When Knowledge Becomes Wisdom

The brain is an amazing organ, the most complex in our bodies. It allows us to perform day-to-day activities like driving a car, taking a walk, or breathing. It also gives us the ability to think, imagine, and wonder. It is the organ that brings life and personality. David says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), and the brain enables that “wonderfulness” to happen in its full and expansive potential.

When I think about flourishing, I think about exercising our bodies. We know that exercising is good for us. It is natural to take a walk, run, or be active in a sport. But how often do we think about exercising our brains?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

As Timothy Royer and I were working on For the Life of the World: Episode 5: The Economy of Wisdom, we were talking about knowledge and the ability of our brains. He told me that, in its complexity, the brain is vaster than the scope of outer space. When it comes to the dimension, size, and potential, he said, it is so vast to be simply incomprehensible.

Recently, researchers have discovered that “the brain’s complexity is beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief,” says Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology. “A single human brain,” he writes, “has more switches than all the computers and routers and internet connections on Earth.”

Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet for what purpose? To what end? Why do we have such remarkable abilities to reason, think, and explore?

From Death Valley to the Whitney Portals

Recently, I participated as a crewmember in a 135-mile race called the Badwater Ultramarathon in California. It’s considered the toughest footrace in the world. This year, it started in Lone Pine in the Eastern Sierra. Normally, though, it starts at the lowest point in North America—Badwater in the Death Valley—and ends at the portals of the highest summit in the contiguous United States—Mount Whitney.

During the race, I got to talk with one of the runners. (There was a lot of time for conversation!) As he looked at the beauty of natural creation, he wondered what motivated people to make this run. “Are we testing the limits of God by what we are doing here?” he asked. “No,” I told him. “We will never exhaust the fullness of the glory of God. He made us to discover the natural world and, in our search, to find him and his grandeur.”

Out of the Whirlwind

Job experienced this grandeur. When the Lord answered him “out of the whirlwind,” he spoke to Job about the magnificence of his majesty, reminding Job that he was over all creation. He asked questions like, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38:12), or “Did you give the horse its might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?” (Job 39:19) The answer to these questions was clearly, “No, Lord. Not me, but you. You are mighty, transcendent, and marvelous.”

The Lord was calling Job not only to recognize the wonder and splendor of creation, but also to see the limits of knowledge when that knowledge is disconnected from knowing the Creator. Thus, after Job experienced the living Lord, he made an astonishing confession: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).

Knowledge and Wisdom

Yes, the brain is an amazing tool that helps us to experience and accomplish great things. It also helps us to perceive, understand, think, and discover. Yet our ability to make sense of the material creation must be rooted in knowing God if we want to discover the depths of truth. In other words, knowledge becomes wisdom when it recognizes the Creator.

This is why our brains are complex—that we may see, pursue, and know the Lord. When we exercise our brain for the glory of God, we have the opportunity to discover the fullness of life as he created it. Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made—for him and for one another. May we explore that full potential for his glory and our joy.

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