A gracEmail subscriber writes, “I am studying philosophy in my university courses and wonder whether it is safe for me to do so as a Christian. Some of my Christian friends in science programs wonder the same thing.”
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In about 1971, I had the good fortune to study briefly under Francis Schaeffer, whose books, lectures and Swiss retreat, L’Abri (“the shelter”), have blessed so very many. Dr. Schaeffer continually stressed that all truth is God’s truth. Since God made everything that exists, he noted, nothing exists anywhere that God has not made. Therefore any genuine truth — “true truth” Schaeffer called it — will be consistent with God and with a correct understanding of his self-revelation in Scripture. The honest inquirer can thus study any subject, pursue research in any field, with confident faith in God who made all that exists.
That said, we must remember not to get the cart before the horse. As we pursue truth in any field, it is possible for secondary knowledge to distract us from God himself. That is true even (should we say especially?) of the study of the Bible. Several years ago, the president of the scholarly but irreligious Society of Biblical Literature, to which I then belonged, devoted his annual address to this topic. The scientific study of Scripture texts has too often obscured the primary point of the science, he said, which is to enable one better to hear the message of Scripture itself.
The same danger lurks in every discipline, whether it be law or chemistry, history or psychology, education or sociology, medicine or business. Should Christians in any field obtain all the knowledge they can in their quest for excellence? Yes, indeed — and always to the glory of God! But can any such knowledge adequately replace knowing God himself? Absolutely not, though Satan likes to make us think it can. No matter how much we may learn in any sphere of knowledge, the final answer to our deepest human questions is God. Solomon’s admonition remains true. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).