Cultivating Wisdom in the Information Age (with Brett McCracken)

Do you ever feel like the constant bombardment of technology and social media is making us dumber, or maybe even more foolish? Or does truth feel ever more elusive to you in an age of increasing options, viral conspiracy theories, and personally curated newsfeeds? How are we to navigate this post-truth world? Brett McCracken joins Kirk for a conversation about his most recent book, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World. Listen in as Brett gives us guidance on finding wisdom and feeding our souls amidst the information gluttony, perpetual novelty, and “look within” autonomy.

Access the episode here. (Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and more.)

Redemptive-Historical Survey: 10 | Wisdom and Songs (LDBC Recap 4/3/16 Pt. 2)


logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:


We continue this week’s core seminar recap with a brief–and I mean brief–survey of the wisdom literature and the psalms.

Role within redemptive history

God supplies wisdom and songs for his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people.

The wisdom literature and songs (psalms) lead God’s people to live properly as his redemptive-historical people with regards to (a) how they are to relate and respond to God (worship and prayer [think: the psalms]), (b) down to earth, everyday, practical living (think: Proverbs), and (c) abstract questions about life (think especially Job and Ecclesiastes).

These books–Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon–are often the ones that feel the least “redemptive-historical.” They feel the least storied, in other words. The least related to the movement of God’s saving purposes across Biblical history. They feel closer to what we might call “timeless truths.”

But, even still, these books still assume redemptive-historical realities. They have redemptive history in their background.

For example, their guidance assumes the realities of redemptive history like…

(a) God’s original creation design…

e.g., Proverbs understands wisdom as something built into the fabric of creation (see Prov 8).

(b) The fall and the entrance of evil and sin into that design…

e.g., the account of Job is only possible in a world of suffering and evil. Or, again, the book of Ecclesiastes warns us of our sinful (i.e., fallen) tendency to seek meaning apart from God.

And (c) God’s activity to restore his creation through salvation and judgment…

e.g., the Psalms speak of God’s saving activity and his promises to save in the future, i.e., redemptive-historical promises.

Or, again, Proverbs makes clear that wisdom begins with something of a converted state–a disposition that is called “fearing God.” As such, Proverbs assumes the fall, that we are all sinful “fools” who need to be rightly re-oriented to God (conversion, regeneration).

In addition, these songs and wisdom books equip God’s people to live out that role as his redemptive-historical people in the nitty gritty aspects of every day life, in the midst of the full-range of human emotions and experiences.

Overview of Biblical material

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. 

  • Wisdom: Wisdom literature provides guidance (wisdom = “The skill of living successfully in God’s created but fallen world”) for God’s redemptive-historical people to live as God’s redemptive-historical people.
    • Job – Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know (e.g., the cause of suffering) while remembering who does.
    • Proverbs – Wisdom is living godly (= the beginning of wisdom is fearing God [chs.1-9]; and here is what that looks like [chs.10-31]).
    • Ecclesiastes – Wisdom is avoiding the trap of seeking to find meaning apart from God.
    • Song of Solomon – Wisdom is relishing sexuality within marriage.
  • Songs (Psalms) – The psalms are scripts that lead us to respond and relate to God properly in the midst of the full range of human emotions and experiences.

And, so, in closing, to recap the role of these books within redemptive history–God supplies wisdom and songs for his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people.

The personification of wisdom in Proverbs

The following was a short exegetical essay for Dr. Richard E. Averbeck’s Hebrew Exegesis course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is given a voice and personified as a woman, “Woman Wisdom” (WW). She holds a central role in the book as she provides two key addresses (1:20-33 and 8:1-36; cf. 6:22; 7:4; 9:1-6) in the discourse section of Proverbs (1-9), which serves as the introduction, even “hermeneutical prism,” for interpreting the rest of the book (Longman, 58, 61). This foundational role in the book speaks to her exegetical significance.

Determining her precise identity, persona, and origin has been the subject of much discussion and controversy among scholars. Various proposals have been suggested. The apocryphal writings Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon are the first to provide a development (interpretation?) of the theme. Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, describes WW in terms of Jewish particularism (24:8) and correspondingly understands the Mosaic Law as the embodiment of WW (15:1; 19:20). Wisdom of Solomon, on the other hand, “uses the figure to try to assimilate Jewish with Hellenistic wisdom, in particular a Stoic and Neoplatonic mind-set. . . .” (Longman, 70), e.g., “she is a reflection of eternal light” (Wis 7:25-26; NRSV).

Various theological interpretations have also been made. Some suggest that WW represents a hypostasis of the divine. However, as Schnabel points out, “wisdom is not given the status of an independent entity” but “is a vivid poetic personification” (845). Unsurprisingly, feminist scholars treat WW, or “Sophia,” as a feminine alternate to the male Christ. Representing this position, Paula Johnson states, “Sophia is a female personification of God’s own being in creative and saving involvement with the world” (cited in Waltke, 85). However, such an interpretation pushes the text beyond its poetic intent, making WW a literal description rather than a literary personification. (Wisdom is personified as female most likely because חָכְמָה is a feminine noun; Waltke, 83). Arius, the early church leader who was declared a heretic, used a similar hermeneutic in contending for his view of Christ as a creature. Noting the connection between WW and Christ (e.g., Mt 11:16-19; 12:42; Mk 1:21-22; 6:2; Lk 2:39-52; 7:31-35; 11:31-32; Jn 1:1, 10; 1 Cor 1:24, 30; Col 1:15-17; 2:3), Arius pressed Prov 8:22-26 to a literal extreme in order to argue that Christ was created (Longman, 70). However, Prov 8 is not a prophecy of Christ; and therefore, one should be cautious to draw Christological conclusions from it, especially in ways that contradict clear NT passages.

Many have sought to explain the origin of WW by theorizing that Israel borrowed religious aspects from surrounding cultures. For example, Bernard Lang sees a Syro-Palestinian goddess as Israel’s model for WW (cited in Clifford, 23-24). Clifford understands WW as “derived from mythological bringers of culture in Mesopotamian mythology. . . .” (24-28). However, despite correlations between WW and these suggested origins, such relationships appear distant from the concerns of Proverbs; these theories are largely supported by correlations found in other ANE sources but not ultimately from exegesis of Proverbs itself. Nonetheless, Fox’s observation is beneficial to a proper understanding of WW: “Lady Wisdom can gather a variety of phenomena from the mundane and literary domains without herself representing any singly known reality” (625). Therefore, for example, she possesses characteristics of a prophet-teacher-preacher (1:20-33); she is portrayed as a hostess (9:1-6); by her rulers rule well (8:15-16); and she played an intricate role in creation (8:22-31).

Evangelical scholars bring the discussion closer to home. Waltke rightly suggests that WW is the personification of wisdom, understood in terms of the book’s appended proverbs (83, 86-87; cf. 4:5). But going beyond Waltke’s interpretation, one must recognize that wisdom is not limited to the literary unit of Proverbs, but transcends it. The book itself recognizes that wisdom is rooted in God’s character and is therefore woven into the very fabric of creation. As Longman notes, WW personifies God’s wisdom. But contrary to Longman’s conclusion that WW “ultimately stands for Yahweh himself” (58-59, 79), Proverbs 8 portrays wisdom as distinct from and subordinate to YHWH in some sense.

In sum, this examination leads this author to the following conclusion: WW is the personification of wisdom, the communicable attribute of God, rooted in God’s character, portrayed in diverse personas, and demonstrated in (but not limited to) the various parts and literary whole of Proverbs.

A Study of “Lacks Sense” (Lit. “Lacks Heart”) in Proverbs 9

The following was a short exegetical essay for Dr. Richard E. Averbeck’s Hebrew Exegesis course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The phrase חֲסַר־לֵב occurs twice in Proverbs 9; and therefore, a proper understanding of this collocation will aid in the exegesis of this text. Although a consensus exists among scholars concerning the general meaning of חֲסַר־לֵב, the phrase itself, literally ‘lack of heart,’ carries a level of ambiguity for the uninformed interpreter, an ambiguity that requests an investigation of the phrase.

חָסֵר is a substantive adjective that means lack or need (BDB, 341), or as a substantive, one in want (HALOT, 338).חֲסַר־לֵב are in construct and express and objective genitive relationship, i.e., one who lacks heart, based on the implicit verbal idea in חָסֵר (חֹ֫סֶר, to lack).

A correct understanding of חֲסַר־לֵב largely depends on the meaning of לֵב. לֵב is one of the most semantically expansive and profound anthropological terms in Biblical Hebrew. The following sampling of glosses from HALOT demonstrates this: heart, seat of vital force, one’s inner self, inclination, disposition, determination, courage, will intention, attention, consideration, reason, mind in general and as a whole, conscience, etc. (513-515). As is evident from this brief survey, no equivalent to this word exists in English. The heart is related to one’s emotions (Prov 12:25; 14:10, 30; 15:15). It plans (Prov 6:14, 18; 16:9) and determines one’s decisions and actions (Exod 14:5; 35:21; Num 32:9; 1 Kgs 12:27; 18:37). It can be described as perverse, crooked, and foolish (Prov 12:23; 17:20). But on the other hand, and most importantly for this study, the heart can be characterized as wise, pursuing wisdom, having insight, etc. (Prov 14:33; 15:14; 20:9; 15:28). The list of uses goes on. In sum, לֵב may refer to one’s emotions, psyche, cognition, will, behavior, and spiritual condition. Longman describes לֵב as “one’s whole inner self” or “core personality” (131). Waltke refers to it as “the center of all of a person’s emotional-intellectual-religious-moral activity. . . .” (91-92). In sum, לֵב represents one’s innermost being, their fundamental disposition, and source for all thought, emotion, will, and behavior.

Concerning the phrase חֲסַר־לֵב, one must ask what specific aspect of לֵב is considered to be lacking. An investigation of the immediate contexts in which חֲסַר־לֵב occurs, as well as its parallel phrases in these contexts, indicates that חֲסַר־לֵב refers to individuals who find joy in folly (Prov 15:21), make foolish sinful choices (6:32; 7:6-9), do not maintain upkeep of their vineyards (24:30), and follow worthless pursuits (12:11). חֲסַר־לֵב is contrasted with the characteristic of understanding (10:13; 11:12); and this sort of person is paralleled with one who is “simple” (i.e., lacking wisdom, gullible) (7:7; 9:4, 16). Hence the following translations have been suggested: “anyone lacking wisdom” (Clifford, 101-102), “him that is void of understanding” (ASV; cf. KJV) or “lacks understanding” (NASB; cf. NET), “him who lacks sense” (ESV; cf. RSV, HCSB, NIV), “those who lack good judgment” (NLT), a “mindless, empty-headed person” (Fox, 39), and “brainless” individuals (Waltke, 437). As Fox notes, in this phrase, לֵב “refers to faculties we would consider specifically cognitive, namely, the ability (or willingness) to make a prudent, sensible decision” (39). לֵב probably carries the same notion as it does in the following Egyptian proverb: “It is the heart [לֵב] that allows a man to become a hearer or one who does not hear….” (quoted in Waltke, 92). In sum, חֲסַר־לֵב is a way of describing one who is foolish, but from a negating perspective, i.e., one who lacks wisdom, insight, judgment, understanding, and the capacity to make good decisions.