We are being washed away on a flood-tide of information. From every direction we are bombarded with facts, opinions, claims, counter-claims and enticing offers. Via radio, television, videos, CDs, DVDs and the World Wide Web we have access to stores of information that boggle the mind. It has become commonplace to speak of the Information Revolution having succeeded the Industrial Revolution, a revolution which has transformed individuals and societies across the globe. And it’s not finished yet. If those at the cutting edge are to be believed, the next steps in the development of communications technology will make the recent past look like ancient history.
In large part the revolution has been driven by the development of technology which has given birth to the Internet and the World Wide Web. By tapping a few keys on our computers (and that will soon be out of date) we can now be put in touch with people, groups, organisations, networks, companies, governments, universities, across the world. Type a simple sentence into your search engine and you will be directed to hundreds, thousands or even millions of web sites, more than you could check in several lifetimes. The result may well be a sense of helplessness, even paralysis, rather than instruction and help. Who could ever possibly absorb even a fraction of what is available out there?
Of course there is a vast amount of helpful information to be found, if you know where to look for it. Few Christian ministries lack a web site, and some who have gifts in this area are using specifically web-based approaches to spreading the gospel. We should be thankful for such new opportunities. Statistically speaking, there is even more that is evil and dangerous, as pornographers and others make use of new technology to infiltrate their filth into the lives of young and old. Parents are not the only ones who need to be concerned about what is swimming in the information tide.
Even this, however, does not get us to the biggest issue raised by the Information Revolution. The fact is that although there is a vast amount of information available, few have any idea how to make use of it in ways that promote the welfare, especially the spiritual welfare, of individuals and communities. What is lacking is the commodity called by the Bible “wisdom”. We are information rich, indeed information surfeited, but wisdom poor.
Wisdom, in Scripture, is a very practical gift. It deals with right living – the way of life that leads to physical, mental and spiritual health. It is not abstruse or abstract. Consider the Book of Proverbs, which has so much to say about wisdom. It touches on relationships, families, politics, business, and down-to-earth, everyday, “ordinary” activities. All of life is embraced by wisdom.
Of greatest significance is the fact that wisdom is fundamentally spiritual. It is not the product of human thought or education. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). To be in a right relationship with the Lord – to “fear” him – is the start, and indeed the first principle, of wisdom. Without the fear of the Lord, which is the product of divine saving grace, men and women are “fools”. The fool, in biblical language, is not the uneducated person but the one who does not fear God and so does not know how to live in God’s world. There are many educated fools in our society. As Paul says in I Corinthians 1:21, “the world through its wisdom did not know God”.
If ever godly wisdom was needed, it is surely needed in dealing with the Information Revolution. Wisdom promotes discernment: between good and evil, useful and useless, helpful and harmful, profitable and time-wasting, true and false. There is much on the “information superhighway” that is dangerous or simply a waste of time. The wise person will know what to reject and ignore. There is also much that is good and helpful. The wise person will know how to use it profitably. Only a healthy relationship with the Lord, nurtured by the Word, prayer and worship, can produce the wisdom needed when switching on the radio or TV, picking up the newspaper or, most of all, going online.