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In the early centuries of Christianity the church presented Jesus to unbelievers precisely because he was wiser, more virtuous, more intelligent and more attractive in his character than Aristotle, Plato, Moses or anyone else. So understood, the spiritual life and discipleship to Jesus were seen as the very best way to achieve a life of truth, beauty and goodness.
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Moreover, the life of discipleship was depicted as the wisest, most reasonable form of life available so that a life of unbelief was taken to be foolish and absurd. Our schools need to recapture and propagate this broader understanding of following Christ if they are to be thoroughly Christian in their approach to education.
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Biblical teaching about the role of the mind in the Christian life and the value of extrabiblical knowledge requires integration. The Scriptures are clear that God wants us to be like him in every facet of our lives, and he desires commitment from our total being, including our intellectual life.
We are told that we change spiritually by having the categories of our minds renewed Rom , that we are to include an intellectual love for God in our devotion Mt , and that we are to be prepared to give others a reasonable answer to questions others ask us about why we believe what we believe 1 Pet As the great eighteenth-century Christian thinker and spiritual master William Law put it, Unreasonable and absurd ways of life… are truly an offense to God. God has revealed himself and various truths on a number of topics outside the Bible.
As Christians have known throughout our history, common sense, logic and mathematics, along with the arts, humanities, sciences and other areas of study, contain important truths relevant to life in general and to the development of a careful, life-related Christian worldview. In John Wesley delivered an address to a gathering of clergy on how to carry out the pastoral ministry with joy and skill. In it Wesley catalogued a number of things familiar to most contemporary believers—the cultivation of a disposition to glorify God and save souls, a knowledge of Scripture, and similar notions.
However, at the front of his list Wesley focused on something seldom expressly valued by most pastoral search committees: Ought not a Minister to have, First, a good understanding, a clear apprehension, a sound judgment, and a capacity of reasoning with some closeness? Time and again throughout the address Wesley unpacked this remark by admonishing ministers to know what would sound truly odd and almost pagan to the average congregant of today: logic, metaphysics, natural theology, geometry and the ideas of important figures in the history of philosophy.
For Wesley study in these areas especially philosophy and geometry helped train the mind to think precisely, a habit of incredible value, he asserted, when it comes to thinking as a Christian about theological themes or scriptural texts.
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According to Wesley the study of extrabiblical information and the writings of unbelievers was of critical value for growth and maturity. As he put it elsewhere, To imagine none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin is a very great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment. A century earlier the great Reformed pastor Richard Baxter was faced with lukewarmness in the church and unbelief outside the church.
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In he wrote a book to meet this need, and in it he used philosophy, logic and general items of knowledge outside Scripture to argue for the existence of the soul and the life to come. The fact that Baxter turned to philosophy and extrabiblical knowledge instead of small groups or praise hymns is worth pondering. In fact, it is safe to say that throughout much of church history, Scripture and right reason directed at extrabiblical truth were used by disciples of Jesus and prized as twin allies.
In valuing extrabiblical knowledge our brothers and sisters in church history were merely following common sense and Scripture itself. Ex , the Edomites Jer , the Phoenicians Zech and many others. The remarkable achievements produced by human wisdom are acknowledged in Job The book of Proverbs is filled with examples in which knowledge, even moral and spiritual knowledge, can be gained from studying things ants, for example in the natural world.
Jesus taught that we should know we are to love our enemies, not on the basis of an Old Testament text but from careful reflection on how the sun and rain behave Mt In valuing extrabiblical knowledge our brothers and sisters in church history were also living out scriptural teaching about the value of general revelation. We must never forget that God is the God of creation and general revelation just as he is the God of Scripture and special revelation.
Christians should do everything they can to gain and teach important and relevant knowledge in their areas of expertise. At the level appropriate to our station in life, Christians are called to be Christian intellectuals, at home in the world of ideas. Neglect of integration results in a costly division between secular and sacred. While few would actually put it in these terms, faith is now understood as a blind act of will, a sort of decision to believe something that is either independent of reason or makes up for the paltry lack of evidence for what one is trying to believe.
By contrast, the Bible presents faith as a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God, a trust in what we have reason to believe is true. Understood in this way, we see that faith is built on reason and knowledge. We should have good reasons for thinking that Christianity is true before we completely dedicate ourselves to it.
We should have solid evidence that our understanding of a biblical passage is correct before we go on to apply it. We bring knowledge claims from Scripture and theology to the task of integration; we do not employ mere beliefs or faith postulates. Unfortunately, our contemporary understanding of faith and reason treats them as polar opposites. A few years ago I J. The series was in a high school gym and several believers and unbelievers came each night.
The first evening I gave arguments for the existence of God from science and philosophy. Before closing in prayer, I entertained several questions from the audience. One woman who was a Christian complained about my talk, charging that if I proved the existence of God, I would leave no room for faith.
I responded by saying that if she were right, then we should pray that currently available evidence for God would evaporate and be refuted so there would be even more room for faith! Obviously, her view of faith utterly detached it from reason. If faith and reason are deeply connected, then students and teachers need to explore their entire intellectual life in light of the Word of God.