Volume IV - Spirituality

The Virtues

Knowledge

Faith and hope go together with knowledge. They are built on knowledge and lead to knowledge. For what is “not seen” is believed and hoped on the basis of what is seen. And the understanding of what is seen depends on belief and hope in what is not seen. One’s belief and hope in the ability to know, to trust his senses, his mind and the revelation of his God, are the foundations of all knowledge.

Man was created to know God; not only to believe in Him and to hope in Him, but to know Him and so to love Him and to serve Him. Knowledge of God is the aim and goal of man’s life, the purpose of his creation by God.

And this is eternal life, that they know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

0 Righteous Father, the world has not known Thee; and these know that Thou hast sent me. I made known to them Thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which Thou has loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17.3, 25-26)

Faith, given as a gift by God, results in the knowledge of God. The Lord desires that man would “know the truth,” and so become free from all blindness, ignorance and sin. (John 8:32) This is the central teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the law and the prophets of the Old Testament and of the apostles and teachers of the Church.

That men might know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice and equity, that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth… The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:1-7)

In all of his letters, the Apostle Paul prays that the faithful would “be filled with the knowledge of Christ’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” since “God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (Colossians 1:8-9, 1 Timothy 2:4)

In all of his writings, the apostle insists as well that the faithful have “all the riches of knowledge of God’s mystery of Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and that the “spiritual man” has “the mind of the Lord… the mind of Christ.” (Colossians 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

The Apostle John gives the same doctrine as Saint Paul when he claims that the “Spirit of Truth” whom Christ has given in order to “teach you all things” and to “guide you into all the truth” (John 14:26, 16:13), is truly living in the midst of the believers.

... you have been anointed by the Holy One and you know all things. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?

I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in Him. (I John 2: 20-29)

This teaching of Saint John is in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, quoted directly by Jesus Himself, that in the Messianic Age of the new covenant church, “...they shall all be taught by God.” (John 6:45; Isaiah 54:13)

In the spiritual tradition of the Church, the knowledge of God and His truth is the main goal of life. “For what meaning would there be for creation,” asks Saint Athanasius the Great (4th c.), “if man should not know God?” (On the Incarnation, Book 1) Knowledge of God, indeed knowledge itself, according to the scriptures and the saints, is not mere “knowledge about,” the abstract knowledge of information and rational propositions, devoid of living experience. Knowledge is primarily and essentially an existential union, a cleaving together of the spiritual man and the object of his knowledge. Saint Gregory of Nyssa (4th c.) has said, “The Lord does not say that it is blessed to know something about God, but rather to possess God in oneself.” (On the Beatitudes, Sermon 6) The possession of God within the mind and heart is the true knowledge of God. It comes through faith and repentance in the life of the Church It comes essentially through the gracious purification from all sinful passions. Saint John of the Ladder (6th c.) has written:

The growth of fear is the beginning of love, but a complete state of purity is the foundation of all divine knowledge.

He who has perfectly united his feelings to God is mystically led by Him to an understanding of His words. But without union one cannot speak about God.

The engrafted Word (James 1:21) perfects purity . . .and the disciple of divine knowledge is illumined. (...) but he who has not come to know God merely speculates.

Purity makes a theologian (i.e. one who knows God), who of himself grasps the teachings of the Trinity. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 30)

The listing of knowledge among the virtues of man is critically important because in the present time there exists the widespread conviction that man is condemned to ignorance in the areas of religion and spiritual life. While most people would grant that knowledge is possible in the realm of natural sciences, they would deny genuine knowledge in the realm of the Spirit. They would say that one can know the things of this physical world ‘but cannot know the mysteries of God, and God Himself. Thus religion becomes a matter of personal choice and subjective taste, devoid of any pretension to objective truth and genuine knowledge. As we have seen, this is precisely not the teaching of the Scriptures and the saints.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known of God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. There- fore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. (Romans 1:18-25)