“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:5-8
All too often in the church, we do not seek wisdom. We laugh at the wisdom-lovers, that is, the philosophers, and the endless circles they make as they discuss things that seem to have no impact on the real world. What is “being” in general? How can we know that we know anything? What is the use of metaphysics and epistemology in the social-ontology of a given body-politic? These zoom right over most of our heads, and even if we begin to understand what the questions are getting at, we are still wont to ask the questions: so what? who cares? And for the most part, that’s true. Philosophers in the modern world tend to go in circles writing journal articles and dissertations that only they will ever read. They make careers of this, hardly aware of how their metaphysical (foundational) and epistemic (scientific) claims have any bearing on social-ontology (politics and doing life together) of a body-politic (a community or nation).
But if these are the wisdom-lovers, is James’ command here to be like them? We indeed see here that this passage is no request. “If any of you lacks wisdom,” James says, “let him ask God.” If you lack wisdom, James commands you to go to God to find it. Yet the wisdom that God imparts will not be like that of the modern wisdom-lovers. Is it because this wisdom is practical, and the philosophers of today are high-minded eggheads with their heads in the clouds? Not quite. Self-help gurus can be just as far off the mark, however relentlessly practical they may be. The difference is the starting point.
In John 1, Christ is called the Logos. The ancient Greeks believed since the time before Socrates that there was an overarching principle to the universe, and that if one really understood this principle, they’d understand everything. They called it the logos. John recognizes that the great Truth by which we can understand anything is not an abstract principle, but a Person, and that Person is Christ. Knowing Christ, we can actually begin to understand everything. Wisdom comes from knowing Him. And James confirms this for us in his first chapter. If one lacks wisdom, he must go to God. Anything else is not true wisdom. The knowledge that the world gives is not true wisdom. It may be formally correct on this or that level, but every time a nonbeliever looks at the world around him, he interprets according to one simple principle: rebellion toward God and a desire for his own autonomous power and control. Though the world screams at him that the Triune God is the creator and sustainer of all, the unregenerate man twists the facts to say something else. We see this across the board, in all fields of knowledge. Any time they stumble upon a truth, it is merely a mercy of God as he restrains their sinful thought processes with wonderful inconsistency to their own rebellion.
This is why it is so vitally important that we do not fall prey to the world’s way of “doing science.” For them, they have methods, and they have starting points. The Scripture, that is, the very Word of God, comes after that starting point for them. They come to the Scripture and find things that are contradictory to these starting points. They presume to know what is right and wrong to start with and find that the God of the Old Testament has commanded things that are wrong. They establish laws of physics and find that Christ continues to do things in the Gospels that contradict such laws. They discover an ancient biological history and find that Genesis’ picture of a world created in six days does not line up with such history.
We cannot pursue knowledge like this! We do not first go to the world; we go first to Christ! The God of creation has graciously given us His revelation in the Word. It gives us truth to believe. It tells us how the world was made, and what it was made for. It tells us what people are made for, that is, the taking dominion of this world by work and child-rearing all for the glory of God. It tells us the fundamental problems in the world, sin and rebellion. It tells us how God promised a solution since Genesis 3, and continually dropped more and more hints along the way in human history. The faithful kept looking forward to the Head-crusher, and in first-century Roman Palestine, He came. He died, but He is raised. And now His Church remains on this earth, worshiping Him and constantly gathering more into its doors as it has spread rapidly through the earth going from a small group of twelve to covering almost every nation in the earth. And finally, at the end, Christ will return. He will establish the New Jerusalem, and rule the world, a remade world, a New Earth, now together with the New Heavens. And we, as Christ’s vice-rulers, will finally be able to do what man was made for: take dominion of the world, enjoying and glorifying God with our whole beings as we do so.
This story colors how we view all things and gives us all that we need for our lives. The Scriptures go into greater detail, of course, yet they give us all we need to know what to believe and how to behave. They give us principles as we go into the world and seek wisdom in the areas of biology, ethics, politics, computer-science, agriculture, visual art, music, et cetera. But we make the world’s misstep when we seek to start anywhere else. “Revelation in nature was never meant to function by itself. It was from the beginning insufficient without special revelation [the Scripture] as its concomitant [interpreter]” said the famous apologist Cornelius Van Til. We have the Scripture, the very Word of God, so let us go there for wisdom. Let us not flounder in foolishness, not seeking wisdom at all. Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, yet many do nothing. Many will seek her, but they seek her apart from God, and what they get are like demons clothed as angels of light; it may look pretty, and they may sound smart, but it is not wisdom that they have. So make neither of these mistakes and go to the Word! For there you shall find God, and to know God is life itself.