How Do We Get Wisdom?

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Introduction

The benefits received from wisdom are not disputed. It is unnecessary to enumerate the reasons to have wisdom. The question is: how to get wisdom? A further question is: are there different forms of wisdom and if so, which is true? This study reveals the logical divisions of wisdom: divine wisdom and earthly wisdom and the veracity of each forms of wisdom, so to direct personal endeavors towards true wisdom.

Upon reading this short treatise, the goal is to: (1) understand treasures of wisdom and knowledge versus not-treasures of wisdom and knowledge, (2) define divine wisdom and earthly wisdom and evaluate their inherent differences, (3) recognize the default disposition of man to the path of the wicked; and the contrary, the default disposition of the Holy Spirit to the path of the righteous. Then, the request of Solomon will be understood for its significance, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind” (1 Kings 3:9 ESV).[1]

In addition, the primary goal is to understand the subsequent action of the Lord, “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind” (1 Kings 3:12), thus evidencing that the proliferation of true wisdom is done by the work of Christ. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding” (Ps 111:10). Dallas Willard explicitly confirms the importance of the fear of the Lord in the proliferation of wisdom by saying “to be sure, it is the indispensable beginning, I believe, and the principal part.”[2]

In 1 Kings 1, it is observed that David’s time on earth was coming to an end. Victor P. Hamilton states that David could be characterized as a “shivering torpor.”[3] Notwithstanding advanced age and a frail body, David summoned strength to exhort Solomon in 1 Kings 2: 2-3. Attention should be paid to the causal relationship of discipline to blessing in David’s exhortation to Solomon. Solomon exercised discipline to keep the charge of the Lord (Dt 6:4-5; Ex 20:6; Ex 20:12; Ps 111:10); therefore, a direct result was the blessing of wisdom that he received (1 Kings 3:12).

Treasures of Wisdom Versus Not-Treasures of Wisdom

“The knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). This is the true epistemology. Understand that not all wisdom and knowledge are found inside of Christ, but all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found inside of Christ.[4] If there are treasures of wisdom and knowledge, then there are not-treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[5]

The Fallibility of Earthly Wisdom

It is deduced that wisdom can be placed into two categories: treasures and not-treasures. Through the writing of James, not-treasures are defined as “… not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (Jas 3:15). Therefore, not-treasures is earthly wisdom. Earthly wisdom is opposed to the Holy Spirit and is sourced from the “father of lies”, in whom “there is no truth” (Jn 8:44). Moreover, if there is no truth in the source of earthly wisdom, it is not to be desired.

If there is not-truth, then there is truth. Christ is truth (Jn 14:6). If Christ is truth, then what is not-Christ is not-truth. If what is not-Christ is not-truth, then wisdom not of Christ is not true. Therefore, if Christ is truth, then wisdom not of Christ is not true. Truth rests inside of Christ. That which is not of Christ is not-truth. Thus, true wisdom is divinely inspired by the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ dwells in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to have true wisdom man must have the Holy Spirit. True wisdom is then divine wisdom because it is found in Christ, and Christ is committed and bound to the standard of God’s character.

In contrast, earthy wisdom is committed and bound to worldly standards, and as Kenneth Barker, John Kohlenberger III, and Donald Burdick say “makes personal gain life’s highest goal.”[6] In Perspectives on Wisdom-ing, Adam Blatner describes wisdom as “more of a verb (or gerund) than a noun.”[7] If the action of producing and purveying wisdom is dependent on man, and man is fallen by nature (Rom 3:23), then is not man logically bound to exclusively produce and purvey earthly wisdom, that which is not-truth and sourced from the father of lies?

When man gives rise and subsequently purveys earthly wisdom we see variations of epistemologies and philosophies.[8] This is evidence of the fact that man is not capable of producing true wisdom apart from Christ. The Law of Contradiction expresses the fact that “nothing can both be and not be.”[9] Competing epistemologies and philosophies cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. In addition, these constructs focus on personal gain as the highest goal in life. Personal gain leads to selfish ambition. Moreover, “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (Jas 3:16). Earthly wisdom comes from the father of lies and cannot stand in the truth (Jn 8:44). Conversely, man’s desire should be for the wisdom that comes from the Father of Truth, who is the standard of truth.

The Infallibility of Divine Wisdom

Ps 104:24 states that all of God’s works are made in wisdom. This logical truth reveals that wisdom stands outside of the entirety of God’s creative works. The only thing outside of creation is God Himself, therefore divine wisdom is in God. Moreover, Malachi 3:6 says, “for I the Lord do not change.” Finally, his thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways (Isa 55:8). If God does not change and wisdom is found in God, then wisdom does not change. God does not change (Mal 3:6), therefore wisdom does not change.

Divine wisdom is then pre-existent, constant and unchanging.[10] Divine wisdom is the treasure man should seek. How does man seek this treasure of wisdom? By placing himself inside of Christ (1 Cor 2:12-16). If man comes to Christ, he becomes aware of his fallibility. When he becomes aware of his fallibility, he sees that earthly wisdom is not-truth. Therefore, when man comes to Christ, he sees that earthly wisdom is not true. Greg Bahnsen explicitly states that “Christ has all knowledge and is the source of all knowledge. Every treasure of knowledge must be found in Him, for He has them all. There are no exceptions; any intellectual endeavor must begin with the One who has, and is, the truth.”[11]

Wisdom from God Versus Wisdom from Not-God

As it was deduced earlier, wisdom can be placed into two categories: Treasures and Not-Treasures. 1 Cor 1:30 elucidates the discussion, “… Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” If there is wisdom from God, it is true that there is wisdom from not-God. Wisdom that is from not-God is not true, it is “not-treasures.” If not-treasures are not true, they cannot come from God because he is the source of truth (Jn 14:6). Therefore, not-treasures do not come from God.

Through historical analysis, it has come to be known that all societies and cultures develop their own wisdom.[12] When societies and cultures make personal gain life’s highest goal in intellectual endeavor, the results are not-treasures of wisdom, that which is not-truth and from the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Conversely, when societies and cultures make Christ the central focus of intellectual endeavor, the results are treasures of wisdom, that which is true (Jn 14:6).

The Way of the Wicked

The regression of intellectual endeavor, when wisdom is developed apart from God, can be seen in the First Psalm. Personal gain becomes life’s highest goal apart from God. We see this transpire in the life of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:1. Invariably, the first thing to be given attention is that which is for man; Solomon built his house before building the house of the Lord.[13] And in this position man cannot properly exercise a healthy fear of the Lord, therefore he is unable to submit to divine wisdom. Conversely, man is bound to submit to earthly wisdom.

If man is unable to submit to divine wisdom, it seems logical to find the first disposition in the way of the wicked to be walking in the counsel of the wicked (Ps 1:1), a submission to not-truth i.e., not-treasures of wisdom. Man, is predisposed to this first disposition given his fallen nature. Given his fallen nature, it is evident that he is bound to produce not-truth, which is earthly wisdom. The second disposition is standing in the way of sinners (Ps 1:1). Having accepted earthly wisdom, man becomes wise in his own eyes (Prv 26:12), comfortable with his worldview and led by the father of lies (Jn 8:44; 1 Cor 2:12). Finally, sitting in the seat of the scoffer (Ps 1:1), man bows to earthly wisdom and comes under its’ control. In this final disposition, man reaches the climax of intellectual endeavor found in Rom 1:21. This disposition cannot access divine wisdom. An important aspect of scripture is a contrast of opposites. If man can be led down the way of the wicked, there must be a way of the not-wicked i.e., the way of the righteous.

The Way of the Righteous

In this progression of intellectual endeavor, man begins by walking in the way of the righteous, which is led by the Holy Spirit. Walter C. Kaiser and Moisés Silva indicate that the Holy Spirit is a foundation of divine wisdom and provides “guidance on how mortals ought to live.”[14] The initial movement is produced by the “Fear of the Lord” (Ps 111:10), which is a predisposition in the hearts of men (Heb 10:16), furthermore it is the fountain of life (Prv 14:27). In this disposition, there is an abandoning and subsequent death of earthly wisdom, as Thomas Merton suggests “… before our own wisdom can die and come to life again in Him.”[15] This leads to standing in the way of the righteous.

Standing in the way of the righteous is a recognition that divine wisdom and earthly wisdom are not compatible. Thomas Merton suggests that man must “take the leap into faith and complete submission”[16] so that earthly wisdom may be supplanted by divine wisdom. Finally, sitting in the seat of the righteous, man comes under complete control of divine wisdom. Divine wisdom stands above man and is brought to its proper place. Man, does not move or act until being led by divine wisdom. Furthermore, he experiences a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:2). This position is in stark contrast to its opposite position of sitting in the seat of the scoffer, where earthly wisdom stands above man and subjects his mind to a filling with not-truth. Bahnsen furthers this point by saying “the mind of Christ is the direct antithesis of the mind-set of worldly wisdom.”[17]

Conclusion

Returning to what was earlier stated, truth rests inside of Christ; that which is outside of Christ is not-truth, which in extension is not-treasures, which is earthly wisdom. Thus, divine wisdom is divinely inspired by the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ dwells in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to have divine wisdom man must have the Holy Spirit. Earlier, it was stated that divine wisdom is pre-existent, constant, and unchanging. Therefore, it is not something to be had based on man’s endeavor alone. Divine wisdom, as Paul Beauchamp states is “both immanent and transcendent, present in time and eternal.”[18]

It seems that the request of Solomon to receive wisdom is evidence of a choice. Man, is given the opportunity to choose which form of wisdom will govern his mind. Solomon chose divine wisdom. Man, may choose divine wisdom or by default receive earthly wisdom. Given the predisposition to a sinful nature (Rom 5:12), his mind is darkened (Eph 4:18). If his mind is darkened, then he needs a light. His mind is darkened; therefore, he needs a light. Because man’s mind is darkened he is logically bound to earthly wisdom, this is due to not having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). Since man does not have the mind of Christ, he does not know the truth, nor does he know divine wisdom. Moreover, man does not know the truth so he tries to produce truth (Col 2:8); however, that which is not-Christ is not-truth. Therefore, that which man produces is earthly wisdom and evidences the default destination of his intellectual endeavors apart from Christ.

The question then becomes: is man incapable of producing truth? If Christ is truth, anything that is not-Christ is not-truth. That which man produces apart from Christ is not-truth. This is the logical endpoint of earthly wisdom. Not-truth is not found in Christ because it is the opposite of truth, it would violate God’s character. What then of earthly wisdom? Is it fair to assume that earthly wisdom is the opposite of truth? Yes, earthly wisdom is not found in Christ because it cannot exist in Christ, therefore it is not-truth.

Consequently, by not being found in Christ, earthly wisdom cannot hold together. For “all things are held together in him” (Col 1:17). Therefore, anything that is outside of Christ falls apart. Earthly wisdom is flawed at its core and bound to destruction. This can be observed by looking at the numerous epistemological and philosophical fabrications produced by earthly wisdom. These competing epistemologies and philosophies stand in contradiction to one another. A quality of God is that he does not stand in contradiction. Therefore, man can know that these fabrications are not from God. Earthly wisdom is not a new creation in and of itself, rather a distortion of divine wisdom due to man’s sinful nature.

If man is not divine, then he cannot produce that which he is not. Man, is not divine, therefore he cannot produce divine things. Furthermore, there is nothing that man can do in terms of “acquiring” or “obtaining” things that are divine apart from divine assistance. The significance of Solomon’s prayer is the recognition that the only way to “acquire” or “obtain” true wisdom, which is divine wisdom, is to ask for it. Divine wisdom cannot be acquired or obtained apart from the Holy Spirit. Being that the case, it is imperative to incorporate the request to “acquire and obtain” divine wisdom through prayer. Should man choose not to ask for divine wisdom, then he is bound to earthly wisdom.

Thanks for exploring with me.

Ryan Clift

Bibliography

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).
[2] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012), 50.
[3] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 382.
[4] Stanley W. Jevons, “Lesson IX, The Opposition of Propositions,” in Elementary Lessons in Logic: Deductive And Inductive, With Copious Questions And Examples, And A Vocabulary Of Logical Terms (London, 1870), 78.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Kenneth L. Barker, John R. Kohlenberger III, and Donald W. Burdick, eds., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, abbr. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 1031.
[7] Adam Blatner, “Perspectives on Wisdom-ing”. Revision 28, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 29-33. Accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.heldref.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/revision.php.
[8] Greg L. Bahnsen, “God In the Dock,” in Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Inc., 2011), 16.
[9] Stanley W. Jevons, “Lesson XIV, The Laws Of Thought,” in Elementary Lessons in Logic: Deductive And Inductive, With Copious Questions And Examples, And A Vocabulary Of Logical Terms (London, 1870), 118.
[10] Millard Erickson, “What is God Like” in Christian Theology. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 300.
[11] Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, 51
[12] Graeme Goldsworthy, “Wisdom And Its Literature In Biblical-Theological Context,” Southern Baptist Theological Journal 15, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 43, accessed February 15, 2017, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/article/sbjt15-3-04?highlight=false wisdom.
[13] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 386.
[14] Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 79.
[15] Thomas Merton, “Lectio Divina,” Cistercian Studies Quarterly 50 no. 1 (January 2015): 5-37, accessed January 22, 2017, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquestcom.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ docview /1659937998?accountid=12085.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, 51.
[18] Paul Beauchamp, “The Role of the Old Testament in the Process of building Up Local Churches,” in Bible and Inculturation, vol 3 of Inculturation: Working Papers on Living Faith and Cultures, ed. Ary A. Roest Crollius (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University, 1983) 6-7, quoted in Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 232.

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