The Theology of Knife Collecting
Occasionally, when people discover that I'm a knife collector, that I, in fact, specialize in what some see as the most quintessentially evil of knives, the butterfly knife, and that I even study knife fighting as a sport, their response is, "But you're such a kind and friendly person! And you're a Christian! How can you be so interested in knives?"
Well, I'm also very interested in Old Testament history and the Old Testament's relationship to modern Christians. I Occasionally even teach classes on the subject.
So why not let The Balisong Collector take you to school... Bible School?
Our text for today comes from the book of Genesis, chapter 1 reading verses 1-3
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
"Let there be light," and there was light! God created light out of nothing. He did so by the power of his word. Such is the authority of God's word that it can change nothing into something! It can create something that has never existed!
Our text goes on reading verses 11 and 12
Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Again, we see the awesome authority of God's word as He again creates something from nothing. This time, the something is living plants. God creates the plants out of nothing by the power and authority of His word alone. The plants are even brought to life by the power of God's word. Not only can God's word create something out of nothing, but it can also create life out of nothing.
Let's continue with verses 20 - 22 and then 24 and 25
And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth."
And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
God also created the all of the animals, the fish, the birds, every other living creature the same way: from nothing by the power and authority of His word. The animals were formed from nothing by the power of God's word and they received their life from nothing by the power of God's word.
All of the animals were created in the same way that everything else inanimate, the dry land, the water, light, everything else, was created: from nothing by the power and authority of God's word alone.
But, that does not include man and or woman. Genesis chapter one tells us that after God finished creating everything else, He went on to create man. The details of that creation are in Genesis chapter two verse seven
the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
God did NOT create man out of nothing as He had created everything else. To make man, God started with something, with "the dust of the ground". Other translations say "dirt" or "clay". Now, God could have formed man out of dirt by the power of His word. Certainly, if God's word can turn nothing into an animal, it could turn dirt into a man. But, to create man God chooses a different tool. To create man, God rolls up His sleeves and uses His own hands to form the dirt.
Having formed the man out of dirt with His hands, God could have given the man life the same way He gave life to the rest of the animals, by His word. But, instead, God goes "hands on" again and breaths life into the man from His own lungs.
God's creation of man is dramatically different than how God created the rest of the animals.
Genesis chapter two also tells us how the first woman was created in verses 21 and 22
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man
The first woman was made entirely differently than the rest of the animals and slightly differently than the first man, though much more similar to man than any of the rest of the animals.
There's a popular book called Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus, that discusses some of the innate differences between men and women. A more Christian title for that book might have been Men Are Made From Dirt and Women Are Made From Ribs. Because they were created differently from the very beginning, it's not surprising that there are differences between men and women.
Likewise, it's not surprising that there are differences between humans and the rest of the animals. The rest of the animals were created from nothing by the power of God's word. Humans were created from something by God's hand. They came from different materials by different means. Of course they're different.
Genesis chapter one verses 27 and 28 further clarify the differences that God Himself established between humans and the rest of the animals and, indeed, the rest of the creation.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
No less authority than God Himself orders a dramatic difference between humans and the rest of the creation including all of the other animals. God commands humans to "subdue" the rest of the creation. (Another translation renders God's command to man concerning the creation as "bring it under control.") God Himself ordains humans to "rule over" and control the rest of His creation.
God establishes a clear relationship between humans and the rest of the creation. While humans will live in the creation and will, in fact, be responsible to take care of the creation, indeed to "subdue" it, they will always be separate from the creation and will, in fact rule over the creation.
The creation is not to control man, but, according to God's own design, man is to control the creation.
You can see these God-ordained differences between humans and animals in many different ways. One great hallmark distinction of particular interest to me is the use of tools.
A tool is an object specifically designed, deliberately made, and purposefully used for a specific task or tasks.
Amongst animals, you can find a few weak examples of primitive tool use. Sea Otters, for example, sometimes use a rock to break the shell of other animals they want to eat. But it's a long way from breaking a shell with a rock to launching a communications satellite. Baboons, when attacked, will sometimes pick up and throw rocks at their agressors. But it's a long way from throwing rocks to throwing guided intercontinental balistic misiles with muliple high-yielding nuclear warheads. In either of these cases, there's not just a missing a link or two here, folks. There's enough missing chain to reach from the Earth to the Moon....
A tool is an object specifically designed for and deliberately made for a specific purpose or purposes. The sea otter's rock is really just a found object.
The closest example I've found to an animal designing and creating a tool is a spider weaving a web. Each time a spider builds a new web at a new location, the design has to be adapted to the mechanics of that location. But, I am told that experts in these sorts of things can tell what kind of spider built a specific web based on design traits that remain constant. So, apparently there's less creativity and less innovation here that one initially might think.
Our use of tools clearly differentiates humans from the rest of the creation. No other animal specifically designs tools, no other animal deliberately makes tools, and no other animal purposefully uses tools in any way that even begins to approach what humans do.
Our use of tools is part of our fulfillment of our God-given mission to subdue and rule over the creation.
Like that Sea Otter, Adam's first proto-tool was probably a rock that he pounded with. Maybe, one day, he was pounding on one rock with another, perhaps trying to break open some nuts or something. As Adam pounded one rock against the other, maybe part of one of the rocks broke off leaving a sharp edge. Maybe Adam reached down and picked up the broken shard out of curiosity. Maybe he cut his finger on the sharp edge. Most animals would be frightened and would run away from this thing that had attacked and injured them. Others might try to fight back. But Adam was not an animal. He was different than any animal. Adam realizes that the rock had not attacked him. Maybe he even thought that, if more carefully handled, this sharp-edged rock fragment could be useful. Maybe he even kept pounding to make more of these useful edges. Maybe, with experimentation, he even figured out the ideal way to strike the rocks to make nice edges. Thus, Adam's first purpose-built tool could easily have been a knife. Whether it was the first or not, edged cutting tools, knives, were doubtlessly among the earliest tools man deliberately made and used.
The knife was one of man's earliest assertions of man's difference from the rest of creation.
The knife is a very simple tool, really. It can result from simply knocking two rocks together. Sometimes, this happens naturally leaving simple knives just laying around waiting to be used. But, to this day, no other animal makes or even uses even primative knives. As simple and as basic as it is, the knife remains a powerful assertion of man's uniqueness in the creation.
But we humans did not stop with the simple knife. Since chipping off that first stone edge, we've been constantly working to improve the knife and adapt it to specific tasks. It's a long way from that first stone chip to today's sophisticated alloys, deliberate blade profiles, and precision machined lock mechanisms. This is man subduing the creation, bringing it under his control.
It's a very long way from that first stone chip to the balisong.
Many of the knives in my collection have very little to do with utility. Consider this wonderful custom piece with mirror-polished handles and blade and snakewood inserts.
While I can assure you that this blade is extraordinarily sharp, this piece is, perhaps, less of a knife and more of a work of art. But, here again, we see man's uniqueness in the creation. Only humans engage in art. And only humans celebrate their tools by making them into art.
Tools including knives are a strong assertion of and, indeed, a celebration of our uniqueness in the creation. They remind us that we are special in this creation and special before God.
Finally, while some other animals may, for example, gather and store nuts for the winter, humans alone really collect. Humans alone are interested in preserving objects purely for their own sake and in organizing them and studying them. You don't see a squirrel, for example, trying to collect one of every kind of nut in the world. A squirrel's interest in nut collection is motivated only by his stomach. Collection is also part of how we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the animals. It's part of humans taking control of the creation.
By collecting knives and studying knives, I am reminded of God's special mission and special provisions for us. I am reminded of our uniqueness in the creation.
By collection and studying knives, I celebrate the fact that I am man, the tool-user, and special in this creation.
Personally, I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran. While I would certainly be happy to share and discuss my faith with you personally, you may also wish to explore the Missouri Synod's website.
Scripture quotations are from The New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.