Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How to Acquire Wisdom


(Tree, in my back yard)

My child, will you treasure my wisdom?
Then, and only then, will you acquire it.
And only if you accept my advice
and hide it within will you succeed.
So train your heart to listen when I speak
and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment—
then pass it on to your sons and daughters.[a]
Yes, cry out for comprehension and intercede for insight.
For if you keep seeking it like a man would seek for sterling silver,
searching in hidden places for cherished treasure,
then you will discover the fear of the Lord
and find the true knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5
I have spent a lifetime seeking wisdom. Where have I found it?

Not in the media. I look to the media for information, not wisdom. There is not one news reader (CNN, Fox News, etc.) who functions as my moral and spiritual guide.  

I turn off the TV when a journalist goes outside the bounds of raw reporting and puts their spin, their interpretation, on events. Or, when a journalist pontificates ex cathedra on the meaning of it all, or spouts ethics. It's impossible to find untainted, uninterpreted information. It is in principle impossible, since all "facts" are theory-laden. What I am writing is tainted. What you are thinking is tainted. Wisdom is needed to separate the pure from the polluted.

I don't look to science for wisdom. Science studies empirical reality. Wisdom is non-empirical. Which is to say, wisdom cannot be weighed, measured, and quantified. To think it can be is to commit the naturalistic fallacy

For wisdom I look to five sources, two secondary, the other three primary.

One of my secondary sources is philosophy. Philosophy is philo - sophia, the "love of wisdom." I have immersed my being in philosophical literature since 1970, when I changed my university major to philosophy. I have gotten a lot of wisdom from philosophers, even from atheists who, though disagreeing with their core convictions, display intra-worldview intuition.

My second secondary source for wisdom is people who know God, who spend much time with God, and reflect on their experiences with God. In 1970 I became a believer in God and follower of Jesus.  Two books were placed in my hands, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since then I have not  stopped reading Christian theistic wisdom literature, having up to ten books going at a time.

I know many Jesus-followers who have never written a book, yet possess wisdom. These are people who love God and know God and spend much time with God. God speaks wisdom through them, to me.

My first primary source for wisdom is the Christian Scriptures; viz., The Book. Since 1970, I have been swimming in a sea of wisdom from above, mediated through the words of the Bible. Currently, I am re-soaking in Proverbs and the Gospel of Matthew. Here is deposited wisdom of the ages, illuminated by God the Holy Spirit.

Primary wisdom source #2 is the Holy Spirit. Scripture points me to the living relationship with God's Spirit, who enlightens and guides me. 

Primary wisdom source #3 is the Discerning Community. (The best book on developing a discerning community is by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.) 

Linda and I are connected with our church community. We have gained so much wisdom over the years from our people!

The Discerning Community expands to certain friends and several pastoral colleagues. It includes Spirit-led authors. They have become, to me, human wisdom mentors. Eugene Peterson, for example, is one of them. Peterson, now deceased, carries much wisdom. Here he points me in the right direction.  

"If we forget that the newspapers are footnotes to Scripture and not the other way around, we will finally be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Too many of us spend far too much time with the editorial page and not nearly enough with the prophetic vision. We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information; the meaning of the world is most accurately given to us by God’s Word." (Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Kindle Locations 661-668)

Want to gain wisdom and understanding? Begin with the book of Proverbs. In it you'll find nuggets like this.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7

My books are... 

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Jasnice Trigg)