Quodlibet

Surprised by Knowledge

by Peter J. Leithart

"Knowledge is a gift," writes Esther Lightcap Meek (A Little Manual for Knowing, 8). She continues,

Epiphany comes as a surprising encounter equal parts knowing and being known. It could never have been achieved in a systematic or linear fashion. It transforms knower and known. Deep insight hints of exciting future prospects, confirming that we have made contact with reality. Pilgrimage modulates into an ongoing dance of communion. Reality proves to be deeply dynamic and welcomes us in. Knowing ushers in shalom.

It's hard to summarize just how absolutely wonderful that statement is: Knowledge is surprise; knowledge is mutual, a form of communion; knowledge is transformative, and promises future transformation; knowledge is eschatological.

None of this leads to subjectivism: Knowledge is knowledge of reality precisely in being a surprising, mutual communion promising future, deeper communion.

And if knowledge is a gift, knowing requires gratitude. Those who do not give thanks find their hearts darkened.

Peter J. Leithart is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and the president of Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama. His many books include Defending Constantine (InterVarsity), Between Babel and Beast (Cascade), and, most recently, Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor University Press). His weblog can be found at www.leithart.com. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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