Solomon prayed for wisdom, and the Lord granted his request. Oh, how we need more Solomons in our day! At least the early Solomon, before all the foreign wives.
Brett McCracken is here to help with his new book, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World (Crossway). Brett works as director of communications and senior editor for arts and culture with The Gospel Coalition. You may also know him from his excellent earlier books, especially Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, which I strongly recommend.
The Wisdom Pyramid is like the food pyramid, only for the health of our souls when it comes to our media diet. I have a hard time thinking of anything more urgently needed for the church than men and women saturated in Scripture, rooted in their local church, and amazed by the wonder of God’s creation. This is the lean protein we need in a world pushing Skittles and Doritos. Brett joined me on Gospelbound to discuss social media, books we disagree with, what makes the internet different, and more.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: Solomon prayed for wisdom, and the Lord granted his request. Oh, how we need more Solomons in our day! At least, the early Solomon before all of the foreign wives. Brett McCracken is here to help, help us find wisdom with his new book, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, published by Crossway. Brett works as director of communications and senior editor for arts and culture with The Gospel Coalition. You may also know him in addition to many, many, many excellent essays for The Gospel Coalition, from his excellent earlier books, especially, Uncomfortable.
A book that I very strongly recommend, only seems to get better with time. The Wisdom Pyramid is like the food pyramid, only for the health of our souls when it comes to our media diet, I have a hard time thinking of anything more urgently needed for the church than men and women’s saturated in scripture, rooted in their local church and amazed by the wonder of God’s creation. This is the lean protein we need in a world pushing Skittles and Doritos. Brett joins me on Gospelbound to discuss social media, books we disagree with, what makes the internet different and more. Brett, thanks for joining me.
Brett McCracken: Thank you, Collin. Good to be here.
Collin Hansen: Brett, what makes the internet different from earlier media?
Brett McCracken: Wow. I mean, there’s a lot of differences there, but I think one of the big ones that comes to mind is just the sheer scope of it and the size and the way that it has just exploded infinitely, the amount of information and data and stimulation that is possible. So the horizons of media possibility that are opened with the internet I think is just quantitatively different than any other previous media forum, very different. And it’s that glut, it’s that excess that is a huge part of the problem that we’re facing, I think when it comes to navigating the internet, is there’s just too much of it.
It’s, in the end, there’s a lot we could go into there, but I mean among other things, the size of it and the infinite space on the internet allows any sort of niche community to kind of flourish and create their own little bubble of reality online. And you can, whatever it is you believe, whatever you want to believe, the internet has space for you and for people like you that you can find your corner of the internet where “your truth” is alive and well. So I mean, that’s one of the pressing issues that I think we’re seeing in day-to-day in the headlines and what’s happening in our world, but there’s a lot of other problems, I think, as well.
Collin Hansen: Brett, I was meeting recently with a group from my church trying to talk through, I guess, what I’m just calling digital discipleship. I don’t think I made that up. But I mean, that’s just the best thing I can use to describe it. And I was looking back on the last number of decades of American history and thinking about the post-war period and the obsession with new amenities and gadgets that would be able to simplify our lives and simplify tasks, thinking about refrigerators and dishwashers and microwaves and all that kind of stuff. And that lasts for a good bit of time, especially the ’50s and ’60s.
And as you head toward the ’90s, you start to get into the information age, but that seems to come with the internet, but you and I have been around long enough to remember all those modem sounds, and we had to have a sit-down and do that. But I’d say, the information age was at its apt term for, that was 1990s through the 2000s. But would you agree, you don’t have to, that we’ve actually transitioned out of the information age into the entertainment age? Because it seems like, yes, there is a pursuit of information on the internet. We know that, that’s kind of a given, just like microwaves are still a given.
But it seems like almost all push now is toward just toward entertainment, the amazing proliferation of how much sports you can watch now. It’s almost like you can’t have a sporting event without it being broadcast anymore to, of course, online gaming and everything else. Would you agree with that? And if so, was there a time when you could tell when that transition happened?
Brett McCracken: I think that’s probably correct. Where maybe I would say it’s a merging of information and entertainment, a kind of infotainment age. And in that way, I think Neil Postman really was so prophetic with what he was writing about in the ’80s with amusing ourselves to death and kind of foreshadowing the melding together in the indistinguishable nature of information and entertainment. And I think what’s changed and what really you’re getting at, is the way that digital capitalism works. Is that it’s all about commandeering our attention as much as possible, right? Money is made to the extent that eyeballs are on platforms, devices, apps and how do you get eyeballs?
And how do you get people to be there constantly? Well, it has to be entertaining. It can’t just merely be informative in an efficient way, giving what they are looking for and need. It has to be addictive. It has to be something that lures you in, kind of beckons you as you’re walking along the path, so to speak. To use a metaphor from Proverbs, it’s those voices from out on the periphery of the path that’s beckoning you like, come look at what I have, come eat my food, come hanging out with me. The algorithms are the Lady Folly of our day, in that sense.
They’re beckoning us from any sort of intentional direction we’re going and saying, “No, you can come spend time with me right now.” And so, we find ourselves in this place where we’re literally spending all of our free time, all of our excess moment scrolling, not with anything in mind necessarily that we have to discover or that we need. It’s just a habit that we’re conditioned to. So yeah, I think it’s the nature of digital capitalism, that it feeds on, it profits from our attention. That’s the commodity of our age, attention. And so, we’re in this entertainment, infotainment world where everything now, everything all the time is about entertaining you.
Collin Hansen: There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and George are pitching their TV show to the NBC executives. And it’s a show about nothing. It’s obviously a show within a show on Seinfeld. And at one point they’re talking to the executive and he says, “Why would anybody watch this?” And do you remember what the response was? Response from George was, “Because it’s on TV.” The executive says, “Not, not until I say so.” But there was a sense in which, okay, if it’s on TV, well, then it’s worth watching, somebody decided. Internet, no one’s deciding.
Or everyone’s deciding, I guess, it’s your own little customized. There’s no executive sitting somewhere deciding what goes there. And the closest is what you said, the algorithm. But I mean, do the algorithm developers even truly understand what they’re doing? I don’t even now, does it have a mind of its own? It’s impossible to tell, but there’s no… I mean, how do you find wisdom at a time when there’s nothing but voices?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that was the dilemma. That’s the issue that led me to write this book is, I think that, the passive posture is so problematic and it makes us so vulnerable to just, that conditioned Pavlovian responsive, literally, pulling out my phone when I have 30 seconds to kill at a stop sign and driving. Pulling out my phone and scrolling when I’m waiting in line at Starbucks to get a coffee. We all do that, and we don’t know why. And there’s nothing intentional about it. But that’s why we’re so messed up. That’s why there’s so much cultural raw and sickness, is because we’re just letting ourselves be pulled every which way by whatever’s there. Right? Whatever’s on right now on your feed, on your screen.
So it comes back, everything boils down to intention. I find with most flourishing, with most wisdom, you really can’t be passive. You need to be intentional about where you’re looking, what you’re listening to, what you’re filling your heart and your mind with and what’s feeding your soul, to reference the subtitle of the book. So, yeah. So this book in my kind of rubric of a suggested solution is really just that. It’s how do we be more intentional about the sources that we’re lending our attention to? If attention is what these algorithms are after, then if we’re passive about it, we’re going to be in trouble. That we’re just going to be led in all sorts of problematic directions.
But if we’re careful with guarding our attention and guarding that precious real estate of our mind, space and our heart, which has always being formed. Every moment of every day we’re being formed in some direction or another. And a lot of it has to do with what comes into us, the inputs that come into us, that form us. So unless you’re intentional about that and careful and discerning about that, you’re going to end up being formed in really unhealthy directions. And I think we’re seeing that, in our own lives and people that we see on social media every day, that we’re just shaking our heads like, what are you saying? How did it come to this?
I think pastors this year more than most years are probably spending a lot of time just in grief looking at how people in their congregations have been malformed by toxic inputs, and just seeing what it leads to with crazy conspiracy theories that they’re believing in and sharing and perpetuating and crazy partisanship that comes out and really ugly ways. It all boils down to the inputs that are coming into these people’s minds and hearts. And so, to come back to the idea of digital discipleship, man, that’s one of the urgent priorities for pastors and churches is figuring out how to do that well.
Collin Hansen: Speaking of inputs, you have been, some masochist decided to assign you the responsibilities of being up close and personal with TGC social media. What has that experience taught you over the years, Brett?
Brett McCracken: Oh, man, I blocked out a lot of it. It was traumatic.
Collin Hansen: But you need it better both, I think is what it’s supposed to tell you.
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Honestly, this book probably wouldn’t have been written had I not have that up close and personal experience. I mean, you can be aware of the toxic nature of this stuff to some extent just by living in today’s world. But when you work in our profession, digital journalism, writing, editing for the internet. Seeing social media on a daily basis very up close and personal, you see the negative ways that Christians have been formed and the degrading of discourse and everything from whataboutism to various other logical fallacies that come out constantly all the time on social media, to just a blatant reversal of the wisdom of James, to be quick to listen and slow to speak, right?
Christians every day are totally reversing that and being quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to become angry. So, yeah. I mean, I see that all the time. I mean, just one glance at the comment section on the TGC article in any given day is just an exercise of, yeah, grief and confusion.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. I think I’m told my wife the other day, Brett, that I think you and I and some of our colleagues are almost like a patient zero with this stuff. We are so immersed in it, because it is our everyday, this is not an escape. This is our job. And I think it’s pretty rapidly accelerated the problems for us. What I said, Brett, is I think our work on social media is like radiation exposure.
Brett McCracken: Yeah.
Collin Hansen: Like we’re working in a nuclear facility and we’re being constantly exposed to it, and it’s trying to figure out how do you rotate people or cycle people through, or give some kind of protective gear when possible to try to be able to… But then you feel like, you get times when you feel like as if it’s been radiation poisoning on you.
And so I wonder, I didn’t realize that this book had come out of that experience, but I can completely sympathize by saying I feel as though I’ve had to work through these issues over the years before we even gotten to this point because I was exposed to so much radiation early on that I don’t know how I could survive without learning some survival tactics, ultimately, of just getting to a place where I could find wisdom in Christ and not expect to get it from the world.
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think most books to some are written for yourself. And~ that’s definitely the case for this one. For I definitely wrote it from my own struggle. Like you’re saying, when you’re in the digital space professionally, and it’s just something unavoidable, you do have to go in with a hazmat suit. Otherwise, you’re going to be compromised and you’re going to become sickly. And there have been moments where I’ve seen myself and seen my soul just start to become unhealthy by the exposure that I necessarily have to have. So given that we’re here and that we can’t turn off the internet, we can’t live without it, right? I’m not a total Luddite, where I’m calling for people to throw their devices away and live in this sort of alternate utopian reality where we can somehow totally live off the grid.
No, I think this is, there are benefits. There are good things about the digital age and the internet and social media. But there’s a ton of bad stuff, too. And so, rather than have this all or nothing approach, we might just have a careful approach and be super mindful. So I think I make the comparison somewhere in the book to the Christian doctors who go into Ebola stricken countries in Africa. It’s like, you’re going to put yourself at risk for sure, in some cases like Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, they got the virus by virtue of being there and trying to be a light in the darkness.
And so, I think that’s a similar posture to what I hope Christians have in the digital space. We’re fully aware of the hazards, but we’re not just going to abandon the digital space to become even darker, even more toxic and to let people, especially people who don’t know Christ, to just continue spiraling down into really dark places by virtue of all the horrible things that happen online. Let’s be there, let’s be cautious, but let’s be there trying to contribute something positive and something illuminating and true rather than perpetuating the falsehoods and the sicknesses online. And the problem is a lot of times these days Christians are in the space part of the problem, right? Perpetuating the bad parts, not being the light of illumination that we need to be.
Collin Hansen: Are you like me though, with your kids, where you just try to keep them as far away as possible?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. I mean, I think every parent these days, or a lot of parents start out with that, like, okay, we’re just not even going to let you touch a phone. We don’t even want to give you screen time. We’re quickly finding that that’s probably not realistic as an approach. So I think part of why I wrote book too, is for my parenting and for my kids. And knowing that, again, the all-or-nothing approaches probably aren’t going to work for parents raising kids in the digital world.
I don’t know that it’s realistic to just withhold all devices from your children. Certainly when it comes to a certain age, especially. So given that, how can we cultivate in them these habits where we point them to healthier sources and we say like, you can have your social media time, you can have your screen time, but just like the fats, oils and sweets category of the food pyramid, it’s a tree, right? It’s not the foundation of your diet. It’s not a staple of your diet, but it’s something fun to enjoy from time to time.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. We had gone for a number of years, we kept a TV out of our living room or our typical spaces, but that isn’t quite as big of a deal anymore with how devices have changed viewing. So now your TV travels everywhere with you on YouTube TV or whatever. Then for sports in particular, we got back to cable, and my wife has been pretty uncomfortable with that decision. But the way I described it is, I would rather sort of expose our kids to some good things as a model so that they’re not in an all-or-nothing dynamic where they feel like, okay, well, my parents were so strict.
They didn’t even let me watch Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs play. And then they’d just sort of lose all discernment together. So it seems like what your book and you keep emphasizing here, is any call to regular spiritual discernment. Even Twitter makes it onto your pyramid. It just is the last one, the very tip. Yeah. Is that a good summary?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s like anything with virtue and spiritual growth. It’s all about ordering our loves, right? Ordering our priorities. And so, that’s what The Wisdom Pyramid really is. It’s putting things in their proper place. Not that I’ve arrived at the scientific final solution for where nature needs to be and where whatever, beauty needs to be. But I think generally if we put our social media time and exposure in that, most occasional place, we’re going to be healthier. And of course, we all know that we’ve flipped it and made social media and the internet our foundation. And that’s why we’re in such an unfortunate place right now.
Collin Hansen: I mean, that’s something I’ve always admired about you, Brett, you really do embrace travel, creation. I mean, the really, a lot of the good things of. I have always appreciated that about you and your wife. I wonder why there hasn’t been more of that, I guess, through the Coronavirus [inaudible 00:21:00] lockdowns. I mean, again, I know there are some concerns about even being outside and around other people, and I would’ve thought it would have driven people to more of that but it seems the opposite happened. It drove people more into screens, is it just because of the fears of outdoors or with something else happening there, do you think?
Brett McCracken: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I know for us, the time outside became more essential than ever for our health and sanity. And of course, living in Southern California helps because it’s beautiful all the time. Especially in the early days of the pandemic, we really prioritize as much time outside as possible, just going on walks in our neighborhood and going to the beach or whatever. Yeah. I don’t know why. I mean, it does seem like people spent more time than ever online, part of that is by necessity. Right? Every activity in life was made to be virtual. Work-
Collin Hansen: The work, I mean, all the work meetings for people who couldn’t go to the office and things like that. That part’s understandable. It’s just seemed like I would have expected some kind of nature revival or something with that, but just seems like it was more of a screen.
Brett McCracken: I think there actually was some of that. I would love to see if there’s any research or data on that, but just anecdotally, I think the national parks had crazy records this summer.
Collin Hansen: Oh, that would be great.
Brett McCracken: And I mean, we went to a couple of national parks on road trips this summer, and a lot of people had similar ideas, because you couldn’t find anywhere and everything was a road trip. And something about nature is just, it brings ballast in an unsteady world because it’s just so much bigger than the problems that you see on Twitter, on any given moment. And it’s so much more, yeah, just indifferent to whatever is causing people to be up in a tizzy on any given moment on social media.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. I was reading somebody recently, I think it was Andrew Wilson. I’ll be talking to him for this podcast. And he said, “My anxiety levels when I’m on screens and thinking about money spike. When I’m around trees and children, they declined.”
Brett McCracken: Right.
Collin Hansen: And I thought, that’s not just therapeutic, that’s biblical wisdom.
Brett McCracken: Absolutely.
Collin Hansen: I mean, Jesus, talked about these things. I mean, part of how we were supposed to fight anxiety is to look to nature. Look to how God provides without our work, provides in all these ways from the scripture.
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts on that. But I think one of the things is to go back to like things in their rightful place, when we are in creation and really, really in it, really aware of it and aware of our creatureliness as a part of that, we are part of God’s creation, too. We’re in our rightful place. And I think that that sensation that you get when you’re out for a run on a beautiful day, in a beautiful landscape and that sense of almost being close to God. Even secular nonbelievers sometimes you use that language of like, natures feels like I’m close to God, you know?
And I think that’s because we’re in our proper place, we’re not removed from God’s creation, we’re in it. And everything about wisdom, and this is a big theme of the book, is about proximity to God, right? If God is wisdom incarnate, if he is eternal wisdom, then we find wisdom by being proximate to him. That’s why his word, his direct speech, his direct revelation to us is the most important source of wisdom. It’s the foundation. That’s why his church, so his kind of people, his presence among his people in the church is the second most important layer in my wisdom pyramid.
And then, nature, I put in the third place because it’s his creation. So that there’s huge proximity to him by virtue of being in his creation and noticing it, and really paying attention to it. Same thing with the baby, right? If you really look at a baby and contemplate a baby in the baby’s creatureliness as a beautiful handiwork of God, it’s totally illuminating. And yeah, it can bring wisdom to pay attention to the creation that God has made.
Collin Hansen: Which is kind of biographical for you guys because 2020 was also an expansion year.
Brett McCracken: Right, right. We had a baby to look at it more than we probably would have had the pandemic not. That was one of the hidden blessings of the pandemic happening this year for us is, it was like, we would want to be at home more, anyway, to just dote on Ira, our newborn. And so we relished that time.
Collin Hansen: Absolutely. Brett, you want churches to be less concerned with being up on the times. Wouldn’t that make them irrelevant to today’s concerns?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. I mean, this idea goes back to my first book, Hipster Christianity. So there’s some overlap here but yeah, I mean, I think part of, one of the big problematic dynamics of our digital age in general is an obsession with the now, in this present tense orientation where what’s trending now, what’s the breaking news right now is everything. And to the point where we lose sight of history and the past, which is a massive source of wisdom and perspective, we lose sight of the future. Everything’s just about the now.
And the church when it falls into that orientation, which is easy to do in today’s world, can start to think that its relevance is dependent on the extent to which it is speaking to the trending issues right now, whatever the headline is currently. And we’ve been publishing some articles at TGC with this topic in mind because I think a lot of pastors really feel this pressure right now to be current and speaking to the current events. But I think it’s actually unwise to place more of your weight to that than you do to the eternal truths and the wisdom of ages past.
And for Christians, especially, there’s so many resources to draw on and to mine the depths of, not only in Scripture, but in our past and the great thinkers and theologians and believers who have come before us. And so, yeah, in general I think my book, I have this bias towards the old over the new and the time-tested over the ephemeral piece of content that’s here today and it’s going to be forgotten tomorrow. So which the thing is kind of obvious, right? You will become more wise by filling yourself with time tested things that have proven to be helpful for many generations of humans versus your diet only consisting of hot takes and Twitter threads that literally we’ll forget about next week and never reference again. But sadly, a lot of our diets are mostly on those ephemeral untested sources right now.
Collin Hansen: Oh, well, the church part of the pyramid is probably the most difficult right now to be able to execute. And I was just invited… Now, you’re in the middle of starting a new church? I was invited to come speak to a church about the post-COVID reality and I thought, “Wow, post-COVID. That must be nice.” It’s okay. Just don’t ask me when. I’ve been invited to speak somewhere in six months, no, eight months. And they said, “Well, don’t buy your plane tickets because you never know.” So, oh.
Brett McCracken: Oh goodness, I mean-
Collin Hansen: Anyway, it feels like, Brett, I’m hoping people, they get The Wisdom Pyramid, they apply it. They take it seriously because COVID has forced all of us to essentially, we’ve been forced to sign out of our accounts. Like that Facebook force, everybody panicking. Wait a minute. I haven’t had to log out of Facebook in three years. What happened all of a sudden? Yeah. You’ve been forced to log out. Now you have to decide, are you logging back in to basically every aspect of your life? Yeah. And that’s a major challenge for churches. Shout out to my 91-year-old grandmother is listening to this, was speaking to her the other day.
And I think she expressed, I don’t know if she noticed, but I think she expressed some of the ambivalence people feel about church. We started talking about how hard this has been, a book that I’m working on called Rediscover Church, coming out from Crossway, and how we want to get people back into church. And she’s like, “Absolutely. I don’t think we knew how much we missed our church friends.” And then by the end of the conversation, she said, “I’m going to have a hard time going back to church.” And I said, “Why?” And she said, “Well, I’ve been watching this pastor from a different city and I like him so much. I’m just not sure I want to go back.”
Brett McCracken: Oh yeah.
Collin Hansen: And I thought, “Yup, that’s going to be it for everybody.” And if you view church primarily from those terms of essentially what you get, what you sort of download from the pastor, then the gig is up. Because your pastor isn’t as good as Tim Keller was in 1994, and you can get all of Tim Keller’s 1994 sermons if you want. So that’s why I think your book Uncomfortable is even more relevant now because it’s a call.
I mean, I think I had imbibed so much of that, Brett, and it’s so much of what we’re trying to do at The Gospel Coalition that when I worked on Rediscover Church, it was all about like, why do we go back to church? Because it makes us uncomfortable, the rituals that it forces us into, the relationships that it forces us into are our God’s very design for us to grow to be like him yeah. To grow in love. What are we supposed to do with that part of The Wisdom Pyramid right now? When it’s not really an option for a lot of people right now, unfortunately, to be able to experience that kind of wisdom within community that we’re to have.
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is a tricky thing. And I mean, I’m hopeful that the pandemic ends sooner than eight months. That would be depressing if we’re still apart from our churches in eight months. But I mean, I think that, yeah, I mean, the reality is churches going to be important. And there may be a season right now where it’s harder than normal just to make it a foundation of your diet, so to speak. But whenever this ends, and it will end, we will have to redecide to choose church again. Like you’re saying, it is going to be this, like we’ve all signed out and now we have to choose to sign back in. And so, I think it’s going to be a big task for us as Christian leaders and pastors and thinkers to really articulate, again, but it was already a tough case to make before the pandemic. Right?
Which is why I wrote Uncomfortable a couple of years ago, but it’s going to be even harder to make the case in a new way now that people have gotten used to, yeah, watching Tim Keller instead. And just Googling their preferred content of spiritual input. But I mean, like I talk about in Uncomfortable, and in the chapter on the church in The Wisdom Pyramid, church is not just about content, and it’s really about community. And it’s about, wisdom is not easily gained in an isolated space, right? Do not be wise in your own eyes, it says the Proverbs, right? Wisdom is not as something you look within yourself and just kind of determine your own standards and follow your own truth. It’s necessarily communal for the benefit of truth, right?
You find truth more efficiently when there’s others around you who can be iron sharpening iron, who can be mirrors to you, who can point out your blind spots. And that’s God’s gift to us in the church. It’s the gift of community that can collectively understand the truth of scripture more. So I talk about how church is an interpretive community of scripture. So I try to connect each layer of the pyramid to each other, and especially each layer to scripture because it all goes back to God’s Word as the ultimate trump card, if you will, for truth and wisdom. But the church is a critical place to not just apply scripture in a convenient way, pick and choose. Make it fit your preferred partisan perspective, as one example, which we see all the time in today’s world, picking and choosing scripture to defend whatever political view you want.
But in church and especially in a healthy kind of diverse church, you have a better chance to get at the truth of it in community. So the community of church is so important. I mean, and there’s other reasons too, right? To be able to know and be known, is so essential for our wisdom to be able to grow over time in one place, rather than going from one thing to another. Again, that goes back to the idea of time as a key element of wisdom in an age of schizophrenia, where we’re going from one thing to the other and this podcast to this YouTube video to this piece of content. All of that frenetic input, maybe there’s good things that we’re getting in fits and starts, but we truly become wise when we commit ourselves to something over a long period of time and let ourselves grow and kind of marinade in a healthy community. So that’s another benefit of church. Yeah.
Collin Hansen: Well, one last question on The Wisdom Pyramid before we jumped into the final three, Brett. So last question, tell me about someone who is wise and what made that person that way?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. It’s a great question. Well, I dedicate the book to my dad and so he’s the one that comes to mind immediately. And I referenced him a few times in the book. And I mean, I think part of it is as I was writing it, I was thinking he’s really committed to each of these layers. And I grew up seeing him committed to that. So Scripture, I talked about how one of my earliest memories as a kid was seeing my dad’s Bible just sitting around the house and it was this behemoth Bible with papers and leaflets coming out of it and totally marked up with multiple colors of highlighters. So I saw that that was a huge part of him and a constant source that was feeding him and church as well.
He was so active in church growing up. Nature, he prioritized taking us to national parks and going on camping trips and being outside, and so on and so forth. So I think that wisdom is something that models are so crucial for, right? You know what wisdom looks like when you see people who are wise. And the last chapter of The Wisdom Pyramid is called what wisdom looks like. And I go through a few attributes of the people who I think of when I think of wisdom and what they share, and the attributes they share. In addition to kind of following The Wisdom Pyramid as the sources that feed them. I think wise people are humble. They’re really teachable. They’re not arrogant and like I’ve arrived at everything I need to know and I’m done, they’re lifelong learners.
And that’s another thing about my dad. He’s constantly reading books and just always wanting to learn more. And he’s 70 something, 74, I think 73. And he’s still just so interested in learning and growing. And I think that if you think of the wisest people in your life right now, those who are listening to this, you’d probably find that they are that way. They may be brilliant with multiple PhDs and a ton of knowledge, but they’re not satisfied with having arrived at the apex of wisdom. They’re wanting to learn and grow and listen, and to be teachable. And we need that. I mean, we need that quality so much in today’s quick to speak, slow to listen world.
Collin Hansen: They are by God’s grace or the power of the Holy Spirit, deeper into the gospel of Jesus Christ they are being sanctified, correct?
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.
Collin Hansen: Wisdom, conformity to Christ, wisdom himself. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve been talking with Brett McCracken, his new book, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World. I almost misread that, Brett, a couple of times of feeling your in a post-truth world. That would have been a very different book, and probably not published in my Crossway I think.
Brett McCracken: Right. No.
Collin Hansen: Don’t write that book in the future.
Brett McCracken: There probably is that title out there somewhere.
Collin Hansen: Absolutely.
Brett McCracken: It’s a very new age idea. Yeah. Feed on your soul, massage or soul to true. Yeah.
Collin Hansen: Exactly. Final three here with Brett McCracken. Brett, what was the last great book you read?
Brett McCracken: Okay. I’m trying to follow my own advice in The Wisdom Pyramid and reading old books more than I read new books. So I just read Blaise Pascal’s Pensées. Just his Christian reflections in it just was one of those, like, “How did I not read this before I left?” I underlined almost every line. And with some of those older Christian wisdom books, it’s like scattered thoughts. Almost like he was writing his notebooks little one-liners kind of tweets of his day. And-
Collin Hansen: True. It’s true.
Brett McCracken: And so it’s very scattered at times, but it’s so full of wisdom. So that was a great one.
Collin Hansen: Oh, yeah. If you’re ll about quotes, I mean, you can’t do better than that with Pascal. I mean, it’s set up there like the Proverbs. Exactly.
Brett McCracken: Yeah. Right, it is.
Collin Hansen: Like you’re saying, it’s like the Proverbs, are so tweetable as well. Brett, what brings you calm in a storm?
Brett McCracken: What comes to mind is just my wife and my kids. And yeah, I think just being at peace and being contented with the gift of family and the nuclear family unit. I think the pandemic has really heightened our awareness of what a gift that can be, a frustration at times too, when we’re sequestered together in small spaces for long periods of time. But also just an incredible gift for studying and reminding you like, this is my first frontier of mission in life.
And instead of being so concerned with everything out there that’s buzzing around on social media, like, how am I discipling my two boys on my caring for my wife? So that’s been really helpful for me in the midst of the craziness of this year. It just to like narrow my scope a bit and just bring it all down to that level of home and family and making sure that we’re doing okay.
Collin Hansen: And great that you had an example of that when you were growing up yourself. Last question, Brett, where do you find good news today?
Brett McCracken: Where do I find good news? Well, the thing that to mind is maybe a bit more abstract, but beautiful things like good music. It’s not like a good news headline in terms of a narrative, but it’s to me the fact that beauty is still being created in the world is a form of good news. And so, that’s as someone who cares about the arts a lot and gets to highlight it in my job at TGC and point other people to these almost lighthouses of light and hope in the darkness. That’s what beauty is.
I mean, we didn’t talk about the beauty part of the pyramid in this interview. But one thing that I think about with beauty, is in terms of a metaphor for beauty is, it’s almost like a postcard from the new creation. Beauty that we experienced in this life at its best is a glimpse of the eternal, perpetual capital B beauty that we’re going to be experiencing in the presence of God and the new creation. And so, any glimpse I can get of that in this life is a really good news sort of thing.
Collin Hansen: And you have been gifted by God to be our docent.
Brett McCracken: I love being a docent of that. That keeps me happy and yeah, upbeat.
Collin Hansen: Oh, we’re grateful for it, Brett, that Spotify list coming. My guest on Gospelbound this week has been Brett McCracken, author of The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World. Check it out from Crossway. Brett, thanks for joining me.
Brett McCracken: Thank you, Collin.