Showing posts with label Wisdom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisdom. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Wisdom Where We Find It

I have a tendency to take wisdom where I find it.

Obviously, scripture is by far the world’s greatest and purest wisdom source, the only fountain completely safe to drink from — provided, of course, you interpret the Bible correctly — and therefore the only one I drink from time and time again, to the best of my ability every day of my life. Nevertheless, there are numerous useful sources of ‘small-t truth’ out there to explore in the time that remains to us — provided we filter them through the word of God on the way into our brains rather than simply accepting sophistry or snappy formulations as the real deal.

To the pure, all things are pure, right?

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Wisdom to Know the Difference

Remember the ‘Serenity Prayer’? Alcoholics Anonymous used it all the time, and sometimes credited it to an early twentieth century theologian. Many 12-step programs were still using it as recently as 2022, despite the general disfavor into which all things religious have lately fallen. It goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve never been to AA, so I haven’t heard it in a while. There is probably a good reason. Wisdom is in pretty short supply these days.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Sticky Situations

I have used the expression “tar baby” in a couple of posts here over the years.

A tar baby is a wonderful old metaphor for a sticky situation, and particularly a sticky situation that never needed to happen. But its age and origin make it an obscure figure of speech — so obscure I later discovered even my own mother had never heard of it.

Well, that’s a situation that cannot go uncorrected!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Time and Chance (53)

With the advent of the internet, we have become all too used to people sharing their opinions with us.

Editorializing is far from a new activity — human beings have engaged in it for millennia. What’s new is the sheer scale of useless bloviating made possible through social media. More information is fine, but information bereft of both authority and coherence is not worth the effort it takes to process.

Back in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher is about to tell his readers something similar.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Time and Chance (44)

Unless we have studied ancient languages, identifying formal Hebrew proverbs in the text of Ecclesiastes is a bit beyond most of us. To make it easier, my edition of the ESV has displayed roughly a quarter of the 221 English verses in the book with hanging indents instead of regular paragraphing, so that the reader can distinguish poetry, proverbs or quotations from the Preacher’s ongoing narrative.

The highly subjective nature of this style treatment becomes evident when we examine the same verses in other translations.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Time and Chance (43)

The so-called “golden rule of Bible interpretation” is this: When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense. I have heard this line attributed to a few different people, so let’s give credit both to whoever came up with it and to those who have helpfully passed it on.

We often find this principle provoking heartfelt agreement among Bible teachers. It is slightly more unusual to find expositors following it with consistency.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Little Monday Morning Quarterback

Have you ever been in a disagreement that got out of control? I have.

People are different. Some respond to criticism by trying to placate the other side, even groveling if necessary. They are willing to cede any intellectual or moral position in hopes of ending the argument, even when they believe they are in the right. They take the proverbial knee ... or occasionally the literal knee.

Others fume and fuss and become emotional when the logic of a critique disturbs their received worldview. They take correction personally, as a negative commentary on their character rather than a learning opportunity. Easily baited into debating hypotheticals, they can even find themselves arguing positions they don’t really believe because they are so caught up in trying to “win”.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Time and Chance (29)

Much of Ecclesiastes is observational rather than directly instructive. The Preacher tells us the things he did, the things he has seen, and what he thinks about it all ... then leaves the reader to decide how he ought to behave in light of the information shared with him. The first six chapters of Ecclesiastes contain only three “do” or “do not”-type commands.

These next few verses of chapter 7 are a little more pointed.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Agnosticism and Folly

“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

Solomon, wisest man of his day and the greatest king of Israel — at least by the world’s standard of measurement — talks about two alternatives we all face in life, picturing them by extended metaphor as a pair of women offering invitations.

On the surface there are similarities: both women are offering food of a sort to those who are simple, naïve or untaught, just as we all are when we come into the world.

But the similarities end there.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Time and Chance (7)

Last week I pointed out that Ecclesiastes 2 divides neatly into three sections, observing that the phrase “so I turned” marks the transition from one subject to the next. In the first section, the Preacher considers the emptiness of hedonism as a philosophy. This is not a position with which most of our readers are likely to disagree.

This second section, however, deals with the shortcomings of wisdom as a be-all and end-all. That may not be quite so obvious. However, as we will shortly see, even living wisely has its downside.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Time and Chance (5)

If you’ve ever read the biography of a genius, you’ll understand that a high IQ on its own is not necessarily a recipe for a successful or happy life.

Beethoven is thought to have been bipolar. Michelangelo was probably a high-functioning autist. Isaac Newton may well have been schizophrenic. Before becoming a Christian, Leo Tolstoy suffered from deep depression and regularly contemplated suicide.

Obviously there is more to living well than thinking at a high level and possessing a large number of facts.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Under the Microscope

“... so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

It matters what the church is and how it conducts the business of God. It matters because the multifarious wisdom of God is revealed both in what we are and in what we do. We may choose to obscure that wisdom, or we may choose to hold it up in the light to be seen and marveled at throughout the universe.

In short, what we are and what we do matter because we are being watched. God’s ways are under the microscope.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (23)

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

They say there is no free lunch, but Wisdom and Folly are out advertising one. Their message is delivered in the same venues: the highest places of the town, where everybody can hear them and see the long-term results of responding to one or the other. They have the same ad campaign, and they target the same hungry demographic. They reach out to those in need of a set of principles by which they can order their lives. Both metaphorical “women” offer to meet that very common need, but only one can really do so, for reasons that will shortly become evident.

Solomon contrasts living wisely and living foolishly.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (22)

The book of Proverbs was written almost three thousand years ago and preserves truth gathered well prior to that. It is genuinely ancient, and comes out of a cultural setting (or really, cultural settings, plural) with which we can only pretend to be even slightly familiar.

Thus, even if we study and research until the cows come home, we should not be the least bit surprised to find that there are occasional words and phrases in Proverbs that we just can’t parse properly. We can make educated guesses. We can eliminate ridiculous suggestions (of which there are more than a few). But in some cases we will have to content ourselves with being less than 100% sure what a particular word, phrase or sentence really means.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (18)

Anyone who reads here regularly probably already knows I am highly suspicious of claims the Bible teaches egalitarianism. Fairness, absolutely. Justice, always. Equality, in the sense it is currently used politically, not so much.

That said, there are aspects of God’s dealings with mankind that are indeed universal. For example, every single man and woman on earth can reasonably anticipate the judgment of God, either in this life or in a coming day. Likewise, God’s has displayed his love to the entire world and offers salvation freely to all. Again, the offer of fellowship with Christ is extended to any who will open the door and let him in. These things are universals, not limited to a privileged few.

We should probably add wisdom to this list.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (8)

How much time do you devote to becoming wise?

You may not put it that way, of course. Reading the Bible may never have presented itself to you as some kind of quest for understanding. You may think of it as just enjoying the word of God. Or you may have been trained from childhood to read your Bible every day “just because”, and so you keep doing it like a robot. You may do it grudgingly, conscious that your life is insanely busy and twenty minutes every morning is often an imposition. Or you may go to the word of God and dig through it regularly in order to better understand yourself, your world and, most importantly, your Lord and Savior.

Whatever your motivation, if you’re reading God’s word and trying to put its principles into practice, you are becoming more skilled at living life every single day whether you notice it or not.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (6)

David Gooding has a knack for taking great wedges of ancient text and breaking them down into manageable chunks of related material, then dissecting those pieces line by line until we are able to think clearly about them. That’s not unique to Gooding of course — all decent Bible teachers do it — but I especially appreciate his sensitivity to the natural flow of poetry, narrative or argument. I have yet to find him analyzing a passage and think Boy, that structure he’s describing looks awfully artificial.

To the extent we are up to the job, it’s a useful trick to imitate.

Monday, May 07, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (5) says a proverb is a “short pithy saying”. Most familiar Bible proverbs are no more than one or two lines.

A proverb communicates a great deal in the fewest possible words, presumably as an aid to memory, and the reader is usually left to meditate on how best to apply it. The vast majority of biblical proverbs are universally relatable. Even the more obscure sayings ring with plausibility, though they may express truths unfelt or unexperienced.

Or so we might argue. But there are some people to whom the offer of objective truth holds no interest at all.

Monday, April 23, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (3)

How many ways can you ruin your life, or at very least dig yourself a hole so deep that climbing out of it affects the rest of your days?

I suspect the number is large, and the book of Proverbs is full of too many to list. You could have an affair, be chronically lazy, refuse to listen to good advice, marry the wrong sort of woman, make a practice of telling lies, turn your home into a war zone, talk too much or be characteristically proud. All of these things, we are advised, tend to bring about varying degrees of destruction and ruin. Simple observation of the world around us demonstrates their essential truth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (1)

Wisdom is rare today: rarely understood, more rarely expressed, even more rarely followed.

As a result, we live among people with a chronic inability to connect the dots; to discover where and how the choices they made at various points in their lives have inexorably rung in the consequences they experience and bemoan today.

In a ward full of patients, we are desperately short of diagnosticians.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On the Mount (23)

I like to think of wisdom as applied reality: taking one’s knowledge of the actual nature of things and working that knowledge through in a very practical way in the circumstances of life.

That sort of discernment is pictured for us metaphorically in scripture. It is not that the Lord Jesus came so that men and women might pay lip service to a particular series of moral data points, but that we might make use of those facts to act in our own best interests, in the best interests of others, and ultimately and most importantly, in accordance with the will of God.

The metaphor the Lord uses to describe applied reality is light: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Being able to see where we are going is exceedingly practical, and has tremendous value.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

God’s Great Data Repository

Humanity’s drive to preserve itself is acute and perpetual.

How does the next generation come to know who we are and what we have learned? Our wisdom, our knowledge — our very selves, if that were possible — need to be passed on. In doing so, it is thought, we give our own lives meaning. On their way to the grave, even hardened materialists appeal to the notion that they will somehow “live on” in the memories of those with whom they interact. That hope is illusory: human memory degrades with astounding rapidity.

The invention of electronic data storage appeared to provide a solution.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Study of Plate Tectonics (or What Do I Do Next?)

Which way do I go? How do I respond to THAT? Should I wait, or should I act now?

The answers to such questions are not merely of academic interest to the Christian. From time to time, one choice or another gives rise to significant consequences, either good or bad. Other times nothing we choose to do or say matters in the slightest; what happens would have happened anyway.

But of course we don’t know that when we’re choosing, do we? So we find ourselves asking God for wisdom.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

My Church Must Change

There’s a thread of an idea that pops up at the end of a previous post that I wanted to take a few more moments to explore, since it’s been cropping up over and over again throughout my life.

Parents love their kids, or at least they should. In properly-functioning family units, which would hopefully include most Christian families, parents generally fulfill their responsibilities more consistently and effectively, though none of us can claim to have achieved perfection in parenting. Far from it.

But some parents cannot resist putting a finger on the scales to help their kids through life. This is the source of all kinds of trouble.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Back to the Beginning

The world is full of smart people.

Currently, if your IQ is 132 or higher, you are in the 98th percentile for intelligence. Worldwide. Mensa has 121,000 members, but in theory its membership could be sixty or seventy million. That’s a lot of smart people.

But scripture teaches there is something significantly more important than IQ.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

One Touch Away

We live in a day of distraction, when every tiny, struggling spiritual impulse in our hearts and heads has to hack its way through a jungle of psychic noise just to hear the still, small voice of God. Difficult, I know. But there’s tremendous reward for the effort.

And, hey, few people today have to travel for days just to hear the word of God.

Others throughout history have had a much harder time of it. For us, the truth is one touch away.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Mean It, I Swear

An international team of university researchers concludes that people who curse more are less likely to lie and may possess more integrity than their politer peers.

What fascinates me about the study is not its rather pedestrian conclusions, which are all too predictable given the initial assumptions of psychologist Gilad Feldman and his team. After all, garbage in, garbage out, right?

No, it’s really the assumptions they make about the meaning of honesty that ought to cause Christians to stop and think.

Why? Because apparently the word no longer means what it once did.

Ugh. Not again.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: I Thought It My Way

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: Let me set this up for you, IC.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor whose struggle against political correctness we discussed at length here a few weeks ago, gives an extensive interview with two writers for the Winter 2016 edition of C2C Journal about the assault on free speech in Canada.

So one of his interviewers asks him about what it was about his refusal to buckle to the forces of “social justice” at U of T that has set off such a firestorm and his answer is that “There was something I said I wouldn’t do. That took the general and made it specific.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I Got Your Back — For What It’s Worth

“What a great idea!”
“Sure, run with it.”
“I trust your judgment.”

Some people need approval more than others. Some don’t really care one way or another. But nobody — and I mean NOBODY — is truly averse to hearing others enthuse about their ideas, even if the humbler ones among us sometimes find it a little embarrassing.

Three times in 1 Samuel 14 somebody gives positive feedback about the plans of another. In one case the approver is clearly right; in another the approvers are clearly wrong; and in the third instance it doesn’t seem to matter much either way.

It’s a good reminder that over-reliance on the encouragement of others is pretty dubious practice for the follower of God.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Threatened by Intelligence

A series of studies done at University of Buffalo, California Lutheran U. and the University of Texas, Austin, appear to show that while many men say they would like a partner who is smarter than they are when the question is purely hypothetical, when confronted with the reality they really … don’t.

“Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them.”

This is surprising? Seriously?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Agnosticism and Folly

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Beginning of Wisdom

The most current version of this post is available here.