What do you Know? The Conceit of Knowledge Many years ago I had the privilege of listening to Dr.

Charles Crane give a lecture on Mormonism and the Bible. To be honest, it wasn't his expertise in Mormonism that impressed me nearly as much as his background information about the Bible. I found, within a short time after being saved, that I was like a sponge where the Bible was concerned and part of my breaking away from my own Mormon past was getting the garbage that the LDS church had infused into my brain for over 30 years out of my head. I wanted to replace it with something better: genuine knowledge about the Bible. One of the first things Dr. Crane said was to impress upon us that Mormons were not the enemy, rather, they were victims of a vicious enemy: false doctrines. He also cautioned us about the hazards of knowing too much. Dr. Crane cited 1 Corinthians 8:1: Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. I was curious as to why he picked this particular passage, so I decided to study it out. The message seemed clear enough: knowledge without love is a useless tool. To quote the Matthew Henry commentary: There is no proof of ignorance more common than conceit of knowledge. Much may be known, when nothing is known to good purpose. And those who think they know any thing, and grow vain thereon, are the least likely to make good use of their knowledge. Throughout my lifetime I've had the distinct pleasure of knowing great men and women of God; individuals who have been gifted with a vast knowledge of the Bible, Christianity, theology and who were and are fantastic apologists for the faith. And over and over again, the one thing each reiterated to me was this message: never think you know so much about the faith nor the cults that you forget the purpose in knowing it. Knowing, for the mere sake of knowing, has very little usefulness. Unless you plan to spend your life on television quiz shows. The Matthew Henry commentary goes on: Knowledge which puffs up the possessor, and renders him confident, is as dangerous as self-righteous pride, though what he knows may be right. Without holy affections all human knowledge is worthless. Holy affections is that element of the Christian character which separates us from the atheist (or Muslim, or Mormon, etc.) who has confidence in self but cannot have confidence in God. The knowledge of right teaching, however, can be as dangerous as the knowledge of wrong teachings if it leads to a person becoming prideful. The atheist, the cultist, is often all about boasting they were right and you're wrong. They have to always “win the argument” because that is their source of validation, not God's Word alone. On the other hand, a mature Christian is willing to share his or her knowledge with grace, rather than pride. There will be a joy in knowing you have shared with others an important message and, when another thanks him for it, the mature Christian will humbly receive the acknowledgment.

Many years after being saved, I went back to an old friend who had tried to witness to me and tell me that Mormonism wasn't truth. It was a difficult thing to do but he was very gracious in his response: “When you walked away I was saddened to lose a friend but I hoped one day to gain a sister in Christ. This is a happy day for me!” He could have rubbed my nose in it. He could have said “I told you so” or relived every wrong thing I said. He could also have “taken credit” for the change in my life. But he didn't. And he didn't because it wasn't about him, nor me, rather, it was all about the work God brought about. Scripture places a premium, not on how much we know about God, but how well we implement that knowledge. In the Corinthians passage, the situation was about a contrast between those who felt it was okay to eat food sacrificed to idols and those who did not feel it was right. The Word of God had not specified one way or the other until this point. Yet those who believed they had the liberty to eat such food were puffed up in their understanding and knowledge and looked down upon those whom they saw as “weaker”, the ones who believed it was wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Sometimes we forget about the weaknesses of a brother or sister in Christ. Whether it be a weakness in the flesh, a spiritual weakness, a mental weakness, a physical weakness, or in this case, a knowledge weakness. In apologetic the one thing every apologist should keep firmly rooted in their brain is this: nobody knows everything and that includes the apologist! Some of the best apologists I have known were not arrogant. They were humble men who sought no name, no fame, rather, they were noted for both their knowledge as well as their balance of grace. The late Jerald Tanner was one such man. Always gentle, he worked tirelessly for many years to research Mormonism and educate others about it's danger. Yet never once did he come across as arrogant. My mind goes back to others who have long since passed: John L. Smith, “Thelma” Granny Geer, Dr. Walter Martin who, though he had a cutting wit, was an amazingly humble man when helping people caught in the cults to break free from them. And today there are many others out there who are still fighting the good fight and have managed to maintain a balance between knowledge and love while working in apologetic ministry. One commentary put it this way: “Are you 'puffed up' in your knowledge? Do you look down on others who don’t know as much as you do? Paul tells you to recognize that 'love edifies.' The word translated 'edifies' means 'to build up.' Originally, the word was used of the formation of buildings. However, Paul uses this word figuratively throughout his letters to describe the development of Christian character. The Christian life isn’t how much you know, or how strong you are, or how much Christian liberty you possess, but how much you love. You are your brother’s keeper.” As a former cultist myself, saved by grace and not of works, I know the difficulties facing an “ex” anything, be it ex-Mormon, ex-JW, ex-Catholic, ex-health-wealther, etc. Perhaps the most difficult thing is sorting through the maze of anger, heartbreak, caution and urgency one feels at the thought of someone being deceived by that which we know to be falsehood. For the ex-cultist the problem is that we have often not dealt with the core issues that come with leaving a group and we so urgently don't want others to be deceived that we forget that we we forget that someone else may simply just not know!

I had to learn that the Mormon church, while teaching deception, is chock full of people who, for the most part, aren't seeing to deceive anyone. They're devout, honest, believers (for the most part) who love their religion and see it as a positive influence in their lives. I also had to learn that I needed to deal with the anger of having been deceived. Until I did that, I would remain relatively useless as a witness. We are told to be “angry and sin not.” Righteous anger at false doctrine is one thing. But when our anger is taken out on the person with whom we are speaking (be it a cult member or someone who “just doesn't know” what a group teaches), then we lose our witness effectiveness. Some years ago I was asked to be a guest on a radio talk show. This was before the age of the internet. I remember being very excited about it and had all my notes and Bible handy. Before I had a chance to utter a single word, the interviewer blind-sided me with the statement (not question) that “Mormons worship Satan in their Temples”. I was flabbergasted! How could he make such an erroneous statement! My first thought was to rip him apart. How dare he insinuate that I intentionally worshiped Satan! Thank God for radio ad time! These three minutes gave me some time to pray about it and the Lord spoke clearly: “He simply doesn't know any better”. The remainder of the interview was spent with me explaining that no Mormon goes into the temple with the thought of “oh goody! Now I can be just like Anton LeVay!” Rather, it's a subtle indoctrination and no overt Satan worship ever takes place. There's no candle burning; no pentagrams drawn on the floor; no skulls on an altar. Weeks later, courtesy of the radio show, a local newspaper contacted me to do an interview with them about the LDS Church's temple ceremonies changes. As one of the last group of Mormons to have participated in the ceremonies prior to the change, they felt my story would be fascinating. The reporter listened intently and took copious notes. When the interview was over, he told me that it was the interview on the radio show that had impressed him. “You didn't treat the show host like he was an idiot. You just kindly educated him.” I learned that from the many apologetic ministry people, and others, who impressed upon me that you cannot impart knowledge with a spiteful attitude. In conclusion I would like to encourage all those who speak against false teachings to remember that, while firmness may be called for, there's a necessity to keep the ego in check. A word of caution though: a weak brother may seem to be one who is strong by virtue of his knowledge. One of the hazards of apologetic ministry is that a person may know about the various cults and even have a proficiency of Bible knowledge and come across as arrogant. But this doesn't mean he is “strong” in faith. It could, in fact, be a sign of his weakness. Pray for that brother or sister. Tell them when they offend. And give a wide berth if you feel you may somehow be their stumbling block.