Several streams flow into this post, and I am uncertain where it will end.
Last week my classes started again after a long summer holiday, and I was happy to be back; enjoying the prospect of soaking into another term of hopefully meaningful studies. But also with a certain melancholy that I’m entering the final year of my Master’s degree. I know I will miss the university when time comes.
Niels Tvesok has previously written (in Danish) about the potential flaws of science, and the apparent pointlessness of analysing just for the sake of it. He seems to have grown tired of academia; I, however, have enjoyed discussing the philosophy of science with him on numerous occasions.
Part of my holiday reading this summer has been “A Victory of Reason” by historian Rodney Stark. His thesis is that the ‘success’ of the West is in fact not due to our getting rid of Christianity, but that the pursuit of education and rational thought is inherent in the teachings and history of Christianity. Stark argues that “The Christian image of God is that of a rational being who believes in human progress, more fully revealing himself as humans gain the capacity to better understand. Moreover, because God is a rational being and the universe is his personal creation, it necessarily has a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting increased human comprehension. This was the key to many intellectual undertakings, among them the rise of science.” (Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason. Random House 2005, pp. 11-12, original emphasis.)
The belief that God has endowed us with the ability to explore the world and a charge of doing so was echoed by Andrews University president Niels-Erik Andreasen, preaching last week in Denmark at Vejlefjord’s alumni weekend. A fitting theme for such an occasion, he talked about the merits of education, and the need for always promoting learning as a part of God’s plan for this world.
I believe in education. I marvel at the feats of engineering, for instance. And I cherish engaging in deep thoughts or dialogue about how the world and its inhabitants interact, and how different scholars provide different means of looking at the world.
But for perspective, I turn to a brilliant post by my cousin (alas, also in Danish). Lars has recently embarked on studying theology, and his remarks are focused on this particular field, but I think they can be applied to other sciences as well. “But theology, i.e., the science, is just one way of learning about God. And in my opinion not the most important one. If you want to know God, the essence is not knowledge, but love.” (My translation)
Which, of course, is essential. I may get closer to God by studying him, but only by experiencing his love in a personal relationship can I actually know God. I may learn more about the world by studying its many facets-and I will keep on doing this for as long as I live-but if I am to be a force of good in this world, I need to put that knowledge into action. So to expand on Lars, if you want to serve the world, the essence is not knowledge, but love.