Information, Knowledge and Wisdom – part 1

 

Information versus Wisdom

One of the problems of the information age is that people confuse data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Computers deal with data – scary quantities of it – moving it, storing it and processing it. Information is what people deal with: facts, interpretations, ideas, images and so on. Knowledge is the ability to recall and interpret information. Access to data alone does not make you knowledgeable. Nor is the ability to recall information the same as knowledge. Knowledge takes study and reflection. It is a slow process, gradually accumulated through thought and experience.

And wisdom is something else altogether. It is the ability to live aright, to make moral judgments, to exercise discernment, to make choices. This means wisdom does not reside with the academically able in the way that knowledge does. Wisdom resides in spiritually mature; in those who walk with God. The digitalisation of information has created the delusion that we can carry knowledge and wisdom around with us on our laptops or access them via our smartphones. This is the promise of the advertisers, but it’s an illusion. 

We want Crosslands students to acquire knowledge. But even more we want them learn wisdom. 

Specialisation brings struggles

The quantity of information is creating increasing levels of specialisation. In the past people could be polymaths. Today people struggle to keep up to date with one field of knowledge. One result is increased specialisation. The area over which you can be an expect is shrinking. The problem is that this is diminishing our ability to integrate knowledge. The world ‘university’ derives from the Latin word universitas meaning ‘whole’. Universities once gave you an all-round education. But now our view of the world has become fragmented. We see only parts. Such fragmented knowledge enables us to do specific, discrete tasks: we can transplant a heart or design an aeroplane wing. But it cannot help us live integrated, whole lives.

Theology is not immune from this. New Testament scholars are discouraged from straying into church history; church historians are discouraged from contributing to pastoral theology and so on. Such specialisation ill-equips the church to maintain an integrated or ‘universal’ view of truth. Academic articles exegete individual Bible verses, but do not enable me to comfort a woman suffering panic attacks or share the gospel with my postman. 

At Crosslands we want to equip students to integrate theology and practice. This is reflected in the faculty, all of whom are pastor-theologians involved in the day-to-day life of local congregations. It’s reflected, too, in the partnership between Acts 29 and Oak Hill to create Crosslands. It’s a partnership that brings together hands-on church planters and top-calibre theologians. 

Choose quality rather than quantity

Whatever the field, pursue quality rather than quantity. Go for material in which information has been digested, examined, applied and experienced.

Choosing quality rather than quantity means reading a book before you search the internet. A book will contain a person’s considered reflections, usually after many years of research or reflection. A book will include an editorial process of selection and refinement. None of these quality controls are available on the web. This will often mean paying for knowledge. The internet promises free knowledge, but it is undifferentiated. Be willing to pay for that differentiation – if only to ensure you use your time is profitably.

So don't do general research through the internet. It is not subject to any quality control. Anyone can put anything up the internet. You cannot be sure whether this is a researched, reasoned and balanced perspective on a subject. If, however, your research identifies a good article then see whether it is available on the internet. A goldmine of good material is freely available online (many of the great classics of Christianity are available on the web) – you just can’t trust a general search to take you to it.


 

Tim Chester, Crosslands Faculty Member

 
 
Tom Olyott