The Lord once said “What does it profit man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mat. 16:36) I find this to be a fitting way to warn the scholar: one who seeks to gain the whole world of knowledge. As Scripture says elsewhere, “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). And what does scripture mean when it speaks of knowledge inflating the ego? Surely it does not mean that knowledge is inherently evil, for that would remove knowledge even from God. The meaning is this: there is a tendency among the learned to arrogantly condemn those who are not as far along on their journey toward greater and more nuanced knowledge. “They clearly have not read the book I just read, so they are an idiot.” Not only does this ironically reveal the ignorance of one not discerning the difference between knowledge and intellect (a man can be intelligent but not knowledgeable, and vice versa), but it also creates a chasm between the self and the other; one where the bridge of love, humility, and charity has been destroyed. This alongside the echo-chamber problem is at the heart of “ivory tower” criticism.
This kind of scholar has no interest in helping others in any way. They learn solely for their own benefit, and they look down on others who do not have the knowledge they do. These are like the shepherds who feed only themselves and ignore the sheep (cf. Eze 34:2). They conflate the ignorant with the willfully ignorant, rendering all men guilty (this includes themselves, but they are too proud to see it). There are many of us who hunger for knowledge, but are denied it by the gluttonous scholar who gorges himself and withholds his knowledge solely as a means to scoff and feel superior to those less educated. As for his relationship to his scholarly peers, it is usually a race to who can become the fattest and least charitable person, for charity is merely a distraction from eating. “The man who is wrong is not worth the effort it takes to inform him,” he says, “let us instead eat our obscure books and drink the folly of the ignorant, for tomorrow we die” (cf. Isa 22:13). He might allow the crumbs of his chin to fall to the dogs: lethargically throwing in a book recommendation because he can’t be bothered to put anything in his own words. However, if a man were to tell the hungry, “there is a place in another country that sells food,” is this not a meaningless task that warrants no reward? Christ will say to him, “I was hungry and you fed me not” (Mat. 25:42), because one who loves Christ feeds His ignorant sheep when they are hungry for substantial words (cf. John 21:17). Even how much the glutton knows of Christ will be for him vanity if Christ does not know him (cf. Mat. 7:23).
Let us move on to talking about the ignorant sheep. Ignorance is not a sin and it should never be harassed, for we are all ignorant. Having a PhD does not free a man from ignorance, it merely suggests they know more than most people about a particular concentration. However, there is always that one book they have not read. There is always the antithetical and adjacent fields of study that illuminates their own. Nobody has all the knowledge, not even in their own field. And even if one were to have all the knowledge in their field of interest, they would have little knowledge in other fields. Everyone is ignorant, and we must acknowledge this to remain humble.
What do the scriptures say concerning the eloquent Apollos, who once was ignorant, and knew only the baptism of John? (Acts 18:25). Did not Priscilla and Aquila graciously expound unto him the way of God more perfectly? (v.26) Did they not feed the sheep? If Priscilla and Aquila were translated into the image of the contemporary Twitterverse, does it seem reasonable to conclude they would have plastered Apollos’ dated perspective across the internet with a retweet, and publicly mocked him for being a false teacher? I would say no. Humility desires Apollos’ gift of eloquence to be made even more perfect. It is pride and self-righteous anger that wants Apollos punished and ridiculed for speaking error in ignorance.
I will conclude these thoughts with some prayers:
- I pray that the academic glutton would give his intellectual food to the poor instead of hoarding it with pompous mockery.
- I pray that I would be more charitable with others when they do not know what I know, remembering the times I was ignorant and was graciously not chastised for it.
- I pray that I would not assume someone is not intelligent for not being aware of some fact.
- I pray that I would always forgive those who do not treat me the same, and instead feel compassion for them.
Perhaps in this, I could play a small part in making things a bit better.