I remember clearly the afternoon our son, Ben, came home after one science class enthusiastically telling us what he had learned that afternoon in high school: the wonder of the Bacterium Flagellum Motor, a motor that has to be magnified 50,000 times to become visible to the eye, complete with drive shaft, propeller, hook region and even gears. He was in awe at what God had made, a discovery that, in turn, strengthened his wonder of God.
“The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to the human race.”
As humans we have been entrusted with stewarding this amazing earth, and are called to love God with all our heart, soul, body and mind. But what that looks like? What does it mean to love and worship God with our mind as well as our heart and soul and body? What does it mean that the earth belongs to us?
According to Noll, evangelical Christians have sacrificed intellectual scholarly research of this world at the expense of spiritual and altruistic endeavours. He believes we are off balance in our focus and need to take up the calling to intellectually pursue the understanding and wonders that this world has to offer. As Colossians 2:2-3 states, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
For Noll, at the heart of Christianity is “the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.” [i] Revelation conjures up images of learning and progress in understanding and knowledge, something which Noll believes is of utmost importance for the evangelical Christian. He goes to great length to explain how many evangelical Christians, though rich in spirituality and activism, are anaemic in the life of the mind, and need to return to intellectual and scholarly rigor, the kind that existed among the Christian saints of the forth and fifth centuries AD. Moreover, this scholarly pursuit must be firmly grounded in Christ, in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For Noll, there are so many more treasures in this world to be discovered, more understanding of this world to be gained. As Noll writes,
“The Bible’s story may indeed be considered a metanarrative subsuming all other narratives, or a truth that relativizes all other forms of knowledge. But as metanarrative and final truth, the Bible does not speak directly about everything else per se. It rather speaks of everything indirectly, because it speaks of the origin, redemption, and final purpose of all things… With the Scriptures’ own statements about themselves in view, attitudes towards studying the world – eagerness to exploit secondary ways of knowing – should be opened up rather than shut down. This openness to experiencing the world, in turn, is exactly what a biblical vision of divine creation, with Christ as the active agent, encourages.” [ii]
According to the author, Christ is the foundation and source for any field of scholarly research: “Whatever it true of the world in general must also be true for those parts of the world that emphasize intellectual life. The light of Christ illuminates the laboratory, his speech is the found of communication, he makes possible the study of humans in all their interactions, he is the source of all life, he provides the wherewithal for every achievement of human civilization, he is the telos of all that is beautiful. He is, among his many other titles, the Christ of the Academic Road.” [iii]
The Bible explains how Christ is the author of life and applying oneself intellectually into discovering the treasures that Christ has fixed can surely serve to strengthen one’s faith further, as was the case for our son Ben. Perhaps that is something of what it means to love God with our mind.
[i] Mark A. Noll: Jesus Christ And The Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2011), xii
[ii] Noll, 129
[iii] Noll, 22