1. Learning is exercise with a purpose.
Constant accessing of new thoughts by reading and conversing cogently keeps our mind exercised for gaining and retaining the more significant biblical knowledge. The sheer joy with which we approach learning helps. I have a friend who never stops thinking. He adds to his study an occasional mystery and works through difficult riddles with friends because they prepare him for understanding the mysteries and riddles of the Word of God. More often than not I find him thinking through some issue in the Bible, attempting to unlock an enigma. He works his mind.
It is well known that the Puritans, as an illustration, were devoted to learning the logic of Peter Ramus which formed their approach to scripture analysis by successive dichotomies. Ramus was a French humanist converted to Protestantism in 1561 and later killed in the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day. There would be those who debate whether logic is useful in correct interpretation of Scripture in our day, yet I must side with those who use it for the glory of God without letting their philosophical tendencies overwhelm their exegesis. This is a day of many inconsistencies among Evangelicals. How many of these inconsistencies would be thrown down with the most basic rules of logic. After all, hermeneutics must be logical.
2. Learning in a broad spectrum of categories better prepares us for evangelism.
My wife and I read through one of the seminal New Age books over a couple of evenings, for instance-not a book about the New Age from a Christian perspective, but an important book in the movement’s own judgment. This reading paid big dividends when we encountered the confusion of our bed-and-breakfast hostess one evening. Three hours of conversation cleared her thinking a great deal. I believe she was freed from some dangerous views and brought to think more soberly about “the only true God.” It goes without saying that the study of the Word is that which filters and interprets all other information.
I might add to this that the very learning process which intelligent conversation with others brings to you can be evangelism itself. This is one of my most basic approaches. As I ask genuine questions, probing deeper and deeper into the other person’s philosophy throughout the dialogue, I am simultaneously uncovering the deficiency of their belief system leaving the door open for the truth. Often my sincere interest in their beliefs evokes genuine questions from them as to my own philosophy. Ingenuiness can be easily detected; we must want to know what they are saying.
3. All learning teaches us something about God.
A case can be made for the Christian laying the preponderance of his study on the subject of God. Paul said that we are to be “growing in the knowledge of God”(Col. 1:10). The ocean of knowledge of God is in the Bible itself, yet their are other streams to fish which reveal much about Him. Since all things were made by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16), we can expect all things to tell us something of Him, however hidden.
In a certain sense then, knowledge in any field speaks of God as magnificent and excellent in all He has done to man, for man, with man, and against man. Whatever we learn will tell us something about God either by thesis or antithesis. We draw a necessary line on reading what is designed as morally impure and destructive (because of the biblical injunction not to be polluted by our association with it-Rom. 8:6), yet even to know the raggedness of man, for instance, speaks volumes about God-whom He loves, rebukes, warns, tolerates, damns, and just how He does it. If God’s glory is the manifesting of the excellent nature of God, then it is true that “the whole earth is full of His glory.”
4. Knowledge, though able to defeat us through pride, can, in fact, humble us.
“Knowledge puffs up…”(1 Cor. 8:1). We are constantly reminded that any field of knowledge, even the spiritual, can leave a man proud. I have known many proud biblicists. Yet there is another man who is humbled by what he learns. I suppose that the difference is in his purpose for learning-does he seeks to know God through what he learns, or to be known as one who knows about God. With the proper desire, how could we contemplate the vastness of the universe, for instance, and fail to say, “What is man, that thou art mindful of Him.” (Ps. 8:4) Why, God has created at least one star that we are aware of which has a diameter of twice the distance from the earth to the sun!
5. Learning tends to keep us from boredom, making us interested and therefore interesting.
Amusement (“a”, not, “muse,” thinking; the practice of not thinking), on the other hand, dulls us and creates an insatiable appetite for more. A man or woman who is interested in what he or she is seeing or hearing or reading, and approaches all things as opportunities to learn, enjoys life far more than the person who believes life is principally for the purpose of relaxing and making the mind idle and empty. I once heard an active eighty-year-old Christian leader in our church ride a group of senior adults pretty hard by saying something like, “If you would get up in the morning and read the Word of God and find out what’s in the news and read some good books, and talk seriously to somebody, you wouldn’t be so bored all the time.” All of us had a difficult time keeping up with this lady. The result is that the learner is the most interesting of people, and this, again, is a great benefit in presenting the gospel.
6. Most importantly, pursuing knowledge of God and His creation, and all things excellent, is obedience.
We are commanded to love the Lord with all our mind, and to meditate on what is true. “Think on these things…” (See Phil. 4:8)
To be continued . . .
– Jim Elliff