17 Apr A Holy Pursuit of Academics
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” – GK Chesterton
I have many fond memories of my time in undergrad, but one of them is taking part in treasure hunts that were often organized during our fests. There’s a real thrill in the competitive spirit, the excitement of discovering a good clue, the exhilaration of figuring out what the creator intended with it. Later, I discovered there was a greater thrill to be felt when you simply read your Bible. This may be why Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a man discovering a pearl in a field. The Bible never downplays the glory of what it contains. The gospel of God is treasure. To discover it truly is the most exhilarating thing in the world. We are all called to mine the scriptures for all they have to say, to dig deep into what our Creator intends with it. This is a holy pursuit, a divine gold hunt.
What are studies for?
Perhaps the reason we don’t know what to do with studies is that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. In short, we don’t know what education is for because we don’t know what people are for. Think about it. What use is money to a baby? Until he grows up, there is no point trying to stuff cash in his chubby little hands hoping he knows what to do with it. He’s not going to invest it in stocks, is he? Until he grows into understanding, he can make no good use of the riches he holds. Until we truly learn to grasp what we are heading for, we face the same challenge.
Our modern world has a broken view of what people are for and therefore what education is for. A view that logically boils down to nothing.
However, the Bible teaches us that we exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Out of this foundation flows everything else that brings meaning and purpose to our lives.
When we learn to see this as a reality in our lives, questions and motivations for studies or any other pursuit become much clearer.
People are meant to bring glory to God, therefore our study is meant to bring glory to God.
Here’s one analogy that’s helped me build that vision into all my thinking. Imagine a great writer. When I see how wonderful his story and characters are, what I praise is not the characters but the storywriter. This world is a story whose Author is God. When we are amazed at the mystery and beauty of the world, we praise the Writer of it all. Try it for yourself and you’ll begin to see the world differently. Search the scriptures and we see that all things were created through Jesus and for him. In him all things hold together (Col1:17). In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col2:3). That’s why the concept of a university is a very Christian idea. Christ is the ‘uni’, the point that ties everything diverse together.
The logo of Harvard is an interesting display of what that looks like. Look it up and you’ll see ‘VERITAS’, the official crest inscribed in three parts on three books: (1) God’s words, (2) God’s works, and (3) God’s reason. God’s words being the scriptures, God’s works described the study of the natural world while God’s reason pointed to the immutable laws of logic through which we make sense of the world.
Students were meant to earnestly study all three ‘books’ to understand what they revealed together about God’s world.
How then should we live?
“. . . whether you eat or drink, you do it unto the glory of God“ (1Cor. 10:13).
We have a tendency to think that the only real God-honouring use to studying well or pursuing excellence in our domains is so that evangelism is made easier. But this is a mistake. Every good and perfect gift is from the Father (James1:17). Science, literature, music, even food. All of it. They’re all gifts that God has given us to use well. That involves evangelism, but it also involves actually enjoying the gift. Think of how pleasing it is when you see someone enjoy a gift you’ve given them. It makes sense then that God wants us to do the same with the gifts He’s given us.
We have a long history of men and women that realized this truth and put their shovels into the ground of God’s word and God’s world to astonishing results. Men like Pascal, Newton, Leibnitz, Heisenberg, Bacon and so many more, all delighted to understand the mysteries that God has written into the curvature of our world. Men like C.H Spurgeon and George Muller and so many more modelled ways to counter various socials ills of the age. Men like CS Lewis and Chesterton show us what it means to write of everything with a Christian joy. This is our inheritance. Think of all that is yet to be discovered, pursued, invented, written, enjoyed, all to the glory of God. Figure out what God has gifted you with and pursue it to His glory. Begin each day with a prayer that God would show you how you can steward what He has entrusted to you-in your relationships, your studies, your work, and whatever else you do. All of life then, including your studies, is a holy pursuit.
College is a wonderful place to start working out the actual ways we can make this true in our lives. I have seen many friends in EU circles work on research and tech with a mindset of honouring Christ in their domain. Some who’ve recorded whole Christian music albums during their time in university. Some who’ve organized events and grown into valuable leaders in our country. Many who’ve been rank holders and given all the glory to God. Start today. Maybe you’re a good writer. Take the chance to write content from a Christian worldview and put it out in your college circles. Maybe you’re interested in a particular field. Work hard on it and see if God does not help you both enjoy it and glorify Him.
Perhaps some of you reading this think that you couldn’t possibly have much to contribute compared to great scientists and such. Some of you probably don’t even want to try. But if you realize that your God has a habit of doing amazing things with nobodies, you really shouldn’t avoid trusting God for what He has in store for you. Daniel and his friends worked hard in a pagan land and God blessed them with knowledge and wisdom far beyond their peers. They were given positions of authority that led to God being glorified in the whole land. God could do the same today through anyone, as long as we desire to honor Him through it. Good books that shaped the mind of generations were written by Christian men and women. Music that brings even the staunchest atheist eye to shed tears. The science that changed the lives of millions. Architecture that still takes our breath away. All this and more is only the start of a story into which our roles are being written. The parable of the talents shows us that God is not pleased with a slothful man that leaves his gifts unused. Whatever God has called us to do, let’s be faithful to what He has given us.
Benson Abraham did his engineering at SCTCE Trivandrum where he was a part of TVM EU. After completing his M Tech from VIT, he works in Pune as an embedded systems engineer in the healthcare sector. He is a part of the Pune EGF.