Speaking of the political opposition in 1964, Ronald Reagan, (who would later become Governor of California and eventually the 40th President of the United States), said, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.”(1) Reagan was likely paraphrasing 19th-century American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw, who said, “It ain’t ignorance causes so much trouble; it’s folks knowing so much that ain’t so.”(2)
And so it is with so many things in life today. Radio personalities, TV commentators and pundits all come prepared with their “facts” to support their various causes and/or agendas. Unfortunately, America’s love affair with the television has all but eliminated the virtues of reason, rational thought, and research. Folks mindlessly accept as fact whatever they hear on TV or read on Facebook without taking even a moment to see if the “facts” support the conclusion.
Case in point: for more than 20 years we’ve all been inundated with the alarmists’ cries of “global warming.” Some younger readers may not recognize this phrase, as so-called scientists have now changed the terminology to “climate change.” Why the change in nomenclature? Because man-made “global warming” was a hoax, a lie to punish highly developed nations and extort billions of dollars from these governments for “research.”
But did you know that throughout the 1970s, these same “scientists” cried out that the earth was headed for another ice age? That’s right. Books such as The Coming of the New Ice Age (1977), major news magazines (i.e., Time and Newsweek), and national newspapers (New York Times and Washington Post), and even NASA all clamored about a “disastrous new ice age.”(7)
You see, the problem isn’t necessarily that people are ignorant; it’s just that so much of what they know is just plain wrong. Any theory that says man can destroy this earth is absolute folly and foolishness, for God has reserved that right for Himself when He sends Jesus back to judge the world (2 Peter 3:5-10). So, as we contemplate and prepare for the new school year, we would do well to give consideration to the subject of knowledge.
Properly defined, knowledge is “information and skills acquired through experience or education” (Oxford). The primary purpose of formal education is to impart information and develop skills to help each student become a self-sufficient, productive member of society. Knowledge is invaluable to this end. For example, many opportunities for employment are closed to those without a basic knowledge of math or reading. Advancement and greater financial success require a proper knowledge of the other disciplines as well (e.g., science, history).
As students, we often favor or seek out those teachers who do not challenge us academically or intellectually. While an “easy A” may look good on a report card or transcript, it does little to prepare one for the rigors of employment, much less those in life. Speaking from experience, it was the teachers and professors who challenged me the most, those who made me step out of my comfort zones and explore previously hidden areas of thought, who helped me the most.
This type of challenging instruction is found in the very essence of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus did not come to regale his audiences with fascinating tales or interesting stories. He came to instruct them in the ways of God. In so doing, he challenged them academically (cf Matt 22:29-32), intellectually (Matt 21:23-27), and emotionally (John 8:7-9).
Jesus repeatedly challenged the academicians of His day. We find one such academic challenge in Matthew 22:23-32, where the Sadducees presented Jesus with their “levirate conundrum,” based upon Deuteronomy 25:5-10. (Note: the “levirate law” required a man to raise up an heir with the wife of his brother if the brother died having no children.) One can only imagine the Sadducees’ smugness as they presented their argument. But Jesus answered it by appealing to the very Scriptures they purported to defend. Moreover, His refutation began with this stinging rebuke: “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures…” (v 29 NKJV). The word here translated “mistaken” is more commonly translated as “deceived” (cf Matt 24:4-5). It means to be “led astray” (Luke 21:8 ERV), or to “wander from the true faith” (cf 2 Tim 3:13, Thayer’s Lexicon). In His refutation, Jesus used an interpretive principle known as inference. Inference is the process of obtaining facts without having them formally expressed. Thus, Jesus concluded that when God spoke to Moses as being the God (present tense) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it could be inferred that these men were still living, not dead as the Sadducees supposed (cf Luke 16:19-31).
Within this same exchange, Jesus also challenged these men intellectually. Consider how His rebuttal not only accuses them of ignorance of the Scriptures, but also of their ignorance concerning “the power of God” (v 29). Had it never occurred to them that in their “wisdom” they were placing restrictions upon God? God, who in six days created the universe and all things therein (Ex 20:11), out of nothing (Heb 11:3), by His word (Psalm 33:8-9)? The God that did all these things couldn’t resolve this afterlife dilemma? One ought to be very cautious before making any decrees or formulating any doctrine that questions or limits God’s power.
Jesus’ teaching also challenged men emotionally. In John 8:1-9, we read the well known account of the woman caught in adultery, according to her accusers, “in the very act.” Looking for means to accuse Jesus, and citing the Law of Moses, they demanded that Jesus give them a ruling as to what should be done with her. Jesus, knowing and applying the Law perfectly, said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” These men had failed to comply with the very law they cited, for Leviticus 20:10 demands that both the man and the woman be brought forth for punishment. Convicted by their own conscience, they all “went out one by one, beginning with the oldest to the last” (v 9).
All of these examples also serve to prove yet another important truth: men are fallible in their understanding, application, and teaching of God’s word. It’s not so much that they are ignorant; it’s just that so much of what they know “just ain’t so.” This is why personal Bible study and knowledge is valuable and vital in the life of every individual.
The Bereans will forever be identified with the “nobility” associated with those who weigh what they hear in the balance of Scripture. Of these people it is written, “they were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
When we hear men or women say such things as “pray the sinner’s prayer to be saved,” or, “accept Jesus as your personal savior,” we need to open our Bibles and search the Scriptures to see if these doctrines are true. I could save you some time by telling you you’ll not find either of these doctrines in the Bible, but don’t take my word for it! See if you can find them in the Scriptures. If you can’t, then they must be rejected as the doctrines of man (Matt 15:7-9). The same goes for the doctrines of justification by faith only (James 2:24); the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy (a.k.a. “Once saved, always saved” – 2 Peter 2:20-22), any doctrine of salvation that denies the necessity of water baptism (1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16); or any idea that God is pleased with the denominational divisions among professed believers (John 17:21; 1 Cor 1:10).
God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). That statement alone should be sufficient to impress us with the value of knowledge. But the prophet continued, “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me.” And this lack of knowledge and the pursuit thereof did not just affect the ignorant, it also affected their families, “Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” May we ever be diligent in the pursuit of knowledge, especially wherein God’s Word is concerned!
- Reagan, Ronald. “A Time for Choosing”, October 27, 1964.
- Readings in True and Fair. R. H. Parker, Robert Henry Parker, P. W. Wolnizer, Christopher Nobes 1 Review, Taylor & Francis, 1996 page 74 (source copied from Wikipedia)
- “Another Ice Age?”, Time, June 24, 1974
- Dutton, Dennis, ”The Cooling World”, Newsweek, April 28, 1975
- Sullivan, Walter, “Scientists Ask Why World Climate is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead”, New York Times, May 21, 1975
- “U.S. Scientist sees New Ice Age Coming”, Washington Post quoting NASA scientist S.I. Rasool, July 9, 1971.