Monday, February 3, 2014

Knowledge or Application: Approaching Scripture

Higher education is primarily perceived in two different ways--one, as a series of classes to check off in order to achieve the goal of a career and, two, as an institute where learning and knowledge is its own goal.  Both divergent views continually come in conflict with one another, no more so than when fighting over curriculum, over which courses and degrees must be eliminated and which are worthwhile to continue funding.

As an English professor, my career field is ever under attack.  The humanities, which includes literature and philosophy, are seen by many as impractical for those who perceive college as the pursuit of only those things that can be immediately and directly applied in the modern, working world.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake, it seems, is not valued in our present-day, evaluation-prone culture where if it cannot be objectively tested with a series of No.2-filled quantifiable bubbles, then it is not worthwhile.

Yet, I remain an advocate of knowledge that lacks immediate, direct application. Nowhere is learning more important than in my own Christian walk with God.

My pastor has often preached against obtaining knowledge of God without putting it into application, and I wholeheartedly agree that we would do well to heed such a warning.  Reading Scripture but never putting those Words into effect in our own lives is as worthless as reading a CPR manual and then idly watching someone choke to death.

Yet, while this is one incorrect use of Scripture (seeking knowledge yet having no self-application), I would argue there is another incorrect way to approach God's Word--seeking solely after the Word's application to our current circumstances versus seeking knowledge of the One we serve.

In the Lord's rebuke of Israel before they were taken into exile by Assyria, He condemns their lack of knowledge: "They do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, Nor do they consider the work of His hands.  Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge" (Is. 5:12-13).

The prophet Hosea reiterates the same concept concerning knowledge: "the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land....My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hos. 4:1,6).

The Israelites were still sacrificing in the temple, still celebrating the feasts and holy days mandated in Leviticus.  They were still doing these outward displays of obedience to the Lord. Yet, their actions were empty because they lacked knowledge of the One they served.  They had forgotten that God wanted faithfulness.  He wanted their hearts, not merely actions of outward show.

Consider what happens if we take an "it's all about me" approach to Scripture, if we open its pages solely in pursuit of what God can tell ME about MY life.  In essence, we open our Bibles automatically looking for a way to apply those words to our lives, which leads us to skip over and maybe even avoid those passages we deem inapplicable, irrelevant, or simply "not about my current circumstances."

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking God's will for our lives through Scripture, I do believe that if we only encounter Scripture with a "what's in it for me" kind of attitude, then we miss out on so much knowledge of who God is, and first and foremost, that is what Scripture is--a love letter to mankind to teach us quite intimately about this God whom we serve.

As with everything, there must be a balance between knowledge and application.  We cannot merely pursue one or the other or we will be found lacking.

This week, I would challenge you to approach God's Word with the intent purpose of learning about God first and only then seeing how this knowledge can impact your life.

There is great merit in such a pursuit. 

No comments:

Post a Comment