Our Willing Ignorance
September 13, 2016 — Ecclesiastes 1:16–18
I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.
It is interesting to me that we are growing into a culture that is really hip to self reflection. I can’t tell you how many blogs come across my newsfeed of people talking about their mental health, their economic health, or their physical health. The new thing to do is knock yourself down a couple of notches to show that you are one of the cool kids who knows that they aren’t perfect.
I’m guilty of it too. This blog often has me reflecting on things that I think are important about my spiritual health and how they apply to the things that I have been reading in the Bible. I struggle often with the line that I feel I am toeing between honesty and self-aggrandizement. So, forgive me if this comes off as snooty or oblivious, but I feel as if there aren’t a ton of people in who spend much time thinking about theology.
Sure, having gone to a Bible college, there are a fair number of people who were taught to think in the same ways that I was taught. I am thankful for people who I can bounce around crazy ideas around with, like how much Jesus really knew since he was fully human, and if His lack of knowledge sent Him to a speedier death than He may have wanted.
I am unironically passionate about my faith. It is honestly the most interesting and engaging thing that you could talk to me about. At the moment I don’t really have any hobbies, but when it comes to thinking about my Christian faith I am a big fan. The idea of spending all my time learning about Church history and the reasons for why we do what we do is a surefire way for me to lose hours of my life.
However, I think that if a lot of people took a look at my life they might say that my faith wasn’t as strong as some of my brothers and sisters. Or perhaps they wouldn’t go that far, but maybe I am just not experiencing the love of God as much. I have heard sideways remarks that I overthink things and care too much about things that are just a bummer, and shouldn’t I just me more happy being in a prayer closet praising Jesus?
The fact is, when it comes to loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength I have a really easy time loving God with my mind. It is why I ditched the traditional way of doing devotions because my emotional energies are often so dry that I don’t feel like cracking the spine of my Bible. But give me a few minutes to write down all of the different thoughts that come to mind when I read a few verses, and well, you’ve got yourself a blog.
I get were the teacher is coming from here though when he says that acquiring wisdom doesn’t make anything easier. As I have grown in my faith and come to conclusions about what I think the Bible teaches I have come not to a more concrete understanding, but a more frustrating and confusing one. While I am thankful for this, since it has forced me to trust more in God, and less in my ability to understand Him, I still sometimes look back longingly when I could sing certain praise and worship songs without rolling my eyes.
This is the ultimate folly of wisdom. Even though I like to think that my understanding of Christ is more robust, even though I spend time reading Christian think-pieces, even though I add my own theological musings to the void, I still find it difficult to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and therefore strength.
The fact is, people are right about knowledge having the ability to puff up rather that bring about humility. That is why we need to be careful that when we are calling our brothers and sisters to love the Lord their God with their minds we are also at the same time reminding them of the folly of chasing wisdom. We are never going to be able to attain a higher level of existence, rather we will be confronted with new ecclesiastical angsts about different areas that we as Christians are living counter to what we say we believe.
When we teach people about theology without warning them about the folly of wisdom, we are actually bringing about an subtle ignorance that is fed by the desire to “feel” the right way about what we know about God. We think that we ought to be feeling more joyful the more that we learn about God. If our conversion was “x” amount of a high, shouldn’t our growing knowledge of His ways increase our love and adoration?
Honestly, I don’t know the right answer to that one. Maybe some day I will feel more close to God, but I am still given the blessed assurance that I cannot be taken out of His hand no matter how blah I am feeling, no matter how frustrated I am with my brothers and sisters.
We should expect that our learning about God will ultimately lead us to sorrow — leaving us with the reality that we have no leg left to stand on. This should not lead us to despair, but rather into death, and then rebirth into the life of Christ.