A Wisdom Cuisine

What and how to "eat" for wisdom.

Brett McCracken’s The Wisdom Pyramid encourages the reader to set aside more time for silent reflection on God, for contemplating Jesus, and for growing in wisdom. This is a laudable objective, and Mr. McCracken makes admirable progress toward achieving it.

He argues that Christians need less information and more wisdom, less Internet and social media and more time reflecting on the Lord, less of a hectic pace of life and more rest and solitude. He offers a “wisdom pyramid”, which he likens to the food pyramid that we all recall from elementary school, to help us know which “foods” to eat, and in what combinations and quantities, to help us grow in wisdom.

The first three chapters describe our world as sick with too much information. We consume too much, consume it too fast, and are not sufficiently discriminating about what we “eat.” His antagonist here is the Internet and social media, which together are overwhelming us with so much information that we tend to doubt everything and look only to ourselves and what we feel to be right and true for us. The author insists that “We need a diet comprised of lasting, reliable sources of wisdom rather than the fleeting, untrustworthy informa­tion that bombards us today; a diet heavy on what fosters wisdom and low on what fosters folly.” He makes a good case for this point.

The heart of the book is his development of the wisdom pyramid as a kind of spiritual and intellectual cuisine for growing in wisdom. At the base of the wisdom pyramid is Scripture, which must give shape and sense to all else. Above that is the Church, both our participation in it and our laying hold on the heritage of the Church from throughout the ages. Getting out in creation is next, followed by reading good books and spending time with beautiful things (art, music, literature, film, etc.). The Internet and social media are at the top, and should be used with discernment, and in the light of the accumulating knowledge gained at lower and more foundational levels of the wisdom pyramid.

A closing chapter on “What Wisdom Looks Like” falls short (in my opinion) on two counts. First, it is insufficient in describing what wisdom actually is. He concentrates on using the wisdom pyramid wisely so that we may gain the requisite trust in God, ability to listen, and humility that go with being a wise person. This does not constitute a very compelling vision of wisdom. If Mr. McCracken wants us to take up his diet of study, he has to show us more tantalizing and compelling results to expect from doing so. His explanation of wisdom is good as far as it goes, but I expected a more complete treatment of the life of wisdom, so as to encourage me to take up the “cuisine” that leads to it. Second, this chapter is out of place. Shouldn’t the enticement of becoming wise be put before we’re told what to do to be wise, rather than at the end of the exposition of the wisdom pyramid.

I wholeheartedly agree, however, when Mr. McCracken says, “Wisdom is focusing our gaze on God: looking to him, praying to him, zealously seeking after him.” He explains that we are becoming wise when we are growing in our vision of God and love for Him. Spot on.

On the whole, I recommend this book as a useful guide for thinking about ongoing personal growth in the Lord. All disciples are learners; learning should therefore be something we are continually pursuing. And learning wisdom, especially as wisdom is embodied in Jesus Christ, is what we must be principally committed to in all our efforts to improve and grow. To that end, Mr. McCracken’s book provides some useful guidance for a life of increasing in wisdom.

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