The first semester of 2019 is underway for students and teachers. As we plunge into this long stretch of academics, it may be helpful for us to remember why we learn and teach. Drudging through late night studying as students or working through grading papers as teachers can be daunting. Why, then, do we pursue education?
To answer this question, we must ask a bigger, underlying question: what is our purpose in life — making money, serving God, knowledge or something else? In other words, if we want to know why we fight though late night studying, we must ultimately gain inspiration from a greater view of our life’s purpose.
As Christians, the Bible already gives us clear ideas from about the purpose of life, and these truths can inform our understanding about why we are consuming copious amounts of caffeine to stay up just a bit later to learn more about theology, physics, biology and God’s creation order.
We should seek to serve God with our entire being (including our minds).
We pursue education because human nature needs the True.
Both the ancient philosophers and God’s inspired Word comment on our purpose and the need humans have for truth in every subject area. For example, in his Metaphysics, Aristotle said, “All men, by nature, desire to know.” This profound statement is noteworthy because of its apparent simple truthfulness and universal appeal, rooted in the nature of humanity. Similarly the Bible – the Christian’s primary source of knowledge – echoes this sentiment by suggesting that we all have within us the desire for truth. Even though the Bible also teaches that man is fallen (Romans 1), the preacher in Ecclesiastes says that God set eternity in the heart of humanity (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Biblically, as beings that bear God’s image, we wonder at the nature of reality in a manner that craves for truth. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and he specifically created us for knowledge rather than ignorance (Jeremiah 9:24).
So, for starters, in those moments when we slog through heaps of reading and writing assignments, we can remember that God created us for truth rather than ignorance. The amazing opportunity to harness a college- or graduate-level education can fan the flame to know what is real. None of us are perfect learners, and so none of us exercise our desire to know to the fullest extent (Romans 1:18-25). We do not always pursue truth in a way that would satisfy the biblical command to love God with the fullest extent of one’s person, including our minds (Matthew 22:36-40). But God still wants us to use our mind in a way that honors Him and leads us to understand more about Him and the good world He created, and this can have a positive effect on us and the world outside the Church that is desperate for truth.
Second, then, because God made us in His image, we have an answer for why truth matters at all. We can communicate a worldview of purpose and knowledge as Christians, which is something the skeptical world at our doorstep seems so desperate for. Indeed, along with goodness and beauty, this transcendent quality of truth is something that philosopher Peter Kreeft says “we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need, and know we need absolutely.” This is so because Truth, Goodness, and Beauty “are three attributes of God, and therefore of all God’s creation…We respond to truth, goodness, and beauty. We are this because we are images of God.” As a result, Christians can communicate truth that is in line with the intentions of the Creator in every area of life and every subject in school.
Through all of our late night studying, we have a unique opportunity as Christians to provide answers to a world thirsty for truth. As teachers and students, we can communicate truth in every area of life — a truth informed by the existence of God, His provision of salvation and the intention He has for His creation and us.
We pursue education because it all depends on Christ.
The triumph of truth and purpose is a beautiful thing that ultimately relies on the Resurrection of Christ and the salvation that He offers. This is no more apparent than in the life and conversion of another great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis. Concerning Lewis, Jerry L. Walls said that, “before his conversion, Lewis sought truth, was enchanted by beauty, and aspired to goodness, but he struggled to find a way to hold these goals together.” Walls mentions Lewis’s own recollection of this sentiment when Lewis said,
The two hemispheres of my mind were in the sharpest conflict. On the one side a many-islanded sea of poetry and myth; on the other a glib and shallow ‘rationalism.’ Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.
Lewis could not reconcile these two realms. But Christianity provided him a means to do so. Walls writes,
It was his conversion to Christianity that allowed Jack to bring the two hemispheres of his mind together. It was in Christianity that he discovered a true myth, a beautiful story that not only spoke to our imaginations and longing for goodness and meaning, but was also rooted in real history. In short, Christianity proved a way to hold together Truth, Goodness and Beauty.
What the conversion of this great writer and apologist can show us is the amazing way that understanding the reality of God and His salvation in Christ can impact our understanding of everything. Lewis could not live very well in a bifurcated world where nothing that he loved was true or real – and neither can we. Just as was true for Lewis, one beautiful aspect of the gospel is that it brings into light the truth of God’s existence and His beautiful intention for us to know Him.
We have important reasons as Christian educators
and students to fight through challenges at our campuses. In learning as
students made in the image of God, we should seek to serve God with our entire
being (including our minds) to seek understanding for how the truth of God’s
existence and provision through Christ informs our understanding of every
aspect of God’s creation order. As teachers, our goal should be to communicate such that
every student in the classroom comes to know truth in our subject and its relation
to God. At this
point, we must pray and eagerly discover how God would seek to use us to spread
His message in love and truth to the world.
Peter Kreeft, “Lewis’s Philosophy of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty,” C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty, ed. David Baggett, Gary R. Habermas, and Jerry L. Walls (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Press, 2017), 17.
Jerry L. Walls, “Jack of the Philosophical Trade,” C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty, ed. David Baggett, Gary R. Habermas, and Jerry L. Walls (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Press, 2017), 12.
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life” (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). 170. Walls, 12.