Knowledge and Wisdom


Knowledge and Wisdom - by P.K.Odendaal - September 2014

Conventional wisdom has it that these two concepts are almost the same and a pursuit of the one is also a pursuit of the other - and ultimately, if you pursue either, you will end up having both.

Well ... as expected, nothing is further from the truth.

That reminds me then that conventional wisdom is not wisdom at all, but knowledge, as wisdom cannot err or seldom does. We should call it conventional knowledge.

And so - after many years and many efforts, errors and omissions, I have come to the sobering conclusion that these two are in fact quite the opposite of each other and natural enemies. It is like striving to live a life of wisdom and folly simultaneously - the two are mutually exclusive, and to be frank, my notion now is that knowledge and wisdom are mutually exclusive. But you do not have to take my word for it. Let us ponder some of the implications of mixing these two opposites.

For this I have to start at the start, which is Genesis.

There were two trees in this paradise, namely the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. So, this being two separate trees, we can already surmise that they are quite different; otherwise they would have been one tree. What is more, they were quite different in their appearance as well.

The one standing in the middle of paradise, and which is called the Tree of Life, is a vine (Joh 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman); quite unseemly in its appearance, as vines usually are, and nothing to grab our attention. We are reminded of that truth in Isa 53:2 ... and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. However - its fruits are magnificent.

The other one was not in the middle of Eden, but somewhat off-centre or backstage, and it was big and beautiful to behold, easy to see from anywhere and it seemed to have such lovely fruits - 'And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.' The implication here is that it makes us wise or gives us wisdom, which is quite erroneous. It gives us knowledge.

It was thus only natural that Adam and Eve would rather choose this latter tree to admire and eat from - and we have been doing the same for six thousand years. We would much rather be seen around this tree of learning and be considered learned or even celebrities, than to abide at the lowly vine, and that is why scripture says that 'wisdom cries out in the streets and nobody heeds it.'

I myself have had a go at eating from this tree for many decades. I have read multitudes of books and article on philosophy, science, history and natural history in my pursuit of knowledge. In the process I became addicted to knowledge and wanted to know more everyday - much more than I knew yesterday. I did not know that what I looked for was not there and that I was looking in the wrong place for wisdom.

I have found some knowledge there, but sad to say, I have yet to find any wisdom in any of those sources. I have in effect been barking up the wrong tree for decades before realizing that it leads unto death, agnosticism, atheism, depression and despair. You might want to read my article on the despair of a learned man in 'The Sunset Limited' elsewhere on this blog.

And this reminds me that once upon a time there was a wise man called King Solomon, and this is what he said about his pursuit of knowledge: Ecc 1:18  ... and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Why did I not read this scripture before embarking on such a long search for knowledge? It is too late now to get to unlearn that.

On the other side of the coin, the Tree of Life gives us wisdom and life. Unfortunately, and quite appropriately, we have been allowed to eat from this Tree Of knowledge all these millennia, but we did not have access to the Tree of Life, because it was protected from intrusion by two angels with swords. Gen 3:24  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Though we are still barred from eating of it, God prepared a way for us to eat from that vine, but only under certain conditions - with a heart cleansed of sin and faith in Him. God was not going to let Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Life (Himself) after eating from the Tree of knowledge, lest they live forever in sin.

It is quite inappropriate to hear people speak of the Grapes of Wrath, whilst it should really be the Grapes of Grace.

Where can we get wisdom from? The only clue I can give you and myself is from scripture. Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. My own search for wisdom has been very hard, and still I have attained only a small fraction of that. I think it is partly because of my affinity for knowledge which is standing in my way, and I can therefore feel for agnostics and atheists who have gone too far on the path of knowledge. I see around me that simple faith goes further to assist us in getting wisdom, although that is not all that is required. I have written an article on Innocence and Ignorance which you might want to read to understand this concept.

On a more practical level I think a great deal of wisdom comes from understanding. I have never understood knowledge and science fully or comprehensively and I have never met someone who did. The reason is that we understand so little and our knowledge is so fragmented. We can count to ten, yes, but we have not even come to understand that nature of numbers - and that is also applicable to the more complex issues, concepts and theories. The problem is really that the Tree of Knowledge led to philosophy, then science and then atheism and death itself in all its forms - so it must be a very unwise route to take.

I cannot articulate the theoretical issues between wisdom and knowledge nearly as competent as prof. John Lennox in his lecture: 'A matter of Gravity: God, The Universe and Stephen Hawking.' and even there he skims the surface.

Will I quit my quest for wisdom? Never. 1Co 1:20  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? v:21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.