The Pursuit of Knowledge

The knowledge of God versus the knowledge of man! This article details the propensity of humanity toward a daily dependence upon natural revelation and reveals the foolishness wrought from this misdirected faith.

    When God created Adam and Eve, He blessed them with sufficient knowledge and ability to thrive in successful loving relationship with Him and the rest of God’s creation. The Lord God was an intimate friend who walked together with them in the Garden of Eden, which was their home. They existed in a pure state of harmonious relationship with God whereas intellectual delights and satisfactions were, most certainly, in abundance.
Now God had given Adam and Eve the freedom to choose whether to love and trust Him in humility and obedience or reject Him through prideful self-determination and unbelief. (For God knew that we must choose to trust Him, in order to truly love Him.)
So, God made an opportunity for them to demonstrate their trust in Him to provide every good and necessary thing for fullness of life. God commanded them:“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  – Genesis 2:16-17Discontent Fosters Selfish Ambition

Now the serpent also spied an opportunity in this. So he approached Eve in an effort to generate discontent with her present state of being. About eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the devil suggested to Eve: “You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5) (Italics mine).
The devil hoped that Eve would accept his implication that God was struggling with a selfish and paranoid insecurity and had deliberately deprived her of something wonderful that would make her equal in knowledge to God. (As though God might be concerned that, by the attainment of sufficient knowledge, His creation might rival Him.) But Eve, imprudently entertaining the temptation before her, came to believe this lie and by doing so, she chose to abandon the accurate and true knowledge she had possessed regarding the goodness and holiness of God.
The devil successfully initiated a godless self-determination within Eve, by encouraging a selfish ambition for personal advancement. Interestingly, these are the same sins of which the devil himself was guilty in his initial rebellion against God. And these are the same sins the devil commonly tempts us with today (Matt. 4:1-11; Acts 5:1-11).


Lies are The Doorway to Temptation

A lie, once believed, has a way of increasing through the agency of vain imagination the desirability of that which is evil.
Because Eve believed a supposed truth based on imperfect knowledge and derived from an ungodly source, she became vulnerable to the cosmetically deceptive allure of ungodly temptation. (As true for us today as it was for Eve)
When Eve believed the lie, a very dangerous dynamic began to take place. A dynamic that repeats itself over and over again in the lives of many people today. As she believed the lie that God did not have her best interests at heart, her positive feelings toward God began to diminish and the strength of the temptation began to increase. The temptation now appeared to contain multi-level enticements that were seemingly irresistible:

“When the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.”

-Genesis 3:6 (Italics mine)

Once again: a lie, once believed has a way of increasing through the agency of vain imagination the desirability of that which is evil. Just as with Adam and Eve, it is lies that we have come to believe that cause the temptation to sin to have such power in our lives. Our susceptibility to temptation will always be proportionate to the depth and strength of the lies we believe in our inner being. Root out the lies by repenting of them and surrendering them to be destroyed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the strength of the temptations associated with the lies will greatly diminish!
Most lies are ultimately rooted in an active disbelief in the goodness and provision of God. When this active disbelief in the goodness and provision of God was first exercised by Adam and Eve, the nature of man and all of creation underwent a ruinous transformation. These are some of the changes that have occurred in the nature of man:

“The understanding is darkened (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14); the heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer.17:9-10); the mind and conscience are defiled (Gen. 6:5; Titus 1:15); the flesh and spirit are defiled (2 Cor. 7:5); the will is enfeebled (Rom. 7:18); and we are utterly destitute of any God-like qualities which meet the requirements of God’s holiness” (Rom. 7:18).  And as for the world and man’s interaction with it, God declared:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” (Gen. 3:17-19).

If we were able to examine the intent of the heart of Adam and Eve at that very moment, that terrible moment of giving in to this temptation, I believe we would clearly see a reflection of the attitude of the heart of all of humanity from that day forward. If we were to summarize into a single statement the intent of the heart of Adam and Eve at the time of their temptation, that statement could accurately represent the fleshly intent of the heart of every man and woman born into this world from that day forward. For what Adam and Eve essentially declared by the choice they had made in believing the devil’s lie, was – ‘man must reach out with his own hands and take whatever he needs for fulfillment of self.’ This is what is meant by “an active disbelief in the goodness and provision of God.” Man, from the delusion of his corrupted nature believes in his heart that he must take what he has determined he needs, because God will not provide this for him.
This corrupted attitude of the heart has become the basic belief system enthusiastically embraced by the whole of sinful humanity since that day. And amazingly, those who are most proficient at bringing to fruition this corrupted attitude of the heart are showered with admiration and adulation. We raise up as heroes, as little gods, those who are the most effective at reaching out with their own hands and taking whatever they believe they need for fulfillment of self. This is what we define as success. Our society worships the materialistically successful, self-determined man. And we are all encouraged in many ways throughout our lives to strive to be like him or her.
The worldly delusion that fulfillment of self is found primarily in the determination of our own wills has now become the daily motivating force within most people’s lives. Every television commercial, every advertisement, virtually every school book read by our children, and almost every person we speak to and nearly every workplace atmosphere throughout the world continuously reinforce the deception that we can, and must, acquire by our own efforts what is necessary for fulfillment of self.” It is what we believe as we get out of bed in the morning and it is what we believe when we lie down again at night.


Worldly Knowledge is Now Our Treasure

Adam and Eve believed the devil’s implication that God was keeping them from what they really needed (Genesis 3:4-5). And they believed that acquiring knowledge from a source other than God (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) could make them more “like God.” This active disbelief in the goodness and provision of God has developed into a universal mentality that has become intricately woven into the tapestry of the sin nature of mankind to this day (Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Tim. 1:3-7 and 4:1-8; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Cor. 11:3-6).
Ever since his descent into sin, man has succumbed to the prideful delusion that by leaning on his own understanding he can overcome the effects of the sin curse on himself and the world around him. Man strives to accomplish this by using techniques and methods developed through information he has gathered throughout his history of struggling for survival in this sin-darkened world.
Whenever, by human invention, a scientific or medical breakthrough occurs making our lives substantially safer or easier, we will characterize it as “a miracle!” The knowledge accumulated from each successful endeavor to restrain or subdue the effects of the original sin curse upon humanity is carefully preserved for future reference in books, magazines, computers etc.
The knowledge we compile is greatly treasured and in our limited understanding we look to it as a source of hope, a source of pride, even a source of life.

As Jesus cautioned,

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

-Matthew 6:21

One of the wealthiest men alive today assembled his riches by inventing mechanical operating systems with the capacity to store vast amounts of information and the ability to access and retrieve this information faster and more efficiently than anyone else. We were all witness to the Y2K alarm at the turn of the century, provoking vast unwarranted fears of worldwide social and economic instability, illustrating our enormous dependence on high-tech information storage systems.
In our quest for stability through knowledge, our society creates heroes according to their knowledge and ability to protect us, provide for us, or even entertain us; enabling us to feel temporarily safe, secure, and emotionally appeased. Our government realizes that a stable society is one in which the people feel that there are sound answers to the perplexing dilemmas that inevitably confront them. Accordingly, our leaders readily access their collective sources of human information and ingenuity in their efforts to pacify us with new and creative solutions.
But information overload has caused serious problems for our educational system. When there is a greater abundance of information than there is the student’s ability to process it, there is little choice but to develop curriculum that is diverse, but shallow. The wide variety of subject matter that students today are required to learn often leaves them with insufficient time for sound development of some of the most basic skills.


Dependence on Worldly Knowledge Creates Anxiety Overload

If we are persuaded that the answers to life’s problems are to be found primarily within the confines of natural inspiration, then we are committing ourselves to a lifetime of humanistic fallacy. Those who believe this delusion often find themselves suffering from anxiety overload, as they strive to procure and retain the mass of information necessary to be in control of their own destinies. Sadly, the resulting emotional meltdown that is predictably common becomes an avenue to an even deeper dependence upon humanistic psychological precepts.
Our mentally ill and emotionally troubled are labeled through secular diagnosis and then attended to by mental health experts who endeavor to use their knowledge to effect a cure. Because their knowledge is usually insufficient to induce the needed catharsis in their clients, the ill are often given prescriptions from a cornucopia of mental health medications, temporarily soothing, but never healing the soul.


Man’s Impure Motives

Pride in human reasoning will always emanate from a practiced dependence upon humanistic knowledge. This pride even enters the religious community enticing many people to believe that their dedication and sacrifice at work, or in their family, church, or community will be viewed as an adequate compensation for their sins before God. They have equated the profitability of their efforts with personal righteousness. But, of course, this is not God’s view.

As Psalm 51:16-17 reveals:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

and also,

“but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.” Why not? “Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.” -Rom. 9:30-10:4

Our Creator is not impressed by our attempts to justify or sanctify ourselves by the use of personal effort based on worldly knowledge. Though our efforts and sacrifices may not in themselves be altogether ignoble, our motives behind those efforts are often suspect. As Proverbs 16:2 informs us, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”
The shrewd practical usage of worldly knowledge can bring financial reward, social acclaim, physical well-being or even enhanced self-esteem. And, truth be told, as long as we are able to successfully secure the comfort of these kind of temporary benefits by relying upon our own knowledge and efforts there is little incentive to examine the motivation of the heart.

The most accurate and telling resource available to us for the discernment of motives is the word of God:

“For the word of God is living and active….it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Every thing is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. “-Hebrews 4:12-13

It is not only what we accomplish with the knowledge we possess, but also why we accomplish it, that is important to the Lord.
According to the word of God, we are to do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Yet God is certainly aware that apart from the transformation of our souls by sanctification through our faith in Christ Jesus, it is never our priority to glorify Him.

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. ”

-Romans 3:10-12

Our stubborn and desperate dependence on worldly knowledge has only served to blind our eyes to God’s plan of restoration through the knowledge of Him. God offers us this instructional promise: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3; Italics mine).
His plan is to restore us to intimate relationship with Him through our faith in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus and by the workings of the power of the Holy Spirit. By repenting of our presumptuous and vain dependence on temporal knowledge, we are able by faith to enter into a process of spiritual transformation. As Colossians 3:9-10 reveals: “you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Italics mine)

In His mercy and love, God is offering restoration to us by bringing us into a more deeply intimate relationship with him through a spiritual transformation of self. But, once again, we are free to select the fruit of our choice…
Death, sin, shame, every kind of disease, wars, heartache, natural disasters, genocide, prejudice; these are some of the bitter fruits we have tasted from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Or, we may now choose the fruit of the Tree of Life which is produced by the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Gal. 5:22-23)

“This is what the Lord says:
Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
that  he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,’
declares the Lord.”

-Jeremiah 9:23-24 ( Italics mine)

Copyright © 2000 by R. Thomas Brass
All rights reserved