Many people have forgotten why wisdom is important. Others never learned in the first place. This is quite a sad truth, and the world suffers greatly for it. This is made worse by the fact that many Christians have done away with wisdom, and to do this is to discard the religion. Therefore, a reminder of why wisdom is important should be given to the forgetful.
Wisdom is important because it allows one to exist and improve over time. Wisdom is the knowledge of God and His order. Those who keep it will move closer to Him and come to peace with their own existence. Those who discard it will decline into misery. Wisdom may be attained through study.
The question of wisdom and its true identity had been known to the peoples of prior ages, but this knowledge has been squandered. This is because wisdom was tied to religion, and modern people hold it in contempt. So they discard wisdom along with God and suffer for it. Here you’ll learn how to properly think about the topic.
An Argument Against Wisdom as a Religious Affair
Religion is not associated with wisdom. This is because religion does not deserve to be associated with the word wisdom. Religious people take their views from sources outside of themselves. So they cannot be called wise because they really only repeat what others have given them. A wise man would produce insights of his own and not rely upon others for them.
A Second Argument – Wisdom and Religion Work for Different Aims
One of the goals of wisdom is to prove those axioms which other sciences require. It is for this reason that wisdom is greater than any science; the others all depend upon it.
Yet theology does not accomplish this goal. Nor does it intend to. So wisdom and religion work toward different ends and, therefore, should not be defined in terms of one another.
A Christian Argument – Wisdom Exists Separately from Theology
Religious knowledge is gained through study. But wisdom comes from divine inspiration. So the two may exist independently of one another. This is supported by the following Bible passages:
“This is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of nations.”
“One shall be born, on whom the spirit of the Lord will rest; a spirit wise and discerning, a spirit prudent and strong, a spirit of knowledge and of piety.”
In the first verse, wisdom is listed as a thing different from understanding. In the latter, the words wise and knowledge are given separately and within the same listing. So they must not be the same.
The View Aquinas Forwarded
The Tiers of Wisdom – Christian Teaching Is at the Top
The wisdom granted by Christian theology is greater than that of any other sort. This is true in each and every case because theology deals with the most important subject, God.
Now, it is the part of wise men to judge rightly and act accordingly, and this requires them to exalt some principle as their chief guide. Yet each thing which they may exalt may be subordinate to an even higher one which they have not identified. This creates a hierarchy of principles with something at the top.
That something is the capacity for existence. Any principle which wise men follow must exist. It could not be followed if it did not. And nothing can exist unless the ability to exist already exists.
So the ability to exist must be greater than any other thing which wise men may value. Therefore, the study of the ability to exist is the highest principle.
Christian theology is the only field which concerns itself with this topic. This is because Christianity recognizes the existence of a single God who has named Himself as the source of being.
So the greatest thing which a wise man may exalt is the capacity for existence, and this brings him to Christian theology.
Theology Is Wisdom in Action
When we watch man behave in the material world, we often say that he is wise if he acts toward a fine end. Men who act toward wretched ends are not called wise.
This insight allows us to conclude that the wisest man is the one who acts toward the greatest end. God is that end.
Why God Is the Greatest End
Part 1: Against Nihilism
- Man exists.
- Man may say that he does not exist. He may claim that nothing exists. He is lying.
- We know that he is lying for this reason: he is choosing to say that nothing exists. Therefore, he must believe that words exist. He must also believe that his mouth exists. And he must believe that sentences exist. The ability to speak a sentence depends upon the existence of many more things than these as well.
- So the man who claims that nothing exists must believe that he is wrong in order to say so in the first place.
If he believes that he is wrong when he speaks, then he is lying.
How could anything else be true?
- So, man exists. Nobody anywhere may truthfully say or do otherwise.
Man Is Subject to Time and Should Improve Himself
- Now, man exists over time. He lives today, he lived yesterday, and he will continue to live tomorrow.
- During his time in existence, man should behave in such a way so that he improves with each day.
If he does not, then he can only ever stagnate or decline.
You do not want your life to be one of stagnation or loss. It is far better to improve oneself.
How could anything else be true?
Belief in God Allows Self-Improvement
- Now, man exists, and he should try to improve over time. Most behaviors are ruinous to oneself and the surrounding world. Some are not. These paths lead to stagnation and living death.
- The Christian god is identified as the capacity for existence. To know Him is to improve one’s ability to exist, and this requires a man to improve over time. The man who does otherwise stagnates into misery and death.
- So belief in God is needed in order for man to improve. And the wise man, acting in a way that allows himself to improve over time, must exalt the source fo existence, God, as the highest good. His actions will then reflect this special wisdom. That wisdom arises from theology.
Theology Arises from the Highest Wisdom
Religious knowledge is the highest form of wisdom. This truth is not invalidated by the fact that it does not produce its own premises. It draws from revelation which has been given by God. The insights He has provided are greater than anything man might produce.
Even if theologians were to produce the axioms of their own thought, then they should discard those in favor of what God had given. This is because God’s knowledge is greater than man’s knowledge. So a wise man who produces the sources of his own philosophy would be foolish if he valued them over what God had provided.
So a wise man may produce the source of his own reasoning, but the wisest men will still place God-given sources above it. This separates common wisdom from the highest.
Religion Judges and Does Not Need to Prove Itself
The ideas from which other studies arise are often obvious, and they do not need to be proven. Physics, chemistry, and biology are among these.
Theology is unlike them. The ideas from which it arises are given by divine revelation and are not apparent. Reason is not the origin of theology.
So because reason is not the source of theology, to judge its truth according to reason is a logical fallacy. The name of the fallacy is the category error. Theology cannot be proven according to reason, but it is not supposed to be. It has been born from revelation and not by reason.
So the other sciences cannot refute it. They depend upon reason as their chief tool, and theology is immune to it.
Moreover, because theology si concerned with God and the capacity for existence, and because the other sciences rely upon the latter,, theology may judge them according to its own methods.
So theology may judge sciences, sciences may not judge it, and the attempt by a scientist to refute theology according to scientific principles is a category error.
The Nature of Theological Judgment
Judgment arises from two places, and the judgment arising from wisdom reflects this.
Some men may judge according to their virtue. A virtuous man allows his virtue to direct his understanding of himself and the world around him. He then produces judgments which are conducive to the maintenance of that virtue. For example, an industrious man may look down upon his slothful brother for his lack of industry.
The other font of judgment is knowledge. A person may study propriety and produce judgments which reflect his knowledge. In this way, a man may decide rightly even though he himself would lack the virtues which his studies exalt.
So some people produce sound judgments because of their character, and others do so because of their knowledge. Of these two, the former is preferable to the latter. However, virtue is rarer than knowledge, and the need for people to make right judgments is too great to rely on the better of the two. So judgment arising from knowledge is the more practical tool.
The judgments which arise from religious study are of this type.
Wait, but doesn’t the Bible tell us not to judge?
“Judge not lest ye be judged, for by your standard of measure, so too will you be measured.” – Matthew 7:2
This does not tell us not to judge. Instead, it tells us that if we judge, then we should be ready to accept the same judgment ourselves.
It’s a warning against hypocrisy, but its meaning is often perverted.
Many people like to pretend that the verse means that we should never say that bad behavior is bad. They do this because they want to escape the feelings of shame that should accompany their shameful behaviors.
This is the reason why the people who say:
“You can’t judge me! Only God can judge me!”
Are always the most unpleasant people in their surrounding environment. They misbehave, they know it, and they try to avoid blame.
Meanwhile, the Bible says many things against them. These include:
“Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
– Matthew 7:6
“The spiritual man judgeth all things” – 1 Corinthians 2:15
In the first verse, Jesus tells his followers not to give spiritual wisdom, such as the verse concerning judgment, to swine. In the second, Paul asserts that judgment is a feature of the spiritual man.
And any religious group which recognizes heresies must agree that certain judgments are permissible. To declare that a view heretical is to judge it.