“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.“ -John 1:1-3
In Episode 5 of For the Life of the World, Evan Koons wonders about the purpose of knowledge. “Is it about power?” he asks. “Man’s conquest of nature? …a means for securing a healthy nest egg for retirement?”
As he eventually discovers, knowledge is about far more than what it can do for us. “Knowledge is a gift,” Evan concludes, “and like all gifts in God’s oikonomia, it points us outside of ourselves. Certainly knowledge helps us to do more, but more importantly, it helps us to be more.”
As Stephen Grabill puts it elsewhere in the episode, “knowledge sees beyond scarcity and reveals abundance,” because, at its most basic level, it’s really about uncovering the source of all abundance — better seeing, knowing, and understanding our Creator — and sowing seeds of light and life in the world around us. (Some economists are beginning to notice this at a broader level.)
As Abraham Kuyper explains in Wisdom & Wonder, only when we recognize and submit ourselves to the thinking of God can we begin to appreciate the magnitude of his purposes and participate in turn:
The whole creation is nothing but the visible curtain behind which radiates the exalted working of this divine thinking. Even as the child at play observes your pocket watch, and supposes it to be no more than a golden case and a dial with moving hands, so too the unreflective person observes in nature and in the entire creation nothing other than the external appearance of things. By contrast, you know better. You know that behind the watch’s dial the hidden work of springs and gears occurs, and that the movement of the hands across the dial is caused by that hidden working.
So too everyone instructed by the Word of God knows, in terms of God’s creation, that behind that nature, behind that creation, a hidden, secret working of God’s power and wisdom is occurring, and that only thereby do things operate as they do. They know as well that this working is not an unconscious operation of a languidly propelled power, but the working of a power that is being led by thinking.…All things have proceeded from the thinking of God, from the consciousness of God, from the Word of God. Thereby all things are sustained; to these all things owe their course of life and all things are guaranteed to meet their goal.
In a recent post at the FLOW blog, Evan follows up along these same lines, prodding us yet again to avoid thinking of knowledge through a utilitarian lens, considering instead how the proper pursuit of knowledge helps us better love and serve both God and neighbor:
According to John, all that exists–everything that “is”–came into being THROUGH the Word, through Jesus. All of creation speaks of him. His divine DNA is present everywhere. Therefore, knowledge can never, EVER, be a “thing.” Far from it. No, knowledge is a PERSON–Christ. It’s purpose is to reveal HIM: his majesty, his infinite creativity, his power, his abundance, his grace. Quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins, Stephen Grabill lays it out in Episode 5: “This world then is word, expression, news, of God. Therefore it’s end, its purpose, its purport, its meaning, is God, and its life or work to name and praise him.”
So, let us remember this week, let us remind our children, our students, OURSELVES that when we set our minds to learning about the things of the world, we are entering into far more than just a MEANS to good grades and good jobs and jobs well done. When we learn, we are entering into a RELATIONSHIP with Almighty God. This, friends and strangers, can change everything about how we learn, and what we know of our Creator.
As we participate in the Economy of Wisdom — whether through education, research, innovation, or science — we have a remarkable opportunity to love greater and serve better, uncovering the mysteries and abundance of God, and sharing the wonder of his glory with the world around us.