by Lee Anderson, Jr. —
Why are you reading this?
If you are like most readers, you clicked on this entry because the topic interested you. You wanted to know more about the subject.
In fact, with the exception of the reading we do purely for pleasure (typically of fictional works), essentially every occasion we spend reading is an opportunity to acquire information and to grow in knowledge. Arguably, the writing-reading continuum is a mutual pursuit—initially by the author and then by the reader—of information leading to knowledge.
The Scriptures commend the pursuit of knowledge.* Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Likewise, Proverbs 22:17 exhorts, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge . . . ”
But where are we to begin in this endeavor for knowledge? A haphazard quest, without a guiding principle, will inevitably result in the accumulation of a disjointed, chaotic mess of information—not meaningful knowledge.
The Bible instructs us how to begin the pursuit of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 tells us “the fear of the Lord” (Hebrew, יִרְאַת יְהוָה) is the beginning of knowledge. Similarly, Proverbs 9:10 states that “the fear of the Lord” is the first principle of wisdom—wisdom being the prudent application of knowledge according to God’s perfect standard.
The applicational corollary to these statements is that the fear of the Lord is to govern our pursuit of knowledge. Christian theologian and educational consultant D. Bruce Lockerbie rightly surmises,
Wisdom and knowledge, not reason and intuition, are the goal of all cognition, all learning, all thinking. And the beginning point is an obligatory reverential awe before God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.D. Bruce Lockerbie, “Thinking Like a Christian, Part 1: The Starting Point,” Bibliotheca Sacra 143, no. 569 (1986): 9.
While the concept of the fear of the Lord is addressed more often in the Old Testament with reference to the religious practices of Israel, Christians also are commanded to live in the fear of God in view of the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (1 Peter 1:17–21).
The fear of the Lord is characterized in Scripture as an awe-filled reverence toward God prompted by a recognition of God’s matchless attributes (His perfection, righteousness, justice, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.) and His mighty works (in creation, providence, and redemption; see Job 37:22–24; Psalms 22:23; 33:6–9; 47:2–4; 96:4–6; Isaiah 8:13; Jeremiah 10:6–7). It is stimulated by a regard for God’s holy standard (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:14–16) and is coupled with reliance on God’s love (Psalms 33:18; 147:11; cf. 103:11, 17). The fear of God is evidenced in obedience to His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Philippians 2:12; cf. Deuteronomy 5:29; 6:2; 8:6), the avoidance of evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; 28:28; Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 16:6; cf. 23:17), and deference to others (Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:22). It is imbued with sincere devotion to God (Deuteronomy 10:12–13, 20; 13:4; Joshua 24:14; 1 Samuel 12:24; Psalm 86:11) and concerns itself ultimately with magnifying God’s glory (Revelation 14:7; 15:3–4).
The juncture between an authentic fear of God and growth in knowledge centers on the Scriptures. Truly fearing God requires submission to His authority such that we heed His word (cf. 1 Samuel 12:14; Psalm 112:1) and depend upon His perfect wisdom communicated therein in navigating the path of life (Proverbs 2:1–6; 3:5–7). The essential attitude of reverence which is inherent in the fear of the Lord demands we approach Scripture so as to receive from it what it intends to teach, rather than attempting to artificially fit Scripture with our preconceived opinions or, worse, imposing on Scripture an alien manner of thinking. And when we start with the truth of Scripture in shaping how we think, we have the surest foundation possible for the pursuit of knowledge.
Practically, this means as we seek to grow our knowledge by engaging with the truth claims of any written work (whether it be a book, magazine, news article, or blog) we should be methodically and diligently comparing them to the statements of Scripture.
It is my privilege, after previously serving in parachurch and pastoral ministry, to now be joining Mike Halpin and Steve Golden in writing for the Applied Heart blog. I look forward to engaging with topics of interest to the church, biblical interpretation, and Christian thought. It is my sincerest hope that we, as Christian authors and readers, will resolve to live always in the fear of the Lord, together pursuing knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, in dependence upon the grace of Jesus Christ, with prayer and due attention to the Holy Scriptures, unto the ultimate end of glorifying God.
*All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, is from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.