Turning Information into Knowledge
The Internet is a smorgasbord of information on almost anything. Cable news allows instant access to information about what’s happening everywhere in the world. And go to the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble; you can get information on just about any subject imaginable.
That we live in an information age is self-evident. But living in this chapter of history has a major liability.
One of the subtlest misconceptions of postmodernity is the delusion that “information” and “knowledge” are interchangeable. The assumption is that if the information about something enters your cognition, you have gained knowledge about that subject.
Information is simply data. But information is transformed into knowledge when the mind assesses it as valuable enough to use later. Someone taking calculus simply as a math requirement usually jettisons the information gained for taking a test after that test. But for someone who needs those same equations for an engineering major, there is a need to retain the information as knowledge to both reference and build upon.
I was thinking about this as I was working on a sermon today. It is easy to think that because we’ve heard and appreciated the information presented in a sermon, our responsibility is complete. However, unless that information takes root in our hearts as something we really know (knowledge), we’ve merely been amused by divine truth.
It’s interesting that the Bible writers do not speak much about gaining information about God; instead, they emphasize gaining knowledge of Him.
Listen to what Peter says about the knowledge of God in his second epistle:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet 1:2-3).
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness…” (2 Pet 1:5-6).
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:8).
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Pet 3:18).
From these verses we discover that the knowledge of God:
- is the means of experiencing God’s grace and peace
- is the channel of divine power in our lives
- is the sufficient resource for everything pertaining to life and godliness
- is a chain link in our growth toward spiritual maturity
- is the outcome of Christian virtue
- is the way to grow in our relationship with Jesus
But the key to enjoying the benefits of the knowledge of God is distinguishing it from mere information about God. I think the way to change this perspective is by reading the Scriptures “theo-centrically,” in other words, with God in mind. This perspective can be applied to listening to sermons as well. Whenever we hear or read anything informative about God, it should become fuel for worshipping Him. It’s really about the ability to assess the value of true (i.e., biblical) information about God and respond appropriately.
So as we obtain information about God this week from the variety of sources we will encounter (sermons, devotions, books, etc.), we should not be content to merely be informed. Instead, that information should transform into knowledge, things we know and care about concerning God. And nowhere is this information-to-knowledge continuum understood better than in our understanding of Jesus.
Paul said it like this: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
And Peter said it with these simple words: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
It is obvious that Peter and Paul were reading from the same Holy Script. I want to read from the same.