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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

needing to know: the known and the familiar

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that in a culture where many prize personal certainty, we are so unwilling to seek knowledge.  Unless, of course, it's on a need-to-know basis.  The problem is, I don't always realise what I need to know.  Have you ever taken a bite of something and only then realised how hungry you were? Or sunk into a warm bath and been struck by the heat against the coldness of your body - a coldness you had managed to ignore?

I continue to think about faith - faith that is informed, a seeing faith, a faith that hungers and thirsts.  About what we believe and why we believe it - and how we explain it to others.  How can I make sense to others when I have not discovered the sense for myself?  How can I, relying on nuggets of second hand information, ever hope to firmly grasp the promise and hope that the bible offers?

Yesterday I had one of my regular bible studies with my Jehovah's Witness friends.  We come from different viewpoints, with different beliefs on the central issues of our faith.  But we all enjoy seeking knowledge together, looking at the bible and discussing its meaning.  I wish that more people would take the time to do this.  But I worry that we have become ill equipped to do so.  When discussing the meaning of our faith and what we believe about the bible, we need to be familiar with it.  Otherwise how can we give a reason for our belief?

OED definition familiar: adjective (1) well known from long or close association

It goes on to add:  'often encountered or experienced'.  Then a second hue of meaning:

(2) in close friendship; intimate

Do we have that kind of familiarity with what we believe?  That familiarity with the bible?

Or do we take it on a 'need-to-know basis'?  Looking it up only when we think we need to, only when we are challenged, asked or troubled by something.

If we do not immerse ourselves in the pursuit of knowing something, we will never get familiar with it.  If we don't frequently encounter it, have a close association with it, we will never achieve an intimate knowledge of it.

If we never achieve an intimate knowledge of something, we will never be able to explain it fully to those who really want - and need - to know.

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"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster