For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control… – 2 Peter 1:5-6
Canoeing the Mountains is the title of a very insightful book by Tod Bolsinger. He draws on insights from the exploration mission of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a waterway passage to the Pacific Ocean. The title comes from a key turning point of their trek when what they thought were clouds were actually the Rocky Mountains! There was no waterway passage forward. They had not reached the Pacific Ocean. They had reached the headwaters of the Missouri River. What do you do when you run out of river to navigate? You sell the canoes and move forward on foot.
The book is about adaptive leadership, and is quite insightful about the need to move into new territory with heretofore untested and undiscovered methods. That was literally true for Lewis and Clark. It is also a great analogy for the current state of affairs in the church today. We face new challenges and need to discover new methods and means of ministry in our post-Christindom era. If we fail to do so, we’ll fail to fulfill God’s calling for his church and mission.
One unexpected lesson Bolsinger lifts up is that there are fundamental and foundational truths that must not be abandoned in pursuit of the mission. That’s where knowledge comes in. There is a certain body of knowledge that both explorers possessed that equipped them for their task. Without it they would have failed.
So to for us today in the church. There is a base of knowledge that is foundational for our mission. We need to know things about God (as well as knowing God personally). There is a substance to our faith. There are realities that undergird the sublime nuances of faith. Faith is essential. Peter makes that point clear. But faith embraces virtue, knowledge, and other characteristics if it is to be productive and effectual in bringing glory to Jesus by bearing fruit.
Some people belittle knowledge. They make it seem as though it’s not really necessary to know about God, life, theology, or the corpus of Christian doctrine. Peter points us toward increasing our knowledge as a worthy adornment of faith.
Peter is not alone in this appreciation for knowledge:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might… – Ephesians 1:16-19
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory – Romans 9:22-23
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:8
Martin Luther was supposedly advised in the face of his personal crisis of faith to “learn more about God.” That is good advice for anyone of faith: that we not rely solely on feelings or a 8th grade understanding of God and his word. Learning more about God is a lifelong pursuit that not only adorns faith, but makes it stronger and enables us to bear fruit of Christian love.