To catch a bird as easily as a mouse, a cat must be more than just faster, craftier, or in possession of sharper weapons. In order to be a skilled hunter, he must also be intimately familiar with his prey. Both may be desired for an evening meal, but the pursuit requires a very different approach in order to be successful. In short, birds take to the sky, and mice head to ground.
To mis this split-second difference can leave a cat empty-clawed, if he jumps in the air when he should have lunged for the corner exit. Those who view themselves as intellectually advanced beyond that of a cat, may find their equalizer when confronted with the challenge of pursuing knowledge and truth. To many an educated mind, knowledge is the pinnacle of pursuit, and truth is but a subset of what can be known.
At least as far as Western thought is concerned, the educational system strives for knowledge, and tends to give sideline treatment to the idea of truth. The rarity of capture, when citing truth, indicates that few seem cognizant of the difference of prey—that one goes to ground, while the other takes flight.
The intent here is to raise the awareness regarding differences in pursuit between seeking knowledge and seeking truth. For our species, that of human, we are endowed with an amazing capacity to learn. Although there are repetitive methods of learning that can improve physiological responses, the type of learning that we will consider here will focus on that conscious territory of the mind: what is often called head-knowledge and intellect.
The process required to develop knowledge around a particular subject is relatively the same for most any subject. The starting point may differ from person to person, but intellectually we come to know something by using our senses to measure whatever might be related to that topic. We see, we hear, we poke and prod, until we develop some consistent evidence of what is, from what isn’t. This requires travel all through a subject, to its most distant boundaries, and even beyond, so that we can identify and know that topic, from what doesn’t belong.
Upon this research, we form a mental image, and then put words to it, so that others can nod their agreement or dissent according to how their own developed knowledge matches what we have discovered. In a nutshell, that is how we humans pursue knowledge. For many, that is the end of it, but that is not how the Bible speaks of the difference.
In Scripture, God declares that many seek after knowledge, but refuse to go after truth.
“always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Tim 3:7)
Truth cannot be pursued in the same way as knowledge. Both require a knowing of the mind, but the two must be approached differently. Perhaps the most obvious distinction is that a person must first come to recognize that truth cannot be found by the tools and tactics common to academia. Truth cannot be discovered through research. It is not accessible through the measurements of any human sense. It is not a product of scientific methodology.
Knowledge always goes to ground. It is earth based and never takes flight. The pursuit of knowledge requires the testing of boundaries to learn the extent of a subject. It researches into the unknown. It measures and identifies what can be tested through human senses and natural logic.
The pursuit of truth, however, requires the restraint of approach within the limits of revealed boundaries. It refuses to stray, as if in the name of discovery, because it isn’t after discovery as much as acknowledgment. The pursuit of truth is about identifying what has already been named, what already exists as it should, what is completely and perfectly right. We don’t give truth a definition, we submit to its revelation.
Rather than an assessment of correct versus incorrect (like true and false), truth represents an unchanging standard of reality. It is certainly something to know, but it cannot be attained without guidance from God, because it directly represents all that he declares is right. Truth doesn’t exist anywhere other than in rightness with God. That is why it is imperative to know the Lord, in order to pursue truth.
Like the fable of the fox who disdained the grapes that he couldn’t reach, so many ridicule what they cannot find. As important as knowledge is to our development, it remains a dead end without truth. Truth is essential to our design. Humans will never function rightly on a diet of knowledge without truth.
“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thes 2:10)
Truth is a worthy prey, but it cannot be hunted like vermin on the ground. When compared, knowledge seeks what-can-be-known, whereas the truth emphasizes what-ought-to-be-declared. To seek after truth, one must learn to reach for the sky.
Humanly, it is possible to pursue and attain knowledge, but in order to acknowledge truth, one must know their “pray”.