Having said goodbye to my two oldest boys this week who left for a new year at college, I find myself pondering one of the great legacies of the Reformed tradition: “thinking for God’s glory.” In this vision, every area of life is to be brought under the lordship of Christ, and every legitimate discipline may be used as a means of worshipping God with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In the following extract, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (1946 – ), former President of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, reminds Christians that life-long learning is a spiritual vocation.
Thoughtful Christians know that if they obey the Bible’s great commandment to love God with our whole mind, as well as with everything else, then we will study the splendor of God’s creation in the hope of grasping part of the ingenuity and grace that form it. One way to love God is to know and love God’s work. Learning is therefore a spiritual calling; properly done, it attaches us to God. In addition, the learned person has, so to speak, more to be Christian with. The person who studies chemistry, for example, can enter into God’s enthusiasm for the dynamic possibilities of material reality. The student who examines one of the great movements of history has moved into a position to praise the goodness of God, or to lament the mystery of evil, or to explore the places where these things intertwine. Further, from persistent study of history a student may develop good judgment, a feature of wisdom that helps us lead a faithful human life in the midst of a confusing world. And, of course, chemistry and history are only two examples from the wide menu of good things to learn.1
1 Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), xi.