The great Christian leader, theologian, and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) once wrote that the task of theology is best defined as “faith seeking understanding.” Anselm wrote: “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but believe that I might understand. For this too I believe since, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” Anselm possessed a brilliant intellect. But he felt strongly that his knowledge was incomplete, and even misguided, without a foundation in God. Were Anselm to have had access to a spiritual gifts assessment nearly 1000 years ago, I suspect he may have discovered that he possessed both the gifts of “knowledge” and “faith.”
Just as “science” and “religion” are often (and mistakenly) pitted against one another as enemies, unfortunately so too are knowledge and faith. But we can plainly see the absurdity of doing this, as both faith and knowledge are spiritual gifts from God. Those who possess the gift of knowledge have the wonderful ability to learn in a variety of ways, retaining what they learn, and understanding how their learning can be applied in meaningful and productive ways. When you are spiritually-gifted with knowledge, you have an insatiable desire to learn and grow in your understanding of issues most important to you.
The spiritual gift of faith is much more than simple belief in Jesus Christ. Those gifted with faith live in the confidence that, as Paul writes, “all things work together for good for those who love God,” and that nothing in the world – no matter how difficult or challenging – will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8). Whether or not we possess the spiritual gift of faith personally, it would behoove us all to surround ourselves with as many “faith-filled” people as we can. In good and tough times, it’s these folks we want to have close by.
Faith and knowledge work best in tandem: one without the other usually ends in disaster. Knowledge without faith ends in atheism, and the belief that human beings can find ultimate knowledge and meaning in life through our own intellectual pursuits. Faith without knowledge results in minds being closed to the possibilities of enlightenment and education surrounding us. This is why we hold on to the words of thoughtful and faithful Christians like Anselm, who remind us of the importance of both knowledge and faith. But, just as a tandem bicycle has one rider in front and another in back, so too does the life of a follower of Jesus. We lead with faith: “faith seeking understanding.”
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