I’m only following a few anime this season, each carefully chosen to keep me from thinking too hard during my limited free time. One of them is Nana Maru San Batsu, or 7O3X: Fastest Finger First. It centers on a high school first year, Koshiyama Shiki, who gets sucked into his school’s Quiz Bowl Circle. Basically, it’s a sports anime, except with quizzes and a bunch of nerds. So right up my alley.
Anyway, in episode 8, our characters head to Asagaoka, an all-girls Catholic school, for their first “regular meet.” The Asagaoka team goes all-out as this meet’s hosts, using their school’s religious nature for theatrical effect. They come out on stage dressed as… nuns. Okay. It’s anime, so we can roll with it.
The Asagaoka team captain, Sonohara—the only one wearing a headpiece—stands forward and quotes Scripture. The first verse? “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.”
At first glance, this seems like a fitting quotation. It could be construed to mean something like, “Sure, you may think you’re a quiz expert, but you’ll be humbled soon enough.” But of course this is anime, and, as is often the case, they’ve simply chosen verses that sound fitting and religious, rather than paying attention to actual context.
I still find the choice interesting. I’d like to look at the verse’s actual context—particularly because I, like many of those present at a quiz bowl, can think too highly of my own brain. Verses that encourage humility are good for me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who benefits from these reminders, so let’s quickly explore Sonohara’s verse choice and its context, then compare it to other, similar Bible verses that she could have used.
Knowledge that puffs up
Here’s the verse from the anime again, this time quoted from the English Standard Version:
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)
And in context:
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. (8:1–3)
This passage is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. The problem at hand: eating food that was offered to Roman gods. This action was connected with idol worship. For many Christians, eating food offered to idols was so connected to their old, sinful beliefs, they couldn’t do it in good conscience. But for other Christians, this wasn’t a problem. After all, they knew that those idols didn’t exist. For them, it was no more sinful to eat food offered to idols than for me to eat cookies offered to Santa Claus. So, confident in their knowledge, they would go ahead and eat this cheap, idol-related food. Never mind that their actions could cause other “less knowledgable” Christians to wrongfully follow their example, eating food in a manner they still believed was sinful.
These Christians were acting on “knowledge” that “puffs up,” in pride—without any love or consideration for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let’s loop back around to that verse Sonohara quotes: “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
Ouch. This indicate that the Christians who knew the act of eating food offered to imaginary gods wasn’t inherently wrong didn’t actually understand what was important. They didn’t know that eating that food would be “sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak” and thus “sin[ning] against Christ” (8:12). The knowledge that they probably thought made them more religiously enlightened actually did the opposite.
I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that multiple times. It’s something for me to reflect on—is there anything that I do, and flaunt doing, that would be sinful for other Christians? Do I need to stop doing it?
The knowledge that they probably thought made them more religiously enlightened actually did the opposite.
Back to Nana Maru San Batsu. Obviously, Sonohara isn’t thinking about the context of the verse. But I do think that she wants to emphasize the limits of the contestants’ knowledge, particularly that of the younger, newer students. They need to understand their limits and to learn more about the questions and the game itself. So in a small way, the above verse is related.
In case you missed it: we’re not that wise
Sonohara could have chosen any of many several similar verses. The Bible often says that our understanding is limited. Here are a few verses that I’ve found:
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’’ (1 Corinthians 3:18–20)
That’s worth dwelling on. Christians like me need the reminder to be humble: where does our wisdom really come from? Best to rely on God’s wisdom, and not think ourselves wise on our own. Nor should we rely on the wisdom of a single spiritual leader and lift him up. Ultimately, we serve God and seek him, not any pastor or author. (See the earlier verses in this chapter, in which Paul scolds the Corinthians for saying they follow particular Christian leaders and arguing with each other, rather than simply following God.)
And non-Christians? I do hope you’ll consider this verse, although you may think the mere idea of the Christian God is folly. I hope you’ll consider that perhaps your “wise, well-considered” approach to life is folly, even if it seems to get you far. This age will come to an end, and so will your success in it—and mine.
Proverbs perhaps has the most straightforward take on this message:
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 26:12)
The Bible is full of warnings like this—some specific to those who are prideful about their wisdom or knowledge, and many that cover all who take pride in their own abilities, be they intellectual or otherwise. And these warnings are worth heeding. After all, there’s often far more on the table than a quiz bowl meet. Worst case scenario, if you’re too confident in the wrong knowledge, you could be on the way to hell. In more minor situations, you could simply be misleading others or personally missing out on something God has for you—all because you think you know best.
There’s a balance between being properly confident in things we do understand and humbly seeking wisdom from God and others. I haven’t found it yet. Instead, I’m pretty sure I swing wildly between foolish impudence and complete lack of confidence. Actually… I spend a lot more time in the “foolish impudence” camp lately, and it’s probably time to have a good, long journaling session with God about that. Ideally before my folly gets me crushed like an overconfident quiz bowl contestant.