Now, my fellow Christ Followers, before you go and get defensive or overly offended at what you think this title means, let’s both have some wisdom and practice this proverb:
Proverbs 9:10 (NIV) – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” –
This verse always reminds me of a man that I will inevitably have to mention named Socrates. Socrates was famous for many things, one of them is the assertion of this statement:
– “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” –
There are a few variations of this quote due to the several interpretations through only secondhand sources, some of which even substitute the word “knowledge” with “wisdom.” Either way, there is a common theme between what Socrates observed as well as the formerly mentioned verse from Proverbs, and that theme is humility. Socrates, in my opinion, was not trying to say that wisdom was attained through knowledge but rather the prerequisite to knowledge which is inquisitiveness. You cannot seek the knowledge of something without admitting you don’t know that knowledge. In a similar way, Proverbs teaches us that wisdom is enabled by “The fear of the Lord.”
What is “The Fear of the Lord”?
If you grew up going to church or have studied the Bible, you will find that English words and translations don’t always live up to the full capacity of what a verse or passage in the Bible is trying to convey. For example, the verse John 3:16 says that “…whoever believes in him (God’s only son) shall not perish but have eternal life.” The English word that doesn’t do this verse justice is “believes.” At a first look, one could conclude that this belief is the same belief I have that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America. This would be an incredibly incomplete conclusion to what this verse is trying to say, and in the same way, the fear of the Lord is more than being terrified of an almighty being. I believe that this fear could be compared to the feeling you may experience staring into the seemingly bottomless depths of the ocean. You fear the vastness because of how little you can see or the possibilities of what exists within it. In the same way, fearing the Lord is fearing the endlessness of his existence. This fear can also be experienced by understanding how limited your understanding is of the vastness. Everything that you could possibly know about God, reality, and existence can only be explained to you by relating to something you have already learned or experienced. For example, we are taught that God is our Father. This description of God is truth in its full capacity, but God’s love for us is beyond what we can understand. So in order to help us glimpse into the vastness of this love, we describe God with one of strongest forms of love we’ve experienced on earth, a Father’s love.
Now coming to the conclusion that this fear can be described as the inability to understand God’s vastness, we find ourselves where we have started. Once we see God and fear the vastness of things we cannot understand, we change from a bible thumping theology scholar who has it all figured out, to a mere pupil who may never graduate from elementary school in the field of the divine.
“The Fear Of The Lord” & Philosophy
This posture towards learning, experiencing, and understanding is what I believe Proverbs 9:10 calls for and what Socrates started to see in the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge of the infinite or God. I’ve entitled this post as such to bring you to this point I would like to make. Christians very often behave as if they figured it out. I remember sharing with other Christians how interested I was in my first philosophy class, only to be met with comments such as, “Why does philosophy matter? As Christians we already know what the meaning of life & truth is, don’t we?” These comments used to make me feel as if I was a terrible Christian and what the Bible says wasn’t good enough for me. But there’s something about the study of philosophy that Christians cannot deny. If you broke down philosophy to its most simple form, you would see that it is nothing more than a search for truth. Every truth that philosophy grasps to understand, is God’s ordained truth. Therefore, seeking truth is nothing short of seeking God himself. Furthermore, as we learned early, God’s vastness has no limit which makes the idea of us having things figured out entirely hogwash. We have doctrines that are our faith’s anchor and foundation, that is why the truths God promises us in the Bible are so precious. These truths do not elevate you in knowledge but rather sheds light on your relative position as a mere human. We don’t know everything and we never will for we are not God.
Why This Matters
Christians need philosophy now more than ever. We are in a cultural war on what truth is, as well as its existence entirely. In the post-truth, pluralist society, it is paramount that we as Christians struggle with questions that we have been avoiding for years. No longer can we pretend that sitting in pews, knowing the right verses, and being fluent in our evangelical lingo is enough for our generation as well as those to come. Roughly 624 B.C. was the first known philosopher who asked questions and they have not stopped. Do not shy away from philosophy, on the contrary, champion it. For we know as Christians, the truth that the world seeks shall set them free.