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Posts Tagged ‘information’

There is so much power in the written word that many people have died for what they have written or what they have read. And historically many great books and writings have been lost, mostly because the words were feared.

Acts 19:19
A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.

Of course, in this story, the scrolls that are burned are actually writings used in sorcery. I’m not sure how they manged to place a dollar value on them… was it the cost of buying these scrolls? If so, this is a huge amount of money. A drachma is a silver coin usually assumed to have the value of a day’s wage. Relatively speaking, what would that be in today’s economy? Even at the low end of $50 per day, this is still millions of dollars. What writings have such value today?

The books in Paul’s time were destroyed because of the way they were used. Their power was in the person who “wielded” it. But we miss that point and instead, we fear the writing itself.

This is such a compelling concept that Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 back in 1953 and it is still considered a “must-read” by all students. Hitler too destroyed books that might challenge his authority. Communists did the same and tightly controlled what would be published.

I am a librarian and a book lover. Reading is one of my greatest pleasures and I read a wide variety of books from fantasy to contemporary fiction to religious nonfiction and reference books. When I first started working at the library I had a flashback of myself at my childhood library. I spent many many hours there since it was within walking distance of my home. I remember holding my body flat up against the books on a shelf wondering if I could absorb the words by osmosis. I wanted them all inside me.

We are now living in an age of information. Words are everywhere, particularly since the Internet has brought words and information of all kinds, both healthy and perhaps unhealthy, depending on one’s point of view. Words are even translated into hundreds of languages all over the world. Information is there for the reading. Unfortunately, it is not all true or accurate. And here is another challenge.

Some people are afraid of words. It is true that words have power but that power can be diffused or endowed by the reader. We must read with intelligence and discernment. Not every book that is labeled Christian is good. Nor is every book that is not Christian bad.

What is the value I place on the words I read? What is the value I place on the scriptures on my book shelf?

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One of my favorite discussions of wisdom is actually on a website that has nothing to do at all with scripture, but is, instead, about knowledge management and systems thinking. The particular article is called Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom by Gene Belliner, Durval Castro, & Anthony Mills.

They divide the mind’s capabilities to handle “content” into five areas: Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom. They say the first four categories have to do with the “past,” that is, how the mind deals with what has been or what is known. Wisdom, on the other hand, deals with the future and interprets what has gone before in order to move ahead.

They actually chart out the five content areas:

  • Data: symbols
  • Information: data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions
  • Knowledge: application of data and information; answers “how” questions
  • Understanding: appreciation of “why”
  • Wisdom: evaluated understanding.

I find this a useful chart in thinking about II Peter 1:5-6. If these verses are talking about knowledge in this sense, it means working through the “how” of being or doing good… it’s the application of what it means to be a person of faith. However, if it is wisdom, then it’s more contemplative, comprehensive, and evaluative. It means we are taking the next step in choice. We have understanding to with the faith & virtue. It is a type of “revelation knowledge.”

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