“Negative knowledge” is knowledge that “negates” other knowledge– coming in and taking away what people already know. A useful image is that of the birds of the air in the Parable of the Sower who devour the seed sown along the path (Mt. 13:5,19).


birds on a path


Ironically, “negative knowledge” often masquerades as enlightenment. Consider the following ideas: All cultures are equal. No family structure is any better than any other. All religions are the same. Males and females are interchangeable. There is no difference between humans and animals.

Look closely and the common thread is a denial of distinctions. Thus we have the very essence of “negative knowledge”– the blurring or obliteration of distinctions.

The Bible, however, views the making of distinctions as the essence of wisdom, being grounded in the very nature of creation. In wisdom, God created the world by making distinctions (separations). In the Beginning, He separated order from disorder, light from darkness, land from sea, day from night, male from female. He made the creatures of the sea according to their distinctions (“kinds”), the birds of the air according to their distinctions (“kinds”), and the creatures of the land according to their distinctions (“kinds”). The principle of separation is so important the Mosaic Law codifies it in restrictions against the sowing of a field with two different kinds of seed and the wearing of garments woven with two different kinds of material (Lev 19:19).1

Although the Mosaic Law’s use of seeds and cloth for didactic (teaching) purposes can be set aside, the teaching point behind the Law cannot. If God created the world from chaos by making distinctions, then the undoing of distinctions leads back to chaos.

A good example is the story of the Flood in which God responded to the chaos of Noah’s day with a chaos of His own– a temporary suspension of separation between land and sea and between the waters beneath the firmament from those above it. The point here is that spiritual chaos eventually brings on physical chaos– nature and nature’s God push back against people who lose the ability to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong.

The same is true today on personal, family, community, and national levels. Order, justice, prosperity, and wholeness depend upon the making of wise distinctions. Conversely, disorder, injustice, poverty, and brokenness flow from the confusion and conflation of opposites. The empirical evidence for this is so overwhelming that present-day enthusiasm for the blurring of distinctions marks the present age as the “Great Age of Dis-Enlightenment.”

No break in the downward spiral from order to chaos, from wisdom to foolishness appears likely. Given present trends, the church may quickly become the only place where “knowledge” is still possible– where the intellectual “lights” are still on so to speak. It happened in ancient times. It may happen again. Stand by for further developments.2

In the meantime, be wary of “negative knowledge” that disguises itself as enlightenment.

— historeo.com

historeo.comhistoreo 2

1 Respect for distinctions also lies behind the Jews’ historical rejection of homosexuality as a confusion of male and female “kinds.”

2 As an example, note that Gal 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…”) is often made to advance secular ideas (“negative knowledge”) within the church. Paul’s point, however, is that every category of distinction (natural and manmade) is relativized by the overriding distinction of being heirs of Abraham (3:29). Thus we have the principle that distinctions can be transcended only by appeal to some greater distinction. That is the key to order out of chaos– knowing which distinctions trump other distinctions.

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