Wisdom with Dr. Tremper Longman, Part Three

This week on the podcast, Dr. Dan Allender and his long-time best friend, Dr. Tremper Longman III, conclude our three-part series unpacking the crucial and complex category of wisdom. Dan and Tremper reflect on the mysterious conundrums of wisdom—like the enigmatic command to be “wise as a serpent and innocent as doves.” These tricky, sometimes contradictory proverbs reflect that wisdom is less about a set of rules or how-to steps, and more about a frame for living.

Tremper: “Proverbs are principles, but they’re not principles that are always right for every situation. […] You have to be able to read the situation, to read the person in front of you, to know which one of the proverbs applies.”

As they talk about the adaptive, creative, and progressive nature of wisdom, Tremper connects it to his admiration for The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology’s emphasis on text, soul, and culture.

Tremper: “A lot of seminaries focus on getting the theology right, getting the biblical interpretation right—and that’s important, but unless one does that in the context of being able to understand themselves and understand others and understand the cultural situation, then one is unable to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as doves.”

Wisdom means that there is an evolving, growing understanding.

As part of adaptive wisdom, Tremper and Dan discuss the idea of living in two realms: the here-and-now realities of our fallen world, and the deep, unfolding realm of the Kingdom of God. This perspective is engaged in the book of Ecclesiastes, as the futility of “everything under the sun” gives way to a larger, “over the sun” perspective.

Tremper: “We live under the sun, but we live in the light of the divinely given perspective, the above-the-sun perspective.”

Dan: “There’s a certain truth to living under the sun, but we’re to live above the sun. You’re actually meant to live in both worlds.”

If you tuned in to this series about wisdom in search for easy definitions and simple steps, don’t worry—you’re not alone. We all, at times, seek to avoid the tension found in ambiguity and complexity. But it is never too late to commit ourselves, again and again, to the work of fostering the creative capacity needed to live with adaptive wisdom in the midst of the brokenness around us.

Dan: “I am aware of how many times I have not availed wisdom because I have tried to find some means to escape the tension of living in a fallen world between the death and resurrection. […] The attempt to take you out of the struggle of creativity by resolving ambiguity almost always ends in a kind of loss of wisdom, because that’s not true fear of the Lord.”