Place of Knowledge

Knowledge doesn’t save us.

Praise God, because otherwise we would live in mortal fear of amnesia, and people who don’t test well wouldn’t have a prayer. Even geeks like me would suffer, because I’m as likely as anyone to get things wrong, or backwards, or leave something out entirely without realizing it.

Knowledge doesn’t save, and geeks like me have to keep that in mind, because we’re so darn good at knowing things, and we get all proud of what we can figure out with it.  Praise God that nothing we can do can save us, or cause God to love us, or make us worthy as human beings, because the flip side is that worthiness is inherent, and God’s love is irrevocable and being powerless is wonderful when you’re powerless to redamn yourself.

Knowledge can’t replace love. Without love, knowledge is useless. Without love, its lifeless. There’s no point in knowing all about someone if you don’t intend to use that knowledge for their sake.  There’s no point in knowing all about anything if you don’t use it to encourage love, or show love, or plant love, or share love, either in other people or in yourself. Love is the blood of life and of purpose, in everything we do.

Knowledge can’t replace faith or hope. Knowledge is limited by reason, experience, and fact. Faith and hope are a step beyond: faith is trusting someone else’s logic above your own, and hope (and I don’t mean “wishing”) is trusting that the future is bringing something you can’t yet see. By definition, they reach where knowledge can’t go: the unlived future and the mind of God.

Knowledge can’t replace community. It can’t bind people together and it can’t build a family. It can’t support the weak or challenge the strong. It doesn’t give grace or show mercy, because it doesn’t live. It doesn’t breathe. It doesn’t sympathize and it doesn’t rejoice. It doesn’t see or hear or feel. Souls need souls, and knowledge has no soul.

Knowledge can’t replace wisdom. Knowledge tells us what is, but it can’t judge. Wisdom weighs the cost and makes a choice. Knowledge can make a word out of letters, but wisdom can tell if it’s the right word. Without wisdom, knowledge gets us lost and leaves us stranded. Wisdom finds the way home. Wisdom understands where knowledge only sees. Knowledge can name a price, but wisdom finds the value.

To put knowledge in the place of any of these is fatal. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Instead, we’ve got to put knowledge where it does go.

Wisdom isn’t knowledge. It can choose, but it needs choices.  It can read, but it needs words. Knowledge can give wisdom its bearings and can turn a hunch into a fact. When knowledge lays the groundwork, wisdom may be easier to find and to follow.

Community isn’t knowledge. Community lives and breathes and moves: it’s vulnerable and needs both protection and an anchor. It needs borders and balances. Solid knowledge can lay the standard and stand as a touchstone. It’s somewhere to build.

Faith and hope aren’t knowledge. Though they live in the unknown, they need somewhere to start. Knowledge feeds hope and roots faith, so they might grow. Knowledge is their fruit and their reward, blossoming behind them with unexpected splendors. Knowledge can make faith and hope clearer and easier to hold on to.

Love isn’t knowledge. Love is an act and a potent fire: it needs tools. With knowledge, love can work faster and deeper, reaching new places. Love can use knowledge to slay hate, demolish lies, and end suffering. Knowledge is the means to love’s motive, veins for its blood, words for its meaning, giving voice to its music.

Salvation is another thing altogether: it’s a turning point, a state, a process, and a seed. It has a kernel of knowledge at its heart, that we are rebels loved and failures justified. If we look at that little bit of knowledge, poke at it and study it, it gets very, very big.

Knowledge is a catalyst. On its own, it’s useless. But anything you feed it to will get a lot more interesting. With knowledge, grace and mercy might show up where you didn’t know you needed them, while faith and hope might make more sense. With knowledge, communities might find a wider reach, and families might find new strength. With knowledge, love may just terrify us again, the way it should, and inspire us toward everything we forgot and a few things we didn’t guess.

We can live on very little knowledge, but why would we want to?