Tag Archives: wisdom

Education and the Pursuit of Wisdom

Taylor University Prayer Chapel

Taylor University Prayer Chapel

Proverbs 3:13-18 identifies wisdom as the most valuable treasure in this world. Here is the passage in the NIV:

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, 
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

Notice the exhortations to actively pursue wisdom: “find wisdom . . . gain understanding . . . take hold of her . . . hold her fast.” With these words the father is appealing to his son, “make this your life quest!” And why? The passage makes it clear: an investment in wisdom pays great dividends, contributing to a life of shalom (peace) as well as fruitfulness in work and health.

What a great word for college students. The goal of a college education is not simply to become employable, to make lifelong friends, or to enjoy four years of enriching experiences. Those goals become meaningful only when aligned under a greater goal: growing in wisdom and understanding about God and the world he created.

How does one proceed on this journey towards wisdom and understanding? Proverbs 9:10 gives the starting point: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” And in the wake of the new covenant, Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

A truly wise life emerges only from a right relationship with God, in Christ, by the Spirit. I’m so glad that learning at Taylor is experienced within a context of faith and discipleship, so that growth in wisdom can take place!



Leave a comment

Filed under Discipleship, Education, New Testament, Old Testament, Teaching

Faith and Reason, part 2

Photo: Synagogues such as this one in Chorazin on the Sea of Galilee functioned as places of faith and learning for the Jews.

Faith should be enriched through learning, and reason should be chastened by faith. We looked at the first half of this statement in the last blog post. Today, we’ll look at the second half.

Reason should be chastened by faith. Higher institutions of learning often miss the mark on this one, which becomes obvious when we take note of the many universities that began with a Christian mission but have long since drifted from those moorings. In an academic environment, there is always a danger of allowing reason to run roughshod over faith.

Proverbs 9:10 (and 1:7) reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom . . . but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”

1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Throughout church history, theologians such as Augustine and Anselm have reiterated the commitment to “faith seeking understanding.”

All of the above excerpts communicate the idea that reason operates best when it is solidly within the context of a robust devotion to God. We integrate all other learning into a worshipful life with God and a commitment to following Christ over the course of our entire lives. We make sure reason is chastened by faith because when reason functions independently, it can lead us astray, especially in our conclusions about God and his workings (theologians talk about the noetic effects of sin, or the negative influence of sin on our minds and thinking).

We begin a new semester with the desire to finish with a stronger, more enriched faith than before. This requires intentional preparation and ongoing focus. Regular involvement in a healthy local church is essential along the way, since a church by design places its priorities of worship and faith at the front and center. As faith leads the way and learning is done with excellence and humility, may we reach the goal of greater intimacy with God and greater confidence in him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical Theology, Church, Education

Faith and Reason, part 1

A new semester is about to begin. Students are settling into dorms, professors are preparing syllabi, and all of us are about to embark on a journey of faith and reason. How should we think about this relationship between faith and reason? Here’s an attempt:

Faith should be enriched through learning, and reason should be chastened by faith.

First, faith is enriched through learning. We tend to assume this as a given in Christian higher education, and rightly so. From the creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 to the creation wisdom of Proverbs to the new creation vision of Isaiah, Revelation, and elsewhere, believers are invited to make creative and productive use of the resources of this world and the learning available to us.

Consider this new creation vision of work in Isaiah 65:21-23:

“They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit . . . My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not toil in vain.”

The new creation will be characterized by creative, fruitful work, in fulfillment of the original creation mandate of Genesis 1. Beneficial work in this world connects us back to what we were created for and points us forward to the ultimate new creation that God is preparing.

Preparing for meaningful work requires thinking, creating, observing, learning, experimenting – things we do in higher education. For those who prepare well, there can be great opportunity: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings” (Proverbs 22:29).  A commitment to learning, curiosity, persistence, and excellence in our schooling equips us to bless people and make a difference in our world.

The book of Proverbs beckons us to gain insight both from knowledge shared by others (Prov 1:1-6) and from observations about the natural world (Prov 30:24-33). Attentiveness to the world around us enriches our appreciation for the order, beauty, and complexity of God’s creation and our place in it (Psalm 8:3-8).

Reason should be seen as one of God’s good gifts to us (1 Timothy 4:4, James 1:17), leading us to lives of wisdom, fruitfulness, and worship (Romans 11:33-36; James 3:13). This brings us to the second half of the equation – that reason should be chastened by faith. We will look at this second point later this week.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical Theology, Education

Robot Cars and Discipleship

Our family recently watched a documentary about the DARPA challenge, in which robot vehicles attempt to be the first to complete a rugged race course of more than 7 miles. The catch is that once the race begins, the robots cannot be controlled or given input commands from humans. Furthermore, the teams are given a detailed map of the course only hours before the race begins.

(No, these are not two of the cars in the race; these are my son’s remote control cars!)

In 2004, the first year of the race, no car successfully completed the course, so the competitors went all out in preparation for 2005. There were two teams that were pegged as favorites in the competition. One team, from Carnegie Mellon, relied on a strategy of extensive and detailed data entry for its two cars. Once the large team obtained maps for the race, team members quickly entered as much data as they could about each turn, bump, and bend in the course so that their cars would be programmed to make the correct turns at each point of the course.

The other favorite, a small team from Stanford, chose a markedly different strategy. Instead of giving specific instructions to help the car navigate each part of the course, the team programmed the car (nicknamed “Stanley”) to be able to improvise by using advanced sensors that sized up the terrain on the fly. The information from the sensors then directed the car to make the required adjustments. In a hard fought race, Stanley emerged as the victor.

Christians run the race similarly to Stanley. The course is marked out for us in a clear way, in line with the revealed character and will of God. We know the overall contours of the terrain, shaped by values such as  love, holiness, unity, and service. God also gives us a number of general commands for our lives: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44); “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18); “Don’t show favoritism” (James 2:1). And the ultimate goal for our lives is certain: conformity to the image of God in Christ (Col 3:10; Rom 8:29).

But the way that we run the race stands out.  As Christians we are not given detailed instructions in the Bible about what to do in every specific situation we confront in life. Instead, God gives us the tools we need to make the right, biblical decisions about how to live in any circumstance we encounter. He gives us his Spirit to direct us and empower us for obedience (Gal 5:16; 5:25; Rom 8:26-27). He gives us wisdom to know how to apply God’s truth (James 1:5; Col 1:9). He gives us the believers around us to provide encouragement and input (Heb 10:24-25). Christians are not governed by an exhaustive list of do’s and don’t’s for every circumstance. In the daily experience of our lives, in decisions big and small, we improvise, walking in dependence, wisdom, and community.

Leave a comment

Filed under Biblical Theology, Discipleship