Jordan Spieth was trying to win golf’s first three major championships this year. Only one player has ever done so. Yesterday, Spieth missed by two inches a putt on the 18th hole that would have put him in the playoff.
What’s it like to be that close to making golf history? We’d have to ask Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, the only other golfers to win the first two major titles then lose the third by a single stroke. I know about Spieth’s near-miss, having seen the replays numerous times. But to know what he feels this morning, I would have to experience what he experienced.
The difference between “knowing” and “knowing about” can be eternal. (Tweet this)
In his Confessions, St. Augustine notes that a person cannot understand the word of God if he comes to it with a skeptical mind. Biblical truth is intended to lead the reader into relationship with God, but relationships cannot be understood fully until they are experienced. Imagine a marriage counselor who has not been married, or a pastor who preaches on fatherhood but has no children. Their advice can be helpful, but there’s a dimension to relational reality that must be known personally.
Twin perils emerge. The first is the temptation for non-Christians to justify their unbelief via theological skepticism. A deaf person cannot fully appreciate the genius of Mozart. A Wikipedia article cannot do justice to the majesty of Westminster Abbey. Scripture explains: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Skepticism is the path to empirical knowledge in disciplines such as math and science. Satan’s great strategy for intellectuals is to persuade them that it is also the path to spiritual knowledge. When they fail to understand what can only be believed, they assume, tragically and wrongly, that there is nothing to believe.
The second peril is the tendency for Christians to confuse knowing about God with knowing God. This temptation is especially effective for those who are called to preach and teach the word of God. Our job is to tell others about God so they can know him. But we cannot fully know about God unless we know him, any more than we can fully know about marriage unless we are married. So seeking to know God intimately and passionately must be the highest priority of all who are called to make him known. (Tweet this)
Here’s the catch. We want to know about things so we can use them more effectively. The more we know about our computer or mobile phone, the better we can master them. However, our fallen nature seeks to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5), to serve ourselves above all else. Knowing about God objectifies him, placing us in a position of superiority over him. Knowing God personalizes him, placing us in a position of humility before him.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me'” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). In what—or Whom—will you boast today?