I’m in my Mind Palace. (See previous post)
I’ve strayed into the Knowledge Room. It contains a lot of books, as you would imagine. I could spend all day in here. It’s like the Tardis – much bigger on the inside than you might expect. But that isn’t the half of it.
I enjoy the accumulation of knowledge. Always have. I have a degree in Christian apologetics, so for three years, I spent hours in the Knowledge Room, organising the shelves and reading lots of books. Here are some of the subjects I particularly enjoyed:
The Mind/Body Problem
The reliability of the New Testament
Hermeneutics – my favourite topic
Law and Grace
Perhaps there are some on that list that you also enjoy. I dedicated myself to acquiring as much information and argument as I could. I believed that the acquisition of knowledge was a good and holy task. And I still do, to a certain degree.
Knowledge, I believe, girds the faithful heart. It enhances faith. Note how often the New Testament writers use the term, ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (Christ, God).’ Why? Because knowledge is a good thing.
But what do the biblical writers mean by knowledge?
Clearly, they don’t simply mean information. Knowledge of God in the New Testament is related to an experiential connection to God. This is why Christ states in John’s gospel,
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17.3)
The great gift of eternal life isn’t ‘living for a very, very long time,’ it’s intimacy with God, knowledge of God.
Good apologists know this, of course. They know perfectly well that information and argument is not the same as intimacy with God, that both are covered by that word ‘knowledge.’
Yet a problem remains. For while we may distinguish between knowledge as intimacy and knowledge as information, we’re still left with the challenge: why are we engaged in the latter – the acquisition of knowledge?
Some argue that it is about love.
Loving God with our minds by gaining knowledge.
Indeed, there are many reasons why Christians should love God with their minds, but for the apologist, its primary purpose is this one:
The defence of the faith.
1 Peter 3.15 – a rallying cry – is often quoted. Give an answer – an apologia – to those who ask. To do that, information and argument are essential. And that’s fine, as far as it goes.
Is knowledge (information and argument) primarily concerned with the defence of the faith (1 Peter 3.15)? Sometimes I think apologetics should come with a spiritual health warning. First, it can tend towards pride, which is fatal. Those in student ministries, where apologetics takes a prominent role, need to be careful. Lots of extremely well-informed students who can dismantle their opponents with ease, well, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
But there is something which is more serious. I’m not sure that loving God with our minds is primarily about defending the faith. Yes, it has its place, but knowledge has another more important purpose.
Come back into the Mind Palace.
Apologists who enjoy the Knowledge Room can get lost in there. Another book on consciousness? Don’t mind if I do. Some more C.S. Lewis so you can discuss the Argument from Reason with your room mate? I’m in. All fine – up to a point. The problem is, the Knowledge Room is really designed to encourage us to go down to the room at the end of the hall.
To the Soul Room.
Before you venture down there, however, let’s take a closer look at the Knowledge Room. You think it’s just a room full of books? Nope. That’s a monumental mistake.
In truth, it is a wonder to behold. It is far, far bigger than you could possibly imagine.
Come on in and take a seat.
It’s made of leather, so you feel a bit like J.R. R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis during their days at Oxford. The bookshelves are lined with every kind of book you could imagine. They contain as much fiction as non-fiction, for stories are a deep well of knowledge. Get up now and go to the broad, heavy curtain which covers the entire wall at the end of the room. Pull it back and kneel in wonder.
Before you lies a scene which stops the heart.
Spiralling planets and stars stretch into infinite dark space. The vision fills you with awe. The room is not the Tardis at all. It is the universe. There is more knowledge in this room than your tiny mind can take in. You are a speck of dust, so small your size can hardly be measured.
This is what the writer of Job is conveying in chapters 38-40. The writer of Ecclesiastes is also wrestling with this deep truth. We humans, we seek to understand God’s ways, and we seek meaning and significance. Yet, we are not – and never will be – like God, the imago dei notwithstanding.
We discover knowledge, it is revealed to us, but we are not in the category of Creator (see Job 38). There is only one true God, whose creative being is the source of all knowledge. And for that reason, we discover meaning through accepting our limitations. The appropriate response, then, is to submit before God’s glory and his perfect will. For in the end, we know by revelation. He gives only as much knowledge to us as he sees fit. Some things – and their number is boundless – we will never know, nor can we know.
We are not God.
The purpose of that vista you’re looking at? It’s supposed to send you running down the hall to the Soul Room. That’s what it’s for. It’s designed to send you to your knees in worship.
And that’s as it should be.
Knowledge causes me to stop in wonder at what is revealed to me. Yet when I become aware of how little I know, I worship all the more.
And that takes place in the Soul Room.
The intimate space.
It’s where our hearts belong.
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