Knowledge Without Love Is Toxic: Biblical Knowledge and the Pufferfish

Blowfish (family of Tetraodontidae) are closely related to the Porcupine fish and Puffer fish, are analytical to the idea of Biblical knowledge without love. These fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate in the known world. They are highly toxic to humans. Their unique and distinctive natural defenses have the ability to inflate rapidly.

Some puffers also produce a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotixon in their internal organs, making them an unpleasant, and even lethal.

1 Corinthians 8:1 is a popular verse within Evangelical Christianity. The proverbial portion of the verse, “knowledge puffs up” regularly echoes through the corridors of our churches. Normally, the proverb is spoken as a subtle rebuke of a believer seemingly falling in love with learning and correcting or chastising those who know less than they do. Since learning brings forth knowledge and knowledge brings forth arrogance, we reason, then learning isn’t a habit worthy of our love. According to many who voice this proverb, some learning is necessary, but the sole objective of study is practice: Doing, not thinking. Our goal as Christians is not to know about God only—which sounds impersonal and academic—but to know God. We know far more about the Bible (we imagine) than we can possibly obey, and so our focus must shift from that of impractical, pride-feeding knowledge to application and ministry skills acquisition. 

If knowledge does not build up his brother, as it would were it coupled with love (8:1b), then it is for nothing. Knowledge devoid of love serves only to build himself up; it demonstrates that persons selfishness (I Cor. 13:2) “[if I have] all knowledge . . . but do not have love, I am nothing”. Atheists and agnostics are also made in the image of God (although they don’t believe in Him as Christians do), but to respond with knowledge only without love to those who don’t believe as we do is just as wrong as treating Christians in such a way. Paul says that we should esteem others better than ourselves…in or out of the faith. But knowledge tends to make us esteem ourselves better than others. What is loving in this? Christ said that Christians would be able to recognize us by our love. By loving one another and non-believers. Jesus didn’t qualify this to be only for Christians. I can disagree but still be agreeable. We can agree to disagree.

When a Christian is not using his knowledge to build up his brother or sister and also those outside of the faith, and is not coupled with love, we might as well be a Bible concordance. If love is not the foundation and at the root of our knowledge, Paul says they (and I) are deserving of correction. Paul is not trying to discourage us from further learning, but encouraging us to grow in knowledge and love. One without the other renders the other useless and in fact it were better to have no knowledge at all save for the love of people, than to have all knowledge.

If I only pass on knowledge without love, my children and grandchildren will use that knowledge; but not in love, but in “brow beating” those who don’t have such knowledge. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years now and have learned much “meat” from my studies and exegesis, etc., but if I do show love to everyone, then it is worthless. We ought not treat those who disagree with us, inside or outside of the church walls, any better than we treat ourselves. What do those who don’t believe think we they see other Christians criticizing each other about what I consider peripheral issues. I believe it is true: The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. I am not guiltless of course, but all too often I have seen Christians be quite vicious to one another. Where is the love…where is the esteeming others better than ourselves?

I love Christmas and one December I used my picture next to a Christmas tree. I stated that I loved Christmas, primarily because I get to spend time with family and friends and it is a time to reflect on Jesus Christ. I also get to relax and take some much needed time off. One Christian commented that the letters in Santa can also be used for Satan and that Christmas trees are pagan carry-overs. I felt I had to defend myself for something that, to me, had nothing to do with Satan or paganism. I only asked if the man was married. I told him that wedding rings are also a carry-over from pagan weddings, but I would never insinuate you are a pagan as a result of wearing one.

My point is this: I have seen fellow Christians attacking each other over things that are peripheral and non-essential or non-salvation issues. Instead of learning from one another, we can sometimes attack one another because we know more than the next Christian.

Here’s the analogy. Porcupine fish and Puffer fish puff up when they are threatened. Knowledge without love, like these fish, can be most poisonous. What message to non-believers are we sending? Knowledge without love can also be highly toxic to humans. Our own natural defenses make us inflate rapidly too. Like the powerful neurotoxins, we too can be an unpleasant, possibly lethal; making meals for any predatory fish that happens to swim by. Christian or not. We have no excuse. I too have been guilty. God forgive for me for this and forbid that it happen again.

Originally published on Associated Content

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