Wisdom is supreme
I am currently working my way through a project that involves positive psychology and the topic of wisdom. Many psychologists have attempted to use the tools of modern psychology to understand the nature and function of wisdom, as well as ways by which wisdom may be cultivated. Researchers who are involved with the Berlin Wisdom Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development define wisdom as expertise in problem-solving. In this model, a wise person is someone who does well at coming up with good answers to life’s dilemmas. Blaine Fowers, a professor at the University of Miami, describes wisdom as a process of (1) accurately perceiving the reality of a situation, (2) deliberating on possible approaches to dealing with the situation, and (3) choosing the best way forward from the available options. Robert Sternberg says that wise decision-making involves balancing intrapersonal interests (what’s in it for me), interpersonal interests (how will this affect my friends and family), and extrapersonal interests (higher values, the will of God, the common good, etc.) to find a win-win-win solution.
While Christians can appreciate and fruitfully make use of these findings to enhance our understanding of how wisdom works in our lives, there is something about our approach to wisdom that sets us apart from our secular colleagues. That difference is the fact that we see wisdom as more than a procedure. Wisdom is in fact a person, and that person is Jesus. In the Old Testament, wisdom was described as an integral part of creation (Psalm 104:24, Proverbs 3:19). In the gospel of John, Jesus is the Word (Greek: “logos”) of God, by whom everything was made. “Logos” was often used by the philosophers of the time to refer to the overarching rational order that pervades the universe, and was conceptually linked to wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul explicitly refers to Jesus as “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” For Christians, growth in wisdom will be far more than just acquiring expert knowledge about how to live well. Growth in wisdom requires growth in Christlikeness, following after the concrete example of Jesus’ life. Those who want to become wise are commonly told to do so by following those who display wisdom. But for us, to become wise means becoming more like the One who is Himself wisdom.