In the 14th century, a man by the name of John Wycliffe was gripped by the deep conviction that every individual should have personal access to the Bible. Until his translation efforts, only one Bible translation, the Vulgate, was sanctioned by the church. The Vulgate was written in Latin, a language that only those in positions of ecclesial influence were familiar with. Corruption had pervaded the church, and said church leaders feared that access to the Bible would undermine their control over faith and practice. Enter Wycliffe, who was dissatisfied with the status quo. When he translated the Vulgate, he catalyzed what would become a widespread commitment to allowing every follower of Jesus the gift of reading God's Word for himself.
Fast forward several centuries, and we now live in a world where personal access to the Bible is an afterthought. Because it is so readily accessible, we run the risk of taking the ability to read it and study it for granted. And because we run that risk, it is important to remind ourselves of the call the Bible itself gives to pursue knowledge and theological truth. Here are a few examples among many instances:
There are some things in [Paul's letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 3:18
Fallacious arguments and misinformed worldviews are not a product of post-modernity. Peter makes a point to offer this exhortation because he knows that wherever (and whenever) there are people making claims about truth, as the early followers of Jesus were doing, there would be those eager to attempt to undermine those claims and argue against them. So, Peter, conceding the challenges that come with diligent biblical study, encourages his readers to "grow in knowledge" so that they may not be "carried away with the errors" that many were sure to present.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. -Philippians 1:9-11
Growing in our knowledge, however, does not only serve as a shield against attempts to twist and distort truth. Paul, when writing to the church at Philippi, tells his readers that knowledge and discernment are necessary for one's love to "abound more and more." In other words, the more you know about the truth of the Gospel—the more you study and discern what is true—the more effective you'll be at living out those truths. Not only this, but he continues to say that this pursuit of discerning what is true is inextricably linked to our pursuit of God himself. That is not to say, "the more you know about God, the more you love him." What he is saying, though, is that a diligent pursuit of truth can lead someone to discovering "what is excellent," and thus be "pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Oftentimes, the pursuit of knowledge can reveal facets of God's goodness and grace that once were hidden to us.
We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. -Colossians 1:9-11
Why ought we seek to "increase in the knowledge of God"? So that we may "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" and "bear fruit in every good work." The attaining of knowledge of the things of God is not merely a pursuit to satiate the intellect; it is a pursuit to strengthen our spirits. When we learn about the nature and character of God, it instills confidence in us and contributes to our effectiveness in our pursuit of fulfilling God's mission of reconciliation. Having a deep-rooted and confident understanding of our worldview and our purpose allows us to live out that worldview and that purpose more effectively with "endurance and patience with joy."
The pursuit of knowledge—the pursuit of truth—is an important endeavor, even an essential one. It equips us, it protects us, and it strengthens us. And it does so not for our own satisfaction or our own recognition, but so we may know our God more fully and that we may live out his calling for us more faithfully.
Consider these words from J.I. Packer's Knowing God:
We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.
But, knowledge about God, Packer continues to say, cannot be the ultimate prize. Knowledge about God is only as good as insofar as it produces knowledge of God. And we must be diligent to that end, as well:
How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each Truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.
Simple, yet demanding, indeed. In other words, study the Bible. Study other books written to help illuminate the Bible. Listen to the podcasts. Read the blogs. Ponder them, wrestle with them, discuss them. Yearn to know the truth that God has revealed to us and that others dedicate time to teaching. Then, when the book gets put down, when the discussion is over, enter into communion with God and praise him for the richness of the truths that are there to be discovered.