I’ve been on a wisdom quest for a very long time. The first time I remember crying out for wisdom was nearly two decades ago. At the time I was a new mother and a new professor, and had lived enough life to know that I didn’t have the first clue about a great deal of anything worth knowing:
A serious pursuit for wisdom carries you along in its wake: it is not open to everything and everyone; but is definitely moving to something and someone. “Christian theology requires and engagement with Scripture whose primary desire is for the wisdom of God in life now.” (David Ford, Christian Wisdom, 50)
I’ve been searching for Christian wisdom all these years, and have read some fabulous works in the recent past on the topic. But in the last couple of weeks I have begun to browse a literature that claims to be Christian wisdom. It has left me profoundly disturbed by two opposing dynamics: first, by those aspects of human experience that have become so profoundly familiar to me on this quest: the importance of receptivity and real surrender to God, the significance of being fully alive to each new moment, the goal to love each other and the world around us in God. I see this Holy Spirit infused inpouring of wisdom into our lives as one of the major ways the Kingdom of Heaven breaks in on earth.
But side-by-side with loving the “somethings,” of this other genre, the “someones” deeply disturb me. In this other version of wisdom, we possess--by virtue of being human--a piece of the divine that lies dormant within, only to be wakened by the wisdom/life force that permeates the universe. In this rendering, the New Testament gospels are reinterpreted to represent Jesus as one who was particularly adept at awakening that “something” or “spirit” which lies at the core of each one of us. Jesus becomes the great human teacher of wisdom, and God? He is “the great unitive principle” into which all life returns.
But not so in the Scriptures I love. Christian wisdom is bounded and freed by the reality of a triune God, known only as the Father through Jesus, his God-man Son, who is borne along by the Holy Spirit throughout his life, until that incarnate Son’s spirit, saturated by this Holy Spirit is all surrendered back to the Father in that foolish wisdom that is the triumphant power of the cross.
Does the Holy Spirit then pour his life into human beings, enlivening them, fashioning them into persons of wisdom? Yes! Is this Holy Spirit the same inherent “spirit” resident in every human soul that only needs to be awakened? No! One Spirits saturates from without-in the other emananates from inside-out. The Holy Spirit may waken our dormant human spirits, but they will not share in the Holy until the Holy bathes our fallen and forgiven, broken and being healed souls in cleansing flood.
Christian wisdom is foundationally Trinitarian. We don’t simply know a great “Unity,” we know God in specific persons. And it is profoundly Christological. Only through the mediation of one unique Incarnation can our hearts be awakened to the Person of God the Father and His equally person-laiden Spirit.
Jesus’ wisdom that translates so well on earth came from listening to his Father and obeying Him freely, through the power of the Holy Spirit. From this place he could see, could hear, could act. And in his resurrected life, we too have been give new eyes, ears, a soft heart and the decisiveness to act.
Wisdom is to be desired with a passion only trumped by our passion to know and love God. To be wise in the deepest Christian sense, is to open own’s heart and life to our resurrected Lord in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are now hidden. In this posture we are led, we are corrected, we continue to grow in depth, uniqueness, and freedom because we are in relationship to the God who, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, delights to quicken fresh understanding for today in this new creation wherein we participate.
In the weeks to come, I hope to explore some of the nuances between these two paths to wisdom. I welcome your eyes, your ears, your discernment, so I am opening up comment on this one. May we know Jesus, not as great teacher, but as THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE.