As we stand just within the front door of a new year, I’d like to recommend you read something.
I usually recommend books to people if they do one of two things for me: (1) radically shape my thinking or (2) substantially impact my practice (both, obviously, for the better). The Wisdom Pyramid by Brett McCracken does both. I’m encouraging you to read The Wisdom Pyramid, not because it’s an infallible source of wisdom, but because I believe it can help direct you to healthy sources of wisdom as you navigate the information overload coming your way in 2022.
Published near the height of the COVID curve in 2021, The Wisdom Pyramid addresses the great dearth of wisdom present in our world and calls Christians to “recover habits of wisdom in their own lives” (23). In a sense this book can act a little like one of those Local Guides on Google Reviews, giving recommendations to help you know where to go to “be like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3).
If you’re a believing dad, you, like me, want to be wise, and you want to bless your family with wisdom. That task is a huge part of our job as fathers (see Deut. 6:7; Prov. 5:1; Eph. 6:4). Sometimes, however, we struggle to share God’s wisdom with our families because our hearts are not themselves storehouses of wisdom. Wisdom is not found on our lips, for wisdom is not at home in our hearts.
In that sense the solution is simple. We need an input adjustment. This book captures the simplicity of this reality, and it starts with the front cover. If you were merely to take a few moments to study the front cover of this book, you might draw some benefit for your new year.
Adapting the concept of the Food Pyramid, McCracken proposes a version that could guide our soul intake, consuming from the bottom layer most plentifully and the top layer most cautiously. Using this picture McCracken provides a biblically-informed paradigm to help us make our wisdom decisions.1
We Are Making Ourselves Sick
McCracken starts with the heart of the problem. We are making ourselves sick. We are doing so by consuming too much information, consuming it too quickly, and consuming only what tastes good to us.
1. Too Much
Unlike many previous generations, we have more information coming at us than we can thoughtfully digest. In the span of a few minutes, we have a front-row seat to “political protests in Venezuela, volcanic eruption in New Zealand, a snake found in a toilet in Florida, and so on” (32).
2. Too Fast
This information is also coming at us too fast. We develop an appetite for “perpetual novelty.” Instead of taking time to digest worthwhile information, we choose rather to give fleeting tastes to every up-to-date distraction that appears in our feed. This constant flash of novelty is rewiring our brains and making it difficult to give concentrated thought to timeless truth. It’s also making us vulnerable to lies and fake news, since new tends to appeal more than true.
3. Too Individualistic
To make us even sicker, with the help of personalization algorithms, we tend to consume information that mirrors our biases and personal tastes. We care less about a source’s credentials and more about whether it resonates with the echo chamber of “my truth.”
We Need to Eat Better
After exposing the sickness, McCracken dives into the solution. We need better intake habits. The sources he outlines, when given their proper place, can act as a tonic for the sickness present in our world and our souls.
1. The Bible
He starts, for obvious reasons, with the Bible. The Bible isn’t just the most-important source of wisdom; it is the foundation for wisdom by which all other sources are evaluated. Unlike all the other information whirling around us, the Bible is infallible. As we immerse ourselves in it, it shapes us. We do not shape it. Unfortunately, as McCracken observes, “our Wisdom Pyramids are often upside down. What should be the base level—God’s eternal word—is often relegated to the ‘use sparingly’ top” (84).
2. The Church
The church community not only grounds us in wisdom; it also combats the foolishness and individualism of our age. “Everything ever tweeted and the most-viewed viral videos will be forgotten ashes in the embers of history, but the church will remain” (99).
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). McCracken calls nature “a prism and amplifier of God’s glory. It’s a theater, a canvas, a cathedral, but God is always at center stage” (103). Increasingly, people spend their lives in “concrete jungles and screen-mediated virtual worlds,” and “it’s making us crazy” (107). As we slow down to listen to what God has made, it will speak wisdom to us! It will tell us about our Creator, and we will be prompted to love Him more.
It seems that many dads either don’t like books, or we tend to read only one kind of book. McCracken proposes that “the act of reading a book is literally the act of being ‘quick to listen, slow to speak’” (119). Reading books teaches our brains to think better, “forcing us to sit with one writer’s perspective for long enough to really grapple with it” (122). At the end of this chapter, McCracken gives a helpful guide to choosing which books to read, one that challenged me to begin reading more widely.
In the age of information overload, we are prone to consume too quickly, but beauty has the opposite effect. It slows us down and gives feeling to truths we struggle to put into words. “Beauty renders us mute. Oh how we need this in our noisy age! When we encounter something beautiful our first instinct should not be to take a selfie with it. Rather, we should be still, quiet, and amazed” (138).
6. Internet and Social Media.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this chapter is that, according to this book, your smartphone can be a source of wisdom. Against the trend of knee-jerk digital detoxes, McCracken makes the case that we should aim to engage with the internet world in a wise, distinctive way. He concludes with five helpful habits which present a distinctly-Christian way of engaging online.
Wisdom and Worship
Somewhere in the book, it dawned on me that it’s not about information after all. It’s actually about worship. Why do I reach for my phone to fill a blank space in my day? Why do I need to listen to talk-radio hosts tell me stuff I already know? Why would I rather read someone’s online rant than read the wonderful words of life?
It’s because, in those moments, I’m thirsty, I need a drink, and I’m choosing not to drink from the “fountain of living waters” (Jer. 2:13).
As McCracken observes, “at the end of the day, wisdom is less about information than orientation. . . .Wisdom is worship” (163, 65). What you listen to reveals what you are worshipping. Who you listen to reveals who you love.
In 2022 let’s seek to follow our Savior by seeking out “the wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17). And let’s pray that, by God’s grace, our families will do the same.
At times I found myself wishing for more practical advice, but this book is probably too short to dive too deeply into practice. It is certainly more paradigmatic than it is practical. ↩︎
Growing Fathers Team
John serves as an associate pastor at Burge Terrace Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. John and his wife, Abbie, have four young children.View all posts by John