Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
Socrates famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Obviously, Socrates did not say that one cannot learn since that would sabotage his career as a teacher and philosopher. Instead, Socrates meant one could not take what he believes for granted, understanding that his “knowledge” may be incorrect. Socrates told us always to investigate. There is a certain humility arising from this mindset.
Consider an example of two such people who questioned: Copernicus and Galileo. For how many hundreds of years were people taught that the earth was the center of the universe before Copernicus showed them otherwise? Even so, Catholicism banned Copernicus’ book after his death. Within a few decades, Galileo, who assumed Copernicus’ mantle, stood trial for teaching the same heliocentric model. Galileo was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his life’s work. Yet, we know how the story ends. The Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, embraced by Catholicism, would not withstand future scrutiny and would be abandoned, vindicating both Copernicus and Galileo.
This virtue of the investigative mindset should not surprise Christians engaged in a study of God’s Word. We are encouraged to be noble Bereans, checking what we hear by the standard of Scripture (Acts 17.11). Furthermore, we must test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4.1). There is a warning to us that we should reject even an angel’s message if it is contrary to the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1.8). The father of lies is Satan, who used one lie to murder humanity (John 8.44). Since he works to deceive, and his ministers can take on the appearance of servants of righteousness, Paul encourages us to take our confidence in our weaknesses, which highlight God’s strength (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 30).
Unfortunately, we seem to live in an era encouraging lockstep conformity in thought. There are those calling this “progress.” Critics rightfully call it “cancel culture,” pointing to a desire of “social justice warriors” to cancel contrarian viewpoints. If beliefs can only persist within an ideological vacuum, how is it any different from Catholicism forcing Galileo to recant? It is not. So, those ironically crying “fascism” in the streets act as the brownshirts of Hitler’s fascism in Nazi Germany. (I apply this truth secularly and politically since it is evident on the news and in the streets.)
In regards to politics, of course, the end is inconsequential for the Christian, since he or she must submit to the governing authority (Romans 13). Note we are not told to waste our time trying the political spirits, but those purporting to be spiritual. It may be that in making a stand against false religious doctrine, though, that we will enter into conflict with a political ideology glorifying what God calls abomination and permitting infanticide. However, that is not our principal task.
Praise God that our struggle for wisdom is much simpler than that of Socrates. After all, we believe in an infallible God who gave us His Truth within the Bible (John 17.17). We can admit our ignorance of what that Word says and test those things we hear from preachers, but we are not left to grope blindly for truth. Indeed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9.10 NASB). Ultimately, it comes down to adopting the mindset of Paul, who determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).