July 10, 2009
The Legacy of Learning, Part Two
by Charles R. Swindoll
Ignorance is not bliss. On the contrary, it is the breeding ground for fear, prejudice, and superstition, to name just a few. Knowledge is critical. The young nation of America saw the need for being knowledgeable . . . for perpetuating an educated, well-trained body of godly people who could proclaim God's message with intelligence, authority, and conviction. Our oldest institution of higher learning---founded only sixteen years after the landing at Plymouth---was established for the purpose stated on its cornerstone. That marker still stands near an iron gate that leads to the campus of Harvard University:
After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded [sic] our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God's worship and settled the civil government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.
This continued until European liberalism, with its subtle narcotic of humanism and socialism, began to paralyze the nerve centers of theological thought and educational philosophy. Doubt and despair replaced certainty and hope. Mental discipline, honed on the wheel of exacting academic requirements and intellectual integrity, began to lag. Permissiveness became the order of the day. This evolved into a mentality that now considers deep thought and thorough study a joke. Thank God, there are some exceptions. But they are precious few . . . especially among the saints.
To be sure, there are dangers connected with being knowledgeable. Solomon warns us of the worst in Ecclesiastes: pride---the wearying, futile pursuit of knowledge, a flesh trip that can cause a head to outgrow a heart. Mere intellectualism can be only "striving after wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:17).
But my single desire is to support the premise that knowledge, rather than being an enemy of the faith, is an ally . . . perhaps one of our strongest. I call upon C. S. Lewis to state my cause, and with him I rest my case. In his work, The Weight of Glory, Lewis writes:
If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now---not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground---would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether. Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past . . . the learned life then is, for some, a duty.
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.