Knowledge vs. Wisdom & The “Post-Noeticentric” Gospel

This is from Stanley Grenz’s “A Primer on Postmodernism” (Eerdmans 1996):

“Finally, a postmodern articulation of the gospel will be post-noeticentric. That is to say, our gospel must affirm that the goal of our existence encompasses more than just the accumulation of knowledge. We must declare that the purpose of correct doctrine is to serve the attainment of wisdom.

The Enlightenment gave humankind a great legacy through its elevation of knowledge. It focused human efforts on the quest for knowledge, which came to be viewed as inherently good.

Indeed, knowledge is a good. And as Christian heirs of the Enlightenment, we ought to center our intellectual efforts on the discovery of knowledge about God in its various forms. We can also affirm that right thinking is an important goal in the process of sanctification, for we are convinced that right beliefs and correct doctrines are vital to Christian living.

However, we must not restrict our goal to the amassing of wealth of knowledge for its own sake. Nor should we be under any illusion that the posession of knowledge – even biblical knowledge or correct doctrine – is inherently good. Paul adamantly rejected such beliefs among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 8:1). Knowledge is good only when it facilitates a good result – specifically, when it fosters wisdom (or spirituality) in the knower.

A post-noeticentric Christian gospel emphasizes the relevance of faith for every dimension of life. It refuses to allow commitment to Christ to remain merely an intellectual endeavor, a matter solely of assent to orthodox propositions. Commitment to Christ must also take its lodging in the heart. In fact, the postmodern world provides occasion for us to reappropriate the older pietist belief that a right head has no value apart from a right heart. The Christian gospel is concerned not only with the reformulation of our intellectual commitments but also with the transfromation of our character and the renewal of our entire lives as believers.

To this end, a post-noeticentric gospel fosters a proper ordering of activism and quietism. No longer can we follow the modern outlook which looks to overt activity, conduct, or specific decisions as the sole measure of spirituality. In the end, this emphasis leads only to a spiritual aridity and burnout. The postmodern ethos correctly understands that activism must arise from inner resources. The postmodern gospel will remind us that we will be able to sustain right action only when it flows from the resources of the Holy Spirit, who continually renews our inner person.”

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