight, information, and entertainment for us to absorb. 
There was a time when we thought that our impressive brains could hold many times the amount of information the world could generate.  With the world's knowledge doubling at ever decreasing intervals, I think we are approaching a time when that amount of data may well exceed the brain's capacity.  Last week I talked about how our machines let us do more in less time, and how the quality of that output has gone down.  I think in many ways, the same applies to our knowledge.  How many of those news reports and polls and studies are outdated or disproved before we even finish reading them?  How many of those great technological guides are obsolete by the time the email gets fished out of the spam folder?  Thinking further, how many surveys and studies do nothing but confirm what a minimal application of common sense and observation already knows?  It never ceases to scare me to see headlines, especially now as the U.S. Census data continues to be analyzed and released, that tell us the government, state or fed, or some advertiser, spent a whole lot of money to tell us what common sense already knew. 
One recent poll showed that Americans knowledge of civics, i.e. how our government works and how it is supposed to work, keeps dropping.  Other polls about people lack of Biblical knowledge and mores, even in churches, keep showing up.  Even simple knowledge, like what fruit did Adam and Eve eat in the Garden of Eden or what swallowed Jonah is lacking, let alone major things like living together before marriage is sin and homosexuality is too are missing from much of the Church.  We have a divorce rate that is the same as the worlds.  Now, I'd like to find some breakdown of that and find out how many of that number are people who divorced before they were saved, but the problem remains, along with an increasing number of pastors (not just Catholic priests) getting in legal trouble for child pornography and molestation or getting in trouble with their church for other less than saintly sexual activities. 
There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Based on the present state of society, I think it's no small leap in logic to say that knowledge can easily push out wisdom.  The examples I gave are examples of missing wisdom.  Too many churches and schools are doing nothing but throwing knowledge out at parishioners and students.  Wisdom used to be imparted to the next generation by parents, but like the churches and schools, that link in the chain has also been broken over the years.  The result has been a vacuum, and if you didn't get that bit of knowledge from the buckets of data in school, nature abhors a vacuum, meaning that if there is a hole, something will try and fill it.  This further supports my theory, that as wisdom has shrunk, the space in our mental landscape gets filled in with knowledge.  Knowledge without wisdom is like the Mississippi River right now, great power unrestrained, simply wiping out everything in it's way.  Knowledge has long been established as power, but power that is not focused, that is not directed, not controlled is useless, and often simply destructive.  We are barreling towards that flood, but we seem more interested in increasing our knowledge and seeing how big an explosion we can make. 
It's not over, however.  This seems like a very negative bit here, but everyday that there are still people who know that difference between knowledge and wisdom, there is still hope.  Every time those people parent their children, or teach their students, or preach to their flock, or just engage the people around them in intelligent discussions that help to foster some of that wisdom, help water that blossom, it is another step out of the muck.  The world has been standing in a sinking hole ever since the Fall, and the amazing thing about sinking is, if you do nothing, you keep going down.  It takes a conscious effort and action to fight gravity.
When people talk about fixing the world, it quickly gets bogged down into thoughts of "there are too many of them and not enough of us" or "what can one person do against all these ills?"  Deuteronomy 32 talks about 1000 put to flight by one who has the Lord behind them.  Add to that an interesting tidbit I picked up from a speaker recently, mentioning that an effective pastor can pastor (not just preach to, but actually pastor) about 100 people.  Megachurches (effective ones) overcome that by breaking up into cell groups, where those 100 each pastor another group, usually slightly smaller than the initial 100, and those groups typically continue to break down into smaller groups.  So lets put all this together.  If one man (or woman) of God can put a thousand of the world to flight, and that one is even a decent pastor (not necessarily an ordained preacher, but a leader in their family, at work, within their church) and they are pastoring fifty brothers and sisters, that is 50,000 running for the hills under a righteous spiritual assault.  That's just the first ripple, not taking into account those learning from that first fifty.
We aren't fighting a physical war, so our victories don't always show themselves to our physical eyes.  But when the Body is walking in the Word, those numbers add up quickly, maybe not in the votes we'd like to see  at the ballot boxes or the actions we'd like to see in our schools or any of the social changes we'd like to happen, but the numbers are there, with people moving closer to Christ, and names being added to the Book of Life, and those are the numbers that are really important.

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