On Sunday The Things That Matter Most aired the second segment of our radio interview with Faith and Culture contributor Dallas Willard on his new book Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. Both programs with Dallas are available at our website or on iTunes podcasts–an enjoyable way to sample the best book I’ve read in a long while on the issue of belief, certainty and the confidence that spiritual knowledge affords. The interview ended with the following exchange on why it seems that God often hides knowledge of himself from us.
Lael: If having knowledge of God is so vital for human flourishing, why do you think God didn’t give us more knowledge—more archeological evidence for the ark or the exodus, earlier manuscripts of the Bible, individual visions or dreams …some silver bullets of evidence that would give us the undeniable knowledge we need to trust him? As you said earlier, communication is as much about what you make known as what you withhold. Why do you think God withholds so much if knowledge is so important as the basis of faith?
(Dallas) Knowledge is also dangerous. And you have to grow into it in a way that makes it safe for you. You can illustrate that by technological knowledge. We have a problem with terrorism today precisely because of the advances in technology. People have been blowing themselves up to kill others for a long time, but we did not have a problem with international terrorism.
Our problem with knowledge today is that we already know more than we know what to do with. And with reference to God, he has adjusted the reality of himself to beings that he wants to choose and seek him…as a part of development that allows them to receive him and live as he would like them to live in their increasing knowledge of God…
The issue is not just, “May I have more knowledge?” or “Should we have more knowledge?”, but “What did I do with the knowledge I had?” If we use that knowledge, we will be safely led into all of the knowledge of God that we need. And I think that you have to understand that in order to understand why the Bible is in the situation it is in, why the church is like it is, why history has been the way it is. That is often a dreadful thing, but I believe that it is a part of God’s technique to adjusting himself to what we are capable of as human beings.
Lael: Because we all know people who are “educated far beyond their intelligence” as we like to say, far beyond their character to be able to handle their knowledge…
Dallas: This is tied to what Paul says about how “knowledge puffs up…Love builds up.” And “if anyone thinks they know anything, yet,” Paul said, “they do not know it as they ought to know.” Knowledge has effects on our character that are only safe as we grow in love.
That means that it [knowledge] will not run over us.
And we want to remember that knowledge is like that in all of its dimensions. It’s not just knowledge of God. Knowledge does not run over you. And we have a school system now that basically presents knowledge as something [where] you come, and sit in this room, and it will run over you. And it doesn’t. And that’s why we have such massive failures, because we are not approaching it from the attitude of, Knowledge is for people who seek it and want it.
Lael: And for people who can “handle the truth” as Jack Nicholson would say, in humility. In a way that doesn’t puff us up and destroy us like maybe it did for some of the Harvard students that we mentioned in the Grant study starting out, but in a way that leads to peace and joy.
Dallas: You can be absolutely sure that that is a major part of what was going on there. And it’s a pity that the study is not able to deal with that.