"We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge." Trend spotter John Naisbitt made this observation in his 1984 bestseller Megatrends (p. 24).
We live in a dynamic information age driven by technological innovations such as E-mail, endless Web sites and the digital revolution. Hundreds of radio and television stations are beamed or wired into our homes daily.
The appetite for information seems insatiable. Magazines routinely run articles on how to deal with a continuous barrage of detailed information.
Richard Saul Wurman, in his book Information Anxiety, summed up the situation: "The information explosion has backfired, leaving us inundated with facts, but starved for understanding" (1991, cover note).
Could it be that the more information we have access to the less knowledge we absorb?
Understanding and information are not the same thing. Wrote former British foreign secretary Francis Pym: "The images we see on television reflect only the symptoms and consequences of a problem ... When we see world events described by commentators this does not lead to understanding, but only to an emotional reaction and the acquisition of casual knowledge" (The Politics of Consent, 1984, pp. 25-26).
In spite of the proliferation of information, we are left with a massive void in our understanding. American writer Saul Bellow articulated the problem in his book To Jerusalem and Back: "Information is to be found in daily papers. We are informed about everything. We know nothing" (1976, p. 34, emphasis added).
Even if slightly exaggerating, Bellow has a point. We lack a suitable standard for framing the information we have access to. We find ourselves floundering in an ocean of information.
The essential biblical perspective
This is where the Bible enters the picture. The inspired Word of God stands as the solid source of knowledge and understanding. The Bible provides the framework of essential knowledge through which we can understand all other information. Without the foundational knowledge of Scripture, we exist in a confused muddle, inundated with an incomprehensible avalanche of facts and figures.
If you want true understanding, God's Word tells you where to find it: "The LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6). Here in one short proverb from the Bible we find three great tools for truth: knowledge, understanding and wisdom. The three are different, but they overlap.
One can easily possess knowledge without understanding, and a person can have a certain amount of understanding without wisdom. But the truly wise have learned how to tap the source of true understanding and knowledge.
Notice the three traits interacting in Scripture: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10). Solomon continues: "Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding" (Proverbs 14:33).
A few generations after Solomon wrote, the prophet Daniel noted that God "gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding" (Daniel 2:21).
Knowledge with understanding
The minute one begins to read the Bible, he starts to take on a small measure of scriptural knowledge. Knowledge predominates at first. But understanding soon follows as the reader contemplates the knowledge he initially gains. Wisdom comes as he spends more time in the pages of the Bible, as he carefully considers God's Word and sees it at work in real life.
The writer of Psalm 119 requests of God, "Give me understanding according to Your word" (verse 169, emphasis added throughout). Understanding of spiritual matters is based on the foundation of right knowledge contained in the Bible.
These three traits ultimately come to us as gifts from God. The apostle Paul told Timothy: "Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things" (2 Timothy 2:7). Paul also prayed that the brethren at Colosse "be filled with the knowledge of His [God's] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9).
James wrote that, if any "lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). But a person must be receptive to that God-given gift, willing to apply the benefits it offers.
The necessity of understanding
The late Isaiah Berlin observed: "If we are to hope to understand the often violent world in which we live (and unless we try to understand, we cannot expect to be able to act rationally in it or on it), we cannot confine our attention to the great impersonal forces, natural and man-made, which act upon us" (The Crooked Timber of Humanity, 1990, p. 2).
He grasped the necessity of understanding based on a realm that lies beyond the world of man and nature. He sought basic knowledge, but more than that he sought purpose: "Only barbarians are not curious about where they came from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going ..." (ibid.)
This is where The Good News comes in. This magazine, our many free booklets and our Bible study lessons seek to fill the gaping hole in understanding our world and the reasons human beings exist.
The Good News transmits understanding, not only of world events, trends and movements, but of the very purpose for human life itself. Such understanding is rare, and seldom found in any publication. The difference is that we write our articles first and foremost from the perspective of the Scriptures. God's Word is the source where you can find the real answers, the lasting solutions to our problems.
"Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:3-5).
Keep reading The Good News to better gain this crucial foundation of discernment, understanding and the fear and knowledge of God. GN