In at least one of my recorded lectures for the college, I’ve touched upon the need for us to be constantly aware of the distinction between knowledge and faith. I’ve related more than once my own experience (many years ago) in this area when I mistook my expanding theological knowledge for a deepening of my personal faith, and the shock I felt on realising what had happened. I’m sure that for all students of the bible and theology, this is constantly a ‘clear and present danger’.
In the writings of Kierkegaard and in the 20th century theology of neo-orthodoxy (which borrowed heavily on Kierkegaard’s thought), this basic question arises again and again. If it is true that – as neo-orthodoxy claims – we come to faith by encounter with the risen Lord, rather than by knowledge about him, then we – as his disciples need constantly to find ways to guard against falling into this error. Just to make myself absolutely clear, I do not speak about the danger of feeling self-satisfied by our own ‘cleverness’ as we increase in knowledge (though this is dangerous enough), but specifically of mistaking this increased knowledge for increased faith.
In his Attack Upon “Christendom” Kierkegaard uses a wonderful little parable to help us and I’d like to share this with you.
‘…the most deplorable thing perhaps that can be said of a man is that he cannot be elevated, uplifted, his own knowledge cannot lift him up. Like the boy who lets his kite fly aloft, so does he let his knowledge mount on high; to follow it with his eye he finds interesting, prodigiously interesting, but… it does not lift him up, he remains in the mud, more and more crazy about the interesting.
Wherefore, whoever thou art, if such be the case with thee – shame upon thee, shame upon thee, shame upon thee!’ *
Those of us who study scripture, theology, the things of God, so that we may enlighten our own hearts and minds and in turn, enlighten the souls of others, must constantly remind ourselves of the fact that the basis of our relationship with him is by faith and not by knowledge (or any other works of our own).
*Princeton University Press 1944, page 232