We hear very little about wisdom today. Instead, we hear more and more about the importance of information — about the virtues of information and the benefits of increased information. “Big data” and “data mining” are the buzz words of the day. These are quite literally seen by humanity as their savior. But it is important to recognize that information, knowledge, and wisdom are not the same things.
I want to lay out the building blocks first from a humanistic point of view. At the basic level, we have data. Data is just raw symbols, numbers and letters that don’t necessarily have any real meaning, just numbers and words. When you collect that data together you can then create information. Information answers basic questions about the data: who, what, where, when? Information is data that has been assigned some kind of relational connection, placing some meaning or context to that data. If you learn how to place words together you can express meaning. If you put numbers together, for example, you could then have a list representing prices, totals of something or ages of a group of people. Data starts to take some form and meaning.
When we then collect, combine, and compare information, we come to have what is called acquired knowledge. Knowledge makes the information useful. Knowledge is a “general awareness or possession of information, facts, ideas, truths or principles.” So, if we commit portions of God’s Word to memory, all kinds of facts, history, instruction—then we have knowledge. We have now processed that data and that information up to a more complex level of knowledge. The pieces of information have come together and express more complex thoughts and meaning.
When we use that knowledge to make good decisions, when we apply the facts and knowledge to life situations, we can express wisdom. Wisdom combines knowledge with experience to live with virtue. Every day we encounter data, information, and knowledge; however, God calls us to live with wisdom. The book of Proverbs personifies wisdom and describes her as something to be sought after more than any of the treasures on earth.
In the end time age however, wisdom and even knowledge are de-emphasized in favor of information. Information is now available in unimaginable quantities, but it is no longer seen as a means to a higher level or a virtuous end. Information is not seen as a tool by which we increase our knowledge so we might live with wisdom. Instead, information has become an end in itself. Society is now firmly entrenched in the belief that the accumulation of information will somehow automatically lead to wisdom; that more information will eventually solve society’s problems and improve everyone’s lives. All we need to do is embrace it and place our faith in information and it will lead to never-ending progress.
Quentin Schultze observes this godlike importance we now attach to information and uses the word “informationism” to describe it. According to Schultze, informationism is “a non-discerning, vacuous faith in the collection and dissemination of information as a route to social progress and personal happiness.” Informationism is now a false god to society and it preaches “the ‘is’ over the ‘ought to be’. Observation over intimacy and measurement over meaning.”
Tim Challies is an author whose insight I use liberally throughout this message. He states: “We are becoming people who have access to vast amounts of knowledge, but who retain just little bits of knowledge in our minds and hearts. This leads us to care more about accessing information that will make our lives immediately easier, that will fix our problems, than to carefully, thoughtfully consider the morality of what we do with that information. That mind-set allows us to manipulate the world so we can get what we want when we want it. It’s immediate, but it’s fleeting. As we increasingly dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of information, we grow increasingly unable or unwilling to distinguish between knowledge and information, or wisdom and knowledge.”
He goes on to state one of the ways this can affect us: “Why expend effort in getting the Bible into my heart and mind if I already have it in my pocket?” As we outsource our brains to the information society, we “threaten our ability to make information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. We train ourselves not to remember, but to forget. Empty minds will beget empty hearts and empty lives.”
But again, informationism is the lens through which society understands life and if we are not extremely careful, it can be how we also can inaccurately understand life and ourselves. It can profoundly affect our views of two important things: truth and authority.
Our access to information is a mile wide, but our knowledge of that is just an inch deep; and then wisdom is practically non-existent. Our lives as Christians are to be dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom. It’s far better to know fewer things, but to know those things on a much deeper level. The key difference is even more profound in that the source is not just gathering information from the five senses.
The starting point for all that the Bible proclaims as wisdom is something called the knowledge of God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
This principle is the basis of all the Proverbs and the entire Word of God: to know wisdom, one must first know God. Not just about God, but to know Him. Who or what then is God? How can we describe God?
In the context of information, knowledge and wisdom, God is truth. It is one of His attributes and is foundational to who He is. We don’t just say that God has truth, we say that God is truth. It’s part of His very core and being. As a member of the God family, Christ defines Himself as “the truth”: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:16).
So, truth is a core attribute. God is the source of all truth and all “perfect knowledge” (Job 37:16). Wayne Grudem states, “In a society that is exceeding careless with the truthfulness of words, we as God’s children are to imitate our Creator and take great care to be sure that our words are always truthful.” Growth in this knowledge is part of the process of becoming more like God.
However, the model prevalent today in the digital media world is that information can be conceived and presented by anyone. In this world, anyone can say anything they want about anything they want and make it look and sound as authoritative as they want. For example: absolutely anyone of you right now can go on Wikipedia, one of the largest repositories of information, and add or subtract information and edit any article on any subject that you want. Whether it’s truth or not.
In this model, age, experience, education, and authority have absolutely no value. Because there are no experts, anyone and everyone is on equal footing. The “facts” don’t have to be proven. When truth is being disputed, the deciding factor is not whether it can be proven, but on whatever the majority agrees upon. That’s key. That is how a fact becomes “fact” in this system, this model.
Similarly, if I look up something on any kind of search engine, what I get back is not necessarily truth. It is truth measured by relevance. It determines what is true based on algorithms that give weight to certain sites and what is popular.
Truth then, in all these systems, is nothing more than consensus and relevance. It utterly redefines what truth is. Truth here does not have its source in God; it has its source in majority opinion. The crowd creates knowledge. The crowd decides what is right and wrong. But what is unique now is how what has been built by man in this age has so radically sped-up the process of humanity feeding upon itself to its own end. It is truly a downward spiral, not an upward progression. It’s not freedom and enlightenment as most people proclaim. It’s anarchy.
Knowledge and truth cannot be democratized; they flow from God, who is truth. As the foundation of truth is changing in this world, we need to be very careful that we do not allow it to change us as well. As Christians we know what is true because we know who is true. We know the source of truth and we must have a solid connection to that source. Consensus and relevance are false ideas that may imitate the truth and at times may even state what is true. But all truth ultimately flows from the one source who is Truth.
Closely related to truth is the subject of authority: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:1-2).
God is the ultimate authority, and all authority originates with Him. He calls everyone to an obedient way of life. He also gives humans authority of various types, and they are answerable to God. Submission to authority, even to sinful humans, becomes possible because we understand that submission is ultimately a way of submitting to God.
Our inherent human nature naturally wants to fight authority. It automatically wants to regard it as something that is against us. But we are to see authority in a different light. Tim Challies, writing on the subject, says, “Authority is a gift through which God orders relationships in a way that brings glory to Him. Authority is about order, maintaining proper structures in relationships so it is clear who is leading, taking responsibility and being accountable for the choices that are made. It is about protection, caring for those with less knowledge, wisdom or strength. And ultimately, it is about the character of God, showing the world that God is a God of order rather than chaos.”
The author goes on to say, “Much of our technologies function as a great leveler, reducing the authority of the expert and elevating the authority of the amateur. The lifelong theologian has no more authority than the young child; the teacher has no more authority than the pupil; the parent has no more authority than the child. As we undermine the authority that’s inherent in knowledge, how long will it be before we undermine authority in other areas of life? The old authority structures, those top-down structures where experts led amateurs, have now faded into the twilight. In its place we have crowdsourcing and the cult of the amateur.”
So any kind of truth and respect for authority is being completely obliterated. We then, living amongst this society, must be extremely careful about how we choose the sources of our knowledge, the sources we look to when discerning what is true and what is false. We are seeing radical changes in the conception of truth and what constitutes authority to declare truth. It has contributed greatly to the changing of the world, and it can powerfully undermine us if we are not careful and aware of Satan’s devices.
Satan is the enemy of truth and he does not just seek to replace individual truths. Even more so, he seeks to undermine our entire conception of what truth even is. If he can undermine truth and if he can undermine authority, he can undermine the Churches.
If we are not connected to the source of truth, then we are ripe to be picked off through deceit of all kinds. Here is the point. The medium is the message. The inherent ideas behind many of the technologies we use every day have contributed greatly to the state of the world as it is now and are one of the reasons why society has degraded so quickly. It’s not just the messages that are delivered by the medium, it’s the medium itself that has become the message. And, again, if we are caught unaware and not mindful of the dangers and devices at play, we come to love these things. It is so addictive, and it will undermine us.
2 Timothy 3 has a long list of the state of the world now. Things like “lovers of self”, “without self-control”, and “swollen with conceit”. It describes this world that is filled with pride. Pride of knowledge; extremely proud of their abilities to collect information, their so-called knowledge. Thinking that they can somehow use that information to overcome the failings of human nature.
My point has been to show that a great deceit is being forced on society to control and manipulate in all kinds of unhealthy directions and we need to understand that. Powerful forces are at play actively teaching us to worship knowledge and information rather than the source of truth. Unfortunately, the sources of knowledge and information that we routinely attach ourselves to are sources designed to alter how we think about truth and authority. If we aren’t connected to the source of truth, then we can’t live by wisdom.
Do we understand that the foundation and sources behind all of our so-called enlightenment of information are actually based on anarchy? That’s the mind of Satan, and that’s the source and what is preached via the “medium of the message”. It’s designed from its very core to pull people away from God, away from truth, away from proper perspectives on authority; it’s anarchy.
Humanity will prove that the results of their systems of governments, religions, families, occupations, medical practices, you name it, and how we receive information all led to chaos and destruction. God will then come and start over again and rebuild all of that from the ground up for humanities good. To teach man from the very beginning the foundation of wisdom and the knowledge of God. It’s not just what will be said and done, but how that will be said and done that will be for the benefit of all humanity’s long-term spiritual health.
So as we are trying to live in this present world now, we need to be extremely careful that we are not stained by the world’s ideas. Remember truth is not what is relevant, it’s not what is popular, but truth is what God thinks. If we are able to live by wisdom, by connecting to the source, the foundation of knowledge, then we can be there in the future to effectively help point humanity to God and Jesus Christ, the ultimate source of truth and the ultimate authority over all.