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The Content of True Wisdom

The consideration of the sum of true wisdom leads naturally to the content of that instruction which promotes true wisdom. There is an objective body of knowledge that can be communicated to the following generation in order that they, responding aright, might be wise. "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." (Proverbs 1.8) There is so much information that can be communicated and the learner might easily drown beneath the floods. "Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecclesiastes 12.12) Good instruction requires careful discrimination or the learner's limited time will be squandered on what is of least value. Scripture guides us as to what is most important because of the emphasis that it gives to certain areas of knowledge. Apart from those things associated with wisdom and knowledge and its communication the following "pillars" of sound wisdom can be identified.

1. The Supreme Being: God Himself

The knowledge of the only true God is life eternal. Without this knowledge all other knowledge is futile, "for what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16.26) It is thus necessary to set forth that God is, that he can be known and that which can be known about Him and His purpose.

2. The Universe: God's Workmanship

Scripture not only recounts the origin of the physical universe but again and again refers to its various parts and commends them to our contemplation. It does not encourage such investigation in order to merely add to the body of knowledge but in order to spiritual improvement and service to God. The Bible makes plain that man is to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1.28) It is therefore valuable to study astronomy, physics, chemistry, botany and zoology, not only because the Divine glory is manifested in His creation but also because it is our duty to increase in knowledge of the various parts of the creation so that we can make use of the knowledge gained in order to glorify God as his stewards.

3. Man: God's Steward

The excellent glory of the Lord caused the psalm writer to marvel at the regard paid to man by such a great God. He could not but wonder at the dignity and honour that the Almighty bestowed upon man. "Thou ... hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." (Psalm 8.5-6) The special position of man is emphasized in the record of creation. "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Genesis 1.26) The question "What is man?" must be answered by considering his origin, nature, role and relationship to God both before and after the Fall of Adam. Unless this is done any appreciation of man's cultural development will be superficial.

4. History: God's Purpose Unfolding

Much of the Bible is taken up with historical records and most of the remainder consists of interpretation of the historical events contained. Among the true people of God, history has always been regarded as very important because it is the out-working of God's purpose. The central facts of history have to do with the incarnation, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and all of the other events of time cluster around these events and derive their significance from them. In the light of these events human culture in all its diversity and all the various world and life views of the past and present are to be judged. The faithful have the solemn responsibility of "shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done;" (Psalm 78.4) and their children are required to "set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God." (Psalm 78.7)

5. Divine Institutions: God's Order

God lays claim not only to the determination of man's relationship to Himself, but also to the government of the relations that exist between men. Ultimate sovereignty belongs to God and in His word he has promulgated His law and His authority structures. Scripture gives very clear instruction with respect to the functions of the family, the church and the civil magistrate and the laws of men must be assessed in the light of what God says about these institutions that are basic to human society. The Christian may not uncritically accept the standards of his own generation but must review them in the light of the Word of God. "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5.29)

6. Work: God's task for us

Scripture defines the place of work in the life of the human race. It has much to say about the necessity of work and the conditions under which it will take place in a fallen world. It does not leave untouched the subject of the organization of the factors of production (land, labour and capital) and many other associated topics. As it is our responsibility to use our time to God's glory this subject is indispensable. Preparation for adulthood requires not only an understanding about work but a preparation for it, whether in the domestic situation or outside the home.

7. Now and beyond: God's Challenge to Us

The writings of Paul the Apostle evidence how awake he was to the world in which he lived. He was aware of the geography, social and political structures and culture and religions of the world of his day. He could see the challenges of the situation in which God had placed him and spent his life seeking to meet those challenges. We cannot afford to be ignorant of the world in which we live. We must be aware of the needs of our own day and seek to meet those needs. It is plain from the Bible that we must live in the present with an eye to the future; we are not to lose sight of the terminus of earthly history and what lies beyond it. We are to be aware of the events that will precede it and are to be vigilant in our day-by-day experience. "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God..." and "for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Peter 3.12-13)

Memory verse

"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." (Psalm 25.14)

Vocabulary

promote, objective, respond

discrimination, squandered, futile

recount, contemplation, astronomy

botany, zoology, bestow

superficial, incarnation, resurrection

culture, promulgated, assess

indispensable, terminus, diagram

Questions to answer:

1. What is meant by saying the learner might "drown beneath the floods"?

2. What does Ecclesiastes say about study?

3. How does the Bible help us in knowing what to study?

4. Why is the knowledge of God Himself so important?

5. Why is it valuable to study astronomy, physics and other sciences?

6. What special position did God give to man?

7. State the central facts of History.

8. What do we mean by "ultimate sovereignty"?

9. How are we to use our time?

10. List the things that the Christian needs to be aware of in his daily life.

Further Reading

Train Up a Child, Chapter 5.

Things to do

Complete the following table.

Science                 Main areas covered         Benefits of scientific investigation

Astronomy

Botany

Chemistry

Geology

Physics

Zoology

Essay Titles

Things that I think I should know.

The value of scientific research.