I just finished my last qualifying exam (click here to read it at my writing page) in time to begin a new semester at PTS. With a new semester starts I often get in the mood to ask about the purpose of study. Why grow in knowledge? What is its purpose? I have a lot of pat answers, but few satisfy me.
Then I came across this little verse near the beginning of Paul's letter to the Philippians:
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)
According to Paul, the purpose of knowledge is discernment. Knowledge is not an end in itself. There is no direct line between knowledge and the glory of God, though we often act like there is. Rather, we glorify God by bearing the fruit of righteousness, a.k.a., living holy lives. But living a holy life includes making good and right choices. And in order to make good and right choices, one needs discernment: the skill of making complex judgments. We store up knowledge and deep insight in order to have maximal resources at our disposal when choices are thrust upon us.
What does this look like? Well, it at least implies that study is not necessarily immediately applicable. Perhaps a story or a concept or a model will not produce a virtue or a program or a sermon. However, if one grows in knowledge she will have more to draw on when a touch choice is put before. At a bed side, in a board room, or on a platform, one may be pressed to make a decision without the time to read and reflect. It is for such times that knowledge has been stored up so that we may be able to discern.
Do you see the connection between knowledge and discernment?
Would you think through this connection differently?
How has your pursuit of knowledge increased your discernment?