The Wisdom of Ignorance (or, the Art of Not Knowing)

‘There is a kind of ignorance which is a matter of true wisdom and real art. To be sure, we are often ignorant by mere neglect or by lack of opportunity. But there is a kind of ignorance which should be studied and cultivated by any modest man (sic), to say nothing of the humble … There is an art of not knowing, ars nesciendi. And there is an old Latin verse which says: “To be willing not to know what the supreme teacher does not want to teach is the wise ignorance of real knowledge”. So it is in the Bible. Half the art of reading it is the art of ignoring what the book was never put there to teach. And endless harm has been done to the Bible by making it an authority on what it never existed to convey’. Peter T. Forsyth, ‘The Efficiency and Sufficiency of the Bible’, Biblical Review 2 (1917), 23.


  1. Hey Jason,

    I’m currently reading The Principle of Authority, and I’m wondering where (or if) Forsyth ever developed his views on biblical inspiration, especially since he is keen on emphasizing the role of moral experience and regeneration as the locus (not origin) of authority and true certainty — which, by the way, is the topic of my dissertation. So, would this article in Biblical Review be a good place to go, or do you recommend something else?


  2. Hi Kevin,

    Along with this article on ‘The Efficiency and Sufficiency of the Bible’ you may also want to check out Forsyth’s, The Church, the Gospel and Society (London: Independent Press, 1962), esp. pp. 67-70; The Church and the Sacraments (London: Independent Press, 1947); Faith, Freedom and the Future (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912); ‘A Few Hints about Reading the Bible’, Biblical Review 3 (1918): 530-44.

    You may also want to check out my posts on
    The error of inerrancy and Biblical critics and dogmaticians in dialogue.

    All the best with the dissertation. I hope to read it one day.


  3. Thanks a lot for the references. Forsyth is really impressing me, not just his agile prose, but some genuine insights I think could help this strange movement called Protestantism retain its evangelical form amongst its intellectual discipline.


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