Knowledge vs. Practice
“The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” – D. L. Moody.
I came across this quote today on Twitter. Obviously, Moody didn’t post it, but a prominent leader in the discipleship movement whom I respect greatly, tweeted this quotable quote. So let me begin by saying I have purchased the pastor’s materials, gone to his conferences, and look up to him, so this not a personal vendetta as much as it is a reminder for me that one day we will all be held accountable for every stray Tweet.
The Heart of the Issue
This quote says that the Bible is pragmatic, not intellectual. It does not imply that the Bible isn’t JUST knowledge based, it says that knowledge is not the reason God gave us revelation. Intentions of Moody and the Tweeter aside, this is what the sound bite says.
The problem is that this doesn’t make any sense. How can the Bible change lives if people don’t know how to change, what to do, what causes it, what to believe (which necessarily requires knowledge content), and what not to believe? No change occurs from the heart first. Knowledge/information must be provided so that a person can act on it.
In fact, the Bible is God’s revelation. Revelation is information. Christians must first understand the revelation before they can act on it. Jesus confirmed this with the parable of the soils. Jesus said the hard soil did not understand the good news of the kingdom, so Satan easily took away what was sown. The thorny and shallow soil understood, but even then they didn’t act on it correctly either because of misplaced loyalties or character defects. But the good soil first understood the message, and then after receiving it, gives evidence of that changed life through the production of fruit.
The Danger of False Dichotomy
A dichotomy is a contrast between two things that are completely different. Some people see humans as dichotomy between the body and soul. Rene Descartes thought this when he said we are body with a soul. C.S. Lewis tried to reverse this when he said we are a soul with a body. Both were wrong because it’s a false dichotomy in that humans are a body/soul union and that a person is incomplete without one or the other. Just try separating your soul from your body. You weren’t meant to be. This is the hope of the resurrection that the spiritual life we have in Christ will be fulfilled in our physical life in the resurrection.
Another false dichotomy is the faith vs. reason debate. Do Christians rely on faith or reason? The answer is “yes.” My wife hates when I answer a multiple choice question with “yes,” but that is the best answer. Our faith is a reasonable faith. Our faith is not irrational as if we randomly choose God or if the only reason we are Christians is because we were raised that way. My ministry is dedicated to pulling people out of such a blind faith because if such blind faith is bad for Muslims, Mormons, and Moonies (cult group, but I’m Baptist, so I had to keep with the “M”s), then it’s bad for the Christians. We love God with our minds and our hearts and then we know to what we should put our strength.
So the idea that the Bible is not meant to give us information is ridiculous. That’s a lot of pages with a lot of information, commands, doctrines, stories, and illustrations that are irrelevant so long as we “live right.” And changing our lives only works if we know (information) what to repent from, and what we should convert to (information).
And since knowledge and living is not a dichotomy, anyone who stops with the information is incomplete. The Bible provides us the knowledge that leads to action. It tells us what we are to value and why. It teaches us about Jesus and his life and what he did for us. When we understand (knowledge) what Jesus did for us and how helpless we were, this moves us (action) to be the type of people we were called to be.
Both John and Peter state this in their letters that based upon the knowledge of Christ and what he plans to do, we ought to walk as he walked and be the type of people we were called to be.
Reclaiming the Christian Mind
Finally, I am again reminded of the need for logic at the lay level. Sometimes believers think “that logic stuff” is just too far beyond them. Basic logic is like the type of math you use to balance your check book, plan a budget, and keep track of sports stats. It’s essential to our operation as responsible human beings. The teaching of logic was eliminated from the public education years ago in favor of more “practical” things. People didn’t need to know how to think, they just needed to know what to do….or so the logic went.
Practically speaking, this hasn’t worked out so well for us as a society, and it definitely has not worked well for the church which is called to honor God with their minds.
I plan to offer lay level, Bible study style logic through this website over the course of the next few months. As I’ve often said in my logic class, “this will help you to love Jesus more.” Isn’t that what most of the TV and movie drama is about? People understanding one another? People learning about one another? God is wisdom, and it is his nature to be rational. When we are rational beings, we mirror God, for we bear His image in us.