November 25, 1997
Nearly four years ago, an American company opened an offsite storage service for universities and libraries. Besides space to keep books and records, member libraries also receive retrieval and delivery services for any items requested by their patrons. Soon after it opened, one university put in storage about 110,000 books, dissertations and bound periodicals.
Had this business opened a hundred years ago, few would have shown interest. However, as we approach a new millennium, educators, historians and lovers of research insist all information be preserved and accessible.
Today’s information explosion is mind-boggling. For example, the University of Waterloo’s electronic library claims one million titles. Another says they have 9.75 million articles in their catalogs. The OCLC Union catalog has 30 million bibliographic records. For those who have problems with those big numbers, someone said one issue of the New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in his entire lifetime.
The ancient Scriptures predicted a time when knowledge would increase. In a vision, the prophet Daniel was told: “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
Interestingly, the Hebrew word used here for knowledge takes a slant toward technical ability. People may not agree about this being “the end of time,” but there is no argument that we live in an era that fits this description; technical knowledge is rapidly multiplying.
Today, we associate knowledge with knowing information and having data and facts at our disposal. The Old Testament men and women had a different understanding. For them, knowledge meant a deeper relationship with the information. One of their words for “knowing” is the same word used in other parts of the Bible for sexual intimacy between a man and his wife.
With that in mind, Daniel seems to be saying that people would be highly involved in travel and in learning more and more. However, in the context of his vision, he did not extend this “knowing” to a deeper, intimate and personal relationship with God or even with truth about God.
The New Testament picks up the same concept. Paul wrote to Timothy about a day when people that would be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Here, Paul is finishing the ideas of Daniel. People will be gathering information of all kinds yet despite all the data and facts, many will miss the most important knowledge: truth.
Pilate, the Roman governor, asked the question: “What is truth?” Jesus Christ, who Pilate crucified, said, “I am the truth. . . .”
Pilate was a knowledgeable man but he missed it. He did not recognize truth because he did not know God nor acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son. Because He denied God, he was blind to the fact that the One he put to death was Truth personified.
The Bible says that many will reject Jesus because they reject the other truths that He came to show us. For instance, He says we have turned our back on God’s way and are lost to God. We need restoration and forgiveness. The Bible also says He is life and He can give His life to us if we are willing to receive Him, and that He becomes our wisdom when we do.
As an incurable “information gatherer,” trying to grasp the amount of data now available simply frustrates me. I am far more interested in the data God stores in His mind. What library collection numbers the hairs on our heads and names all the stars of heaven? What information retrieval service can offer us the wisdom of Christ? No matter how much knowledge we can heap up, none of it compares to knowing Truth and trusting Him to give it to us as we need it.