Wisdom with Dr. Tremper Longman, Part Two

This week on the podcast, Dr. Dan Allender and his long-time best friend, Dr. Tremper Longman III, continue our three-part series unpacking the conundrums and complexities of wisdom. In this episode, Dan asks Tremper to continue reflecting on what wisdom means to him and to share how he has sought to foster wisdom in his own life. He and Dan share long and distinguished academic careers, but Tremper stresses that that alone is not an indicator of wisdom.

Tremper: “Intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom. Intelligence is a kind of acquisition of facts, whereas wisdom is more a skill of living.”

More than simply reading books or acquiring degrees, wisdom is marked by a lifelong openness to learning, a willingness to be wrong and accept criticism, and a deep desire to continually grow closer to God. Tremper shares that, in his studying and writing, he has attempted to remain committed to the long, arduous process of investigation, reflection, challenging familiar ideas, and learning from new perspectives. This has not always sat well with those who insist on specific, unchanging dogmatism.

Dan: “So we come back to that question, is it possible to be a wise person and to be dogmatically rigid?”

Tremper: “No. If one is dogmatically rigid and unwilling to listen to other perspectives or to question their own interpretations, then they’re not listening to correction—they’re just going to be stuck.”

We often interpret “living with conviction” as an excuse to remain stubborn and unwilling to change, to the point that certain views become a form of idolatry—“the bedrock of a false identity,” says Dan. Wisdom requires a constant balancing act: to live as a person who holds deep convictions but is also willing to have those convictions refined, challenged, and clarified over time. That open-handed integrity is the kind of conundrum, like the “fear of the Lord” concept we discussed last week, that is central to the nature of wisdom. Next week, Dan and Tremper will conclude this series by looking at more of the perplexities that shape wisdom literature, including the famous imperative to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Tremper: “Certainly one of the attractions I had to [wisdom literature] in the first place is that there are a lot of conundrums, a lot of enigmas. They’re fascinating books in and of themselves.”