The Academic Pursuit

It seems to me that the purpose of the academy is to expose and educate, leading to knowledge and understanding. By the study of the past and the present one gains a greater sense of what and why. In many cases the point is to harness the knowledge into shaping and controlling something for the future. For the Christ-follower, however, there is at least one other point to our academic pursuit: a greater awareness of God, his activity and worship.

Sitting in a human physiology class I was learning just a small amount about the complex and intricate body that I call me. Whether it was neurological function, the immune system, digestion or my heart, I sat in amazement each day. On one level, I was amazed at how my body works, even without my awareness of what is happening. Each function (and there are tens of thousands of them happening simultaneously) is finely tuned. Very minor imbalances create significant problems. For most of us those functions work in the right balance. I’m amazed that I’m not sick in bed every day.

On a different level, the more I learned about the complex human body the more in awe I became at the creative genius behind it. The omniscience and omnipotence of God behind each and every one of those thousands of bodily functions and processes brings me to my knees. Amazement at the physiological functions of my body led me to a sense of awe for the one that created it. The knowledge and understanding led me to worship my Creator.

Each academic pursuit should lead the Christ-follower into a process like this. Whether we are probing knowledge about human behavior, social sciences, the cosmos or atomic particles, the amazing handiwork of God can be seen. As we understand through studies and research, one can begin to feel dwarfed by the greatness of God, his abilities, his creative work and his power.

While I might understand how the heart beats, humanity is not able to create a heart of flesh out of mere dust. We might have some understanding of the cosmos but we cannot make a star or a planet. None of us can infuse life into a lifeless body. A mechanical arm is vastly inferior to the one that God created.

When the light of discovery results in discernment our fallen humanity gives praise to itself. We are puffed up, proud and take credit for new knowledge. The creature worships itself rather than the Creator. God, the one who knows all things already and the author of all that is mysterious is left out. Monuments of praise are erected to mortals as if we are the clever ones. In reality mortals have merely glimpsed what God did and does. All discovery through human effort is due to the gift and grace of God. Without him granting permission, ability and curiosity, nothing would ever be known. The fact that we can and do study, that we grow in knowledge and understanding and that we are able to use that knowledge in a constructive manner is a gift from God. He does this for his glory, not ours. He does this so that we might be in awe and worship him. This perspective transforms our academic pursuits. We’re not learning to perform well on an exam. We’re learning so that we can get a more accurate picture of our Lord and worship him more fully.