This past weekend I was talking to a friend of mine who is currently taking a lifespan psychology class in college. He was telling me how the class outlined some of the major social problems that are looming over the lives of the young people today, and all the pitfalls that parents face in raising balanced and successful children. As the single moms that filled the class agonized over their challenges, their response uniform: we need to take more classes! As he recounted the the situation, my friend saw the clear irony: education was what they were already receiving. And all it has done so far was increase their anxiety, not abate it.
Zoom out and see the situation from a broader perspective and the issue becomes even more clear. We are the most informed society to every live, and yet the psychological and social problems we face today seem to be multiply before our eyes. We are smarter about medicine and technology than we have ever been. And yet we are arguably the most anxious and depressed generation to ever live. No matter how much scientific discoveries and facts we make about life, a true knowledge of life and goodness seems to dodge us ever time.
Odd as it may seem, this problem is hardly new. A thousand years ago, a monk by the name of Anselm of Canterbury coined a praise that has stuck around for ages: “Credo ut intelligam.” In latin it means, “I believe so that I may understand”. Anselm understood that our main problem is not that we lack information. Rather, it is the fact that we are separated in our hearts from the God who created us in his image. Our daily life struggles don’t flow from our mind. They flow from our will. We see the evidence of a wise and powerful Creator and yet we don’t want to know him and submit to him.
This creates a bit of an awkward relationship between us and the information that surrounds us. We run after knowledge and discovery so that we can build a better life. And yet we ignore the foundational information that gives rise to all of life – the fact that we need God and his word to shape our lives properly. This is the heart of the matter: our view of all things is twisted. The human heart wants to break the lens that helps it see God, and yet it wants to then use that lens to see the rest of life. And this is why no amount of information will ever solve our brokenness.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Solomon meant that in the most literal way possible. Anselm simply repackaged a truth that has stood from the beginning. We are created for love, fellowship and dependence upon the One who made us. The moment we step out of that position in life is the very moment that we loose the only true perspective on ourselves and the world. After that we are just chasing our tales trying to figure our truth, trying make ourselves better, trying to build a better world. Our whole life hangs, not on the amount of information we acquire, but on the perspective from which we view all of life. Before we can know anything else, we must know, love and delight in the God who made all things. In his love, all of life is unfolded before us in a new way. Without that love, we are only looking through broken lenses.