Knowledge Puffs Up

The world is full of irony. Of the many things people use against Christians, much of the ammunition non-believers use against us has been provided to them…by us. Not always on purpose, of course. Often it can be a simple mis-application of scripture.

For example, one of the charges leveled against the Church is that Christians are anti-intellectual dolts who’s faith is blind and irrational. To a large degree, for a sadly large number of Christians, this assessment is not very inaccurate. That is not the main point I wish to make here, however. Instead, I’d like to look at one of the reasons that may be the root cause of this type of thinking.

Many Christians are under the impression that we are not supposed to use reason with our faith. Often, Christians assume that using reason is a sign of a weak faith. They believe that faith should not require investigation, evidence, reason and critical thinking. One of the proof texts often used against reason as it pertains to faith is 1 Corinthians 8:1-3:

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.

The key part of this verse that gets used is “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” One problem with using this passage in this manner, however, is that it is inconsistent with the rest of Paul’s writing…and Paul’s life. After all, how many times did we read about Paul “reasoning” with people in the temples and synagogues? Heck, just look at his letter to the Romans. That’s the work of a very intelligent, reasonable, rational, critically thinking theologian. He’s so cerebral that even the Apostle Peter could hardly grasp Paul’s writings.

Knowledge and reason are not bad things. But, what about Paul’s exhortation about knowledge “puff[ing] up” you ask!  We must remember the fact that we are living in a fallen world. Everything we are and everything we do is tainted by The Fall. As such, a good thing like knowledge can end up being misused. It can cause us to be “puffed up” and proud. Something that is normally a good thing ends up being corrupted in some way.

This works with all sorts of things. Sex, for example, is a good thing. Yet, it can be used in a way that it was not intended and end up causing problems, pain, etc. Money is also not a bad thing in and of itself. Wealth itself is not good or bad. But, the corruption of The Fall causes us to sometimes use our wealth in unjust and evil ways.

So, let’s not worry about gaining knowledge, so long as we take steps to keep humble. As long as we can do that, as long as we can avoid pride, knowledge can be a good thing. Reason and intellect can be good things. They can actually strengthen, rather than weaken, our faith.

How do you view reason with regards to your faith? Do you feel knowledge and reason oppose faith, or build it?

Grace, love and peace.

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