Recently reading a primer on biblical studies, I’m reminded of the necessity for biblical scholarship, knowledge of original Hebrew, Greek and maybe even Aramaic, the need to read Scripture contextually to appreciate its nuances over and against pulling verses out of context for special occasions, and an appreciation for Old and New Testament continuity.
Most of us, myself included, rely on our pastors for this, as we should. There is, however, an anti-intellectual strain in Christianity that disregards biblical scholarship. The Bible is about salvation, plain and simple. Indeed it is. But there are passages even in the New Testament that throw us. For example, when we say we live by faith, do we mean we live, and not die eternally, by or through our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, or that we—day to day—we live out of the faithfulness that we’ve come to know as a result of having received that faith from God? Does it mean both? If so where and how? These are the kinds of questions biblical scholarship helps us answer.
But if there’s a tendency in some Christian circles to abridge the Bible, what about the rest of life’s disciplines— science, economics, the arts, law and government? Does the Bible have anything to say about these? In most cases, not directly, but a student of the Bible comes to understand that there is nothing outside God’s revealed purview. The Word of God as it’s worked out addresses everything in life, not just worship and Christian living, but the family, work, and the principles undergirding any endeavor or area of study.
This takes us beyond biblical studies; indeed, it presumes biblical studies as a necessity to lay the groundwork for life and work, in regard to our temperaments in such things, yes, but more, in our understanding of what these things are, why they’re important, how they’re to be ordered or prioritized, and how they are to be explored and yes, dare I use the term, beneficially exploited, for our benefit and the benefit of our fellow man to God’s glory—all with the understanding of ourselves as stewards of whatever is laid in our hands.
The Christian in our world is often cast as narrow, unsophisticated, and uninterested in the world. This, unfortunately, is often true. But it doesn’t have to be. The brilliantly gifted and faithful early 20th century theologian Herman Bavinck wrote prolifically, but his systematic theology has been abridged under the title Our Reasonable Faith, which is very much worth reading.
In it, he tells us that there is a sense in which the Christian, because he sizes up the world in which he lives with the knowledge of his Creator and his plan for it, has a distinct advantage over those who still operate in the shadows. Bavinck writes: “The Christian looks around him, forwards, backwards, to all sides, and with the knowledge of God that he owes to his creator, he lets his eyes linger on nature, he discovers traces everywhere of that same God that he worships in Christ as his father. His faith opens a wonderful vista for him, which stretches to the ends of the earth. By it he looks backwards into the true nature of past times, and by it he penetrates into the future of all things. Ahead of him and behind, the horizon is clear, even though the sky is often obscured by clouds. The Christian who sees everything in light of the word of God is anything but narrow in his view and understanding. He is generous in heart and mind. He realizes that all around him is his, because he is Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. He can’t help but comprehend that his life in God, to whom he owes his very life and salvation, has a special character. This does not exclude him from the world, but rather enables him to trace the revelation of God in all of his life and experience, and puts the means at his disposal by which he can recognize the hand of his father in all things and circumstances, the good, the true and the beautiful, and separate this from the false and sinful alloys of men.”
Only the Christian, Bavinck is saying, has this clear sightedness to see things as they are. And this clear sightedness, grounded in a faith in his Creator and Savior, liberates him. It doesn’t constrict him, but liberates him, to pursue anything and all things with the understanding that he is pursuing God’s truth, in God’s world, and for God’s glory.
He will not go unopposed. He will not remain unchallenged. But he can go forward knowing that as he both believes and works faithfully with his body and his mind, that his God shall go before him and bless his endeavors, not only for his own sake, but for others as well. And when his work is done, he will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant, with what you have been given, you have done much.” May we see our Lord’s blessing in this way, unafraid as we move ahead grounded in God’s revelation, among ourselves and our children, in his wisdom and grace, both for today and for tomorrow.
Mr. Gerry Wisz and his wife, Betty, live in New Jersey and with their children are members of Preakness Valley URC in Wayne, NJ. Gerry has been a long-time contributor to Christian publications, including Christian Renewal and World Magazine, and is featured on Redeemer Broadcasting’s weekend show “Holding All Things Together.” He has also served as an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.