The chief business of a college has to do with the thinking of its students. God created man to be a thinking being. The Bible recognizes the central importance of thought. It does not, of course, speak in terms of modern psychology. When it deals with man’s most characteristic activity, it uses not only the word “mind” but also more often words like “heart” and “soul.” It tells us that we are made in the image of the only wise God, an image that, though ruined through the fall beyond our power to repair, is not beyond God’s power to regenerate through the work of Christ.
In the Bible the thought life is decisive. Solomon says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And again, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Paul exhorts us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; and he gives us the charter for Christian thought when he says: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Blaise Pascal, certainly one of the most biblical of all the great scientists and philosophers, says in his Pensées, “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed.… Let us endeavour, then, to think well.” In other words, one of the great marks of man’s uniqueness is his God-given capacity to think. Consequently, anything that diminishes our thinking tends to dehumanize us through making us less than what God created us to be.
We ought, therefore, as partners in Christian education, to take seriously our obligation to live our intellectual life to the glory of God. For us who receive the Bible as the Word of God, who know at first-hand the power of the Saviour who died and rose for us, the Christian’s intellectual life is not an optional, take-it-or-leave-it matter. It is for all of us. It is a “must” for every believing student and teacher.
The Christian call to the intellectual life is not just to an elite, a chosen few. It is not merely for members of the scholastic honor society, or for the faculty. Said Sir William Ramsay, “Christianity is the religion of an educated mind.” Observe that he did not say that it is the religion of a brilliant or a gifted mind. We are not responsible for the extent of our native intelligence but for the extent of our use of the ability God has given us. And in the Christian liberal arts college the talents of the mind must be developed into Christian intellect. There is, as Professor Jacques Barzun of Columbia shows in The House of Intellect, a crucial distinction between intelligence and intellectualism. The former is our native endowment in mental aptitude; the latter is the use we make of our individual ability in helping to develop a cultural tradition.
So let us go on to see some of the implications of the development of Christian intellect. Consider its distinctive nature. We Christians are people of the Book, not just any book, but the Bible—the greatest, most beautiful, most profound Book in the world, on the truths of which the Christian college rests. Because this Book has to do with man in the entirety of his being, and because of our relationship to the living Lord who is made known to us through it, our intellectual life is much bigger than our reason alone. It embraces all of us, including our will and our emotions. Man is a unit; we cannot isolate and compartmentalize our faculties. To quote Pascal again, “The heart has reasons that the reason does not know.” As Dr. A. W. Tozer puts it: “The Greek church father, Nicephorus, taught that we should learn to think with our heart. ‘Force your mind to descend into the heart,’ he says, ‘and to remain there.…’ When you thus enter into the place of the heart … it will teach you things which in no other way you will ever learn.”
THE UNION WITH MORALITY
Look now at the scope of the Christian’s intellectual life. The charge is often made that those of us who take the Word of God as our guide are bound to be restricted in outlook. To this the best answer is to turn to Philippians 4:8 where Paul outlines the scope of our thought and urges us to “think on” (literally “ponder,” “let your mind dwell on”) six categories of things: those things that are “true,” “honest” (honorable), “just” (according to God’s requirements), “pure” (and remember that purity of thought comes from purity of soul), “lovely” (all that is beautiful), and “of good report” (before God and our fellow man). What horizons these six open up! They invite Christian thought to explore every aspect of truth to the glory of God.
We hear much today about the imperative need for the pursuit of excellence in education. It is a worthy purpose to seek excellence in all that we do. Yet by itself the pursuit of excellence is inadequate unless it is always related to the truth, not only abstractly but as it is in Christ. Just as we should say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ,” so we must, as A. P. Sertillanges suggests, learn to say in every aspect of our intellectual life, “For me to live is truth”; for Christ is himself the truth. As he is revealed in his perfection in the Word, he is the ultimate criterion and measure of truth.
Now to live for the truth means to adopt a scale of values different from that which surrounds us. It was Archbishop William Temple who remarked, “The world, as we live in it, is like a shop window where some mischievous person has broken in the night to change all the price labels, so that the cheap things have the higher price on them and the really precious things are marked down.” Why is there this twisting, this reversal of values in the world? One reason is the divorce in worldly thinking between truth and its ethical and spiritual implications. One of the contributions of Christian thought to our times must be the recovery of the ethical and spiritual dimensions of truth. No matter how great the prestige of a college or university is, search for truth merely on the level of the reason will not do. To hold truth in a moral and spiritual vacuum is not good enough. Thoughtful secular educators are beginning to see this. Witness these words of President Dickey of Dartmouth College: “I believe we must at least redouble our effort to restore the relevancy of moral purpose as an essential companion of intellectual purpose and power in any learning that presumes to liberate a man.… There is simply no civilized alternative to having personal power answerable to conscience.”
What Dr. Dickey and others like him are seeking—that is, the connection between intellectual and moral purpose—is at the center of our Christian heritage. Observe that Paul’s pattern of the subject matter of our thought—the things that are “true,” “honorable,” “just,” “pure,” “lovely,” and “of good report”—is united throughout with ethical values.
THE DISCIPLINE OF THE TRUTH
But the Christian’s intellectual life goes even deeper than this union with morality. It is at bottom a life of faith. Let us never make the mistake of thinking that faith is unrelated to knowledge and the development of intellect. In the deepest sense, believing is the door to knowledge. Truth is never created by the mind of man; it is there all the time and we are led to it by faith. Have you ever noticed how many heroes of faith were intellectual persons? Think of Paul, Augustine, Anselm, who gave us the great insight, “Credo ut intelligam” (I believe that I might know), Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and many others. Faith is not, as some make it out to be, a leap in the dark; rather is it, as David Read suggests, a leap out of the darkness into the light.
The blind spot in the striving of the non-Christian mind for intellectual excellence lies in the incorrigible secularism with which it disregards faith. Secularism is, as someone has defined it, the practice of the absence of God. If it is our privilege as Christians to see where the world is blind, let us be very humble about it. Let us also be very sure that our intellectual life is infused with faith. For only the thinker who “believes that God is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” uses his mind to God’s glory.
A COSTLY CHALLENGE
The challenge of the Christian intellectual life is indeed great. But it is not an easy challenge. It costs to have a mind that is really dedicated to the Lord. The reason why there are Christians who are not going on intellectually to the glory of God is not that they are dull or incapable of learning, but simply that they will not pay the price. And the price will not come down. It is nothing less than the discipline of self-restraint and plain hard work.
Dr. Allan Heely, distinguished headmaster of the Lawrenceville School, was once asked by a voluble lady, enamored of progressive education, this question: “What, Dr. Heely, is your idea of the ideal curriculum for growing boys?” He replied as follows: “Any program of worth-while studies so long as all of it is hard and some of it is unpleasant.” This was a severe but wholesome answer which applies in principle to the whole range of education on through graduate school. A great fault of education today is that much of it is too easy, and the fault applies to college as well as to school. No student will ever make sound progress in learning if he chooses courses merely because he thinks they will be easy.
What kind of books, if any, do we read voluntarily in term time and in vacations, what kind of music do we listen to, what pictures do we look at, a leading quesion now that television has invaded the campus as well as the home? What will we be doing this year with our leisure time? These are revealing questions. No Christian, no matter how pious, will ever grow intellectually if he feeds his mind on trash, on the third-rate; if he never on his own reads some hard books, listens to some great and profound music, or tries to converse seriously about difficult subjects.
Turning from these things to the greatest Book of all, let me ask what is the place of the Bible in our lives? Have we the fortitude to maintain inviolate a daily time alone with the Word of God? One may be an intellectual person without the Bible, but one will never be a Christian intellectual without it.
Finally, we grow in intellect in the broadest and deepest sense as we submit ourselves to our teacher. And who is that? As Bishop Stephen Bayne put it in the title of an address on Christian education, “God Is the Teacher.” In the Christian college—and herein lies the inestimable value of a committed Christian college—the living God is recognized as the source of all wisdom and excellence. And how does He teach? Let me say it reverently. God is not a progressive educator. He teaches us daily, as we pay the price of hard thinking. He teaches us through his Word. He teaches us through teachers who in turn are taught by him. He teaches us through the discipline of trial and disappointment and suffering, and through our successes too. But most of all he teaches us through a Person, through the One who is altogether lovely, the One who is himself most excellent in all things, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the Truth, never compromised with anything that was false or sinful. When God teaches us, he is always saying in and through and above whatever we are studying and learning for ourselves, or, in the case of us teachers, what we are teaching others, “This is my beloved Son; hear you him.”
The intellectual life at its highest and best is above all else a Christ-centered life. It means having the mind of the Lord Jesus. It has a goal, the magnificent, lofty goal, as Paul said, of “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Like the high priest of Israel who had written on the mitre over his forehead, “Holiness unto the Lord,” so the Christian student and scholar, dedicated to the intellectual life, must have written over his mind, “Holiness unto the Lord,” as he seeks to ponder and dwell on the truth.
Preacher In The Red
YOUR FRIEND AND MINE
DURING MY PASTORATE in Monrovia, California, we had a guest speaker on one Sunday morning. He was a very short, light weight man, perhaps but little over 5 feet tall, and he was well known to our congregation. When the time came to introduce Rev. Remfrey Hunt, guest speaker, and after the usual amenities were over, I turned to the congregation and said, “It is now my very good pleasure to present to you, your friend and mine, Mr. Hemfrey Runt.”—The Rev. FRANK H. SHAUL, Pasadena, California.
Samuel M. Shoemaker is the author of a number of popular books and the gifted Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh. He is known for his effective leadership of laymen and his deeply spiritual approach to all vital issues.
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