Knowing Why We Want Knowledge

Knowledge can be a good thing, it is never good divorced from a reflective culture of personal holiness.

Let’s be honest, we don’t need PhDs to love Jesus, grow in holiness and serve him faithfully. But we so often favour those with deep knowledge of the scriptures and of Christian stuff in general (which is all good) whilst overlooking more pertinent matters of the heart. Often in reformed circles, knowledge is godliness. That, in my opinion, is a big mistake.


I have met with lots of people who have a deep need for you to know they are right. There is, of course, nothing wrong with being right. Being right is obviously a good thing. It is right, after all. Nor is there anything wrong with gently correcting people who are wrong. That is a loving thing to do. Equally, there is nothing wrong – of itself – disagreeing with somebody if we happen not to agree. There’s no point being dishonest. But there is something wrong with needing people to know we are right.

You see, you might be right. But if your being right doesn’t really do anything for the other persons to whom you are showing your rightness, why are you making it known to them? The only reason is to let them know you are right and, by virtue of your rightness, their wrongness. Some might be keen to let the other people feel small that they are definitely feeble-minded wrong-thinkers, but often I don’t think it is quite that unpleasant. More a case of wanting others to know we are right and, much like David Brent, assume when our interlocutors recognise our astounding rightness they will quiver in awe and go away thinking, ‘oh yeah, yeah, you are the best.’

Now there is nothing especially clever or interesting about that insight. Lots of people are like this and most people see it. What we perhaps don’t see is how we are partially responsible for it. By ‘we’, I don’t necessarily mean the specific people being told they’re wrong and probably stupid. I mean all of us vis- à-vis culture (I can’t get away from the Brentisms now!)

I mean, I like a good discussion/debate/argument as much as the next person. I know some people find them tiresome (and that’s OK, I get it), but for me they are a genuine part of a learning process. It is the way to test ideas and make sure I am holding to the best ones so far as I can tell. I like people throwing curve balls I’ve not thought about because they are precisely the things we do need to think about, not all the arguments that we’ve heard repeated ad nauseam that we are well acquainted with and know precisely how we answer them.

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