Is there a Christian way of thinking about your discipline? I think most of us would answer, ‘Yes,’ but spelling out what that means is usually a difficult task!
The Bible gives us a narrative of a good creation, spoilt by sin, and being put right through the redemptive work of Christ. To put it succinctly, ‘God the Father has reconciled His created but fallen world through the death of His Son, and renews it into a Kingdom of God by His Spirit.’1 From this, we can pick out three themes that can help us to think Christianly about our disciplines: creation, fall and redemption. In this series of blog posts we’ll look at each in turn.
When we think of ‘creation’, our minds often gravitate to non-human things: plants and animals, mountains and oceans, stars and galaxies. But there is much more to God’s creation than that. When God made people, he did so in full awareness of all that they would be able to do. Right at the beginning, God created us with the potential to make things, to use words, to make distinctions, to form relationships, to use resources efficiently, to strive for beauty and harmony, to think about how things ought to be, to act with generosity, and to hold beliefs about what really matters. So we can’t divide up the academic disciplines into those that deal with God’s creation and those that don’t: whatever we are studying, from mathematics to music, from psychology to philosophy, it is God’s creation that we are studying.
But God didn’t create a world with ready-made societies, art galleries, governmental structures, libraries and universities — even if he did plant a garden! All of these things, which were possibilities from the outset, needed to be put into place by people. So academic researchers have a great privilege: to unearth some of the riches that God has made possible in this created order, and to put those treasures on display for the benefit of everyone, and for the glory of God. Think of the precious stones that lay in the region around Eden (Genesis 2:12): each new PhD thesis or academic paper is like another precious jewel, the germ of which lay hidden in the creation until we unearthed and polished it in due course.
Thinking about your research, why do you think God made a world in which your discipline would be a possibility? What beautiful treasures are you and your colleagues in the process of discovering? How can you make sure these treasures are used as God would want them to be used?
1) Herman Bavinck, quoted by Al Wolters in Creation Regained, 2005, p.11.