If my last blog post could be summed up in the phrase, “He is there and He is not silent”, then I would summarize this one with the phrase “All truth is God’s Truth.” 1 After I was exposed to the notion that all of reality is imbued with the presence and glory of God, it began to sink in that if there is any truth to be found, no matter where it is from, then that Truth is from God. While the false dichotomies from the last blog post include the Sacred/secular, another false, but common dichotomy, is that of Faith versus reason. Often, Scripture is maintained and believed in although it seems to conflict with what reason and science tells us is really the case.
It is important to recognize that Scripture affirms truths from the natural world. As Psalm 19:1-3 testifies, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.” Similarly, Romans 1:20 reveals that the truths of the natural world communicate something about God’s nature when it states that “From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made.” From these passages it can be concluded that the truths in the material world of nature, science, human relations, and behaviors does not ultimately conflict with Scriptural truths, but rather confirms (and is confirmed by) Scripture.
But if God has spoken through the natural world in what is often called general or natural revelation, then that means that truth discovered in this realm is just as important as theological knowledge or the truths found in Scripture. While truths discovered through nature and reason may not be able to tell us about God and how we should relate to Him, hence the reason that God provided knowledge of Himself through Scripture and preeminently in His own incarnation through Jesus Christ, the fact that God created the world in an orderly and knowable fashion implies that He meant for us to discover the delights of the universe and delight in such truth.
So we can be assured that not only has God revealed knowledge of Himself through Scripture, but as the Creator of everything in existence we can also affirm that all truth about the natural world comes from Him as well. All truth is God’s Truth, whether it be found in the natural or social sciences, in business and economics, or the arts and humanities. Therefore, apparent contradictions between Scripture and reason need not be occasions for a crisis of faith as we can rest in the knowledge that there is a consistency between Scripture and the natural world, even if such reconciliation takes some time and intellectual work.
Scripture itself provides an account for the origin of such apparent inconsistencies when it describes the fall of humans from their proper relationship with God. We have sought to go our own way and the result has been that our cognitive faculties have been impacted as well. We are not always able to discern truth from falsehood without the grace of God and the general activity of the Holy Spirit to keep humankind from completely abandoning reason altogether. Therefore, our understanding of different areas of life and academic disciplines can be subject to false theories and interpretations.
However, as I began to grow in the idea that all truth is God’s Truth and that knowledge from the natural world is just as important as the knowledge that God gave to us through His Word, I started to become convinced that a life engaged in pursuing truth in business and other disciplines can be just as fulfilling as studying truth from God’s Word. In fact, as we interact with ideas in different disciplines through the lens of a biblical framework, not only does Scripture provide a redeemed perspective of that discipline, it also transforms our understanding of Scripture and human flourishing.
Let me give you one example from my own academic area of study of business and economics. We all know that the purpose of business is to make profit, right? That is a common theory in business: the main reason for the existence of business is to create jobs and return a profit. As Jeff Van Duzer, author of Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be Fixed) summarizes, “In most business schools today and in most corporations…the sole legitimate purpose of business is said to be maximizing profits for the sake of the shareholders”.2 This perspective of the purpose of business is very utilitarian. I suggest it stems from a Darwinian perspective of survival of the fittest in which businesses with the most money continue to survive, and to some extent, this is the way businesses work. Receiving a return on investment is critical for the survival of businesses. But as is noted in an article Van Duzer cites from: “To turn shareholders’ needs into a purpose is to be guilty of logical confusion, to mistake a necessary condition for a sufficient one.”3
In the book an alternative view is presented in that “as stewards of God’s creation, business leaders should manage their businesses (1) to provide the community with goods and services that will enable it to flourish, and (2) to provide opportunities for meaningful work that will allow employees to express their God-given creativity”.4 This is a subtle difference. Profit is still necessary, but it is not the end goal, the telos, of business. Rather, helping communities to flourish by meeting tangible needs and providing meaningful work is the primary goal. Not only is this approach more Scriptural in that it views the person, creation, and institutions more holistically, it also impacts our theology. God is not separate from our work and, in fact, our work is to be a means of being co-laborers with God as we work to create a more flourishing society and culture. This doesn’t always happen, but that is why we need a view of business that lifts it up above the mud and mire of greedy and corrupt business-men and women.
So what does this have to do with my not going to seminary? Well, it began to occur to me that I don’t have to go to seminary to learn truth. Of course, we need those who will expound on the truths found in Scripture. But we also need those who have the vision of applying those truths to the rest of life as well. If we fail to do so, we will continue to live with a dichotomous view of truth that bifurcates reason and belief, and of reality which splits into sacred and secular.
When I came upon the opportunity to go to seminary, I had already graduated with an undergraduate degree in business. Although seminary appealed to me and my love of learning theological truths, I could not envision a life beyond that. Neither the role of pastor or pastoral counselor or urban ministry leader or what-have-you was something I felt called to do. Rather, the challenge of living out my faith in the everyday working world alongside those who do and do not hold my view of the world held more promise and excitement for me than feeling segregated among those who more or less think the same way I do, aside from debating the finer points of theology. I do not wish to minimize the role of those called to full-time ministry. We need such people to follow their own callings. But I was able to discern, however subtly, that such was not my path, making it no less a calling from God.
1 I couldn’t remember where the statement, “All truth is God’s Truth”, came from. I thought it was from the late Reformed theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer as it seemed similar to the following quote from him which was used by Nancy Pearcey as the epigraph to her book: “Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural, but rather truth spelled with a capital ‘T.’ Truth is about total reality, not just about religious things” Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2004), p. 15. After doing a quick online search, I discovered it is either a direct quotation or a summary of Augustine of Hippo, one of the greatest thinkers in Christian thought. I also discovered a number of web pages that are critical of the statement, which came as a surprise to me, but from what I read their criticisms seemed to be aimed more at the way in which the quote is appropriated by some Christians to justify adherence to theories or beliefs they disagree with rather than take issue with the idea that God is the source and origin of all truth.
2 Jeff Van Duzer, Why Business Matters to God (And What Still Needs to be Fixed) (Downers Grove, IVP Academic, 2010), p. 45.
3 Charles Handy, “What’s a Business For?” Harvard Business Review 80, no. 12 (2002): 51, cited in ibid., p. 46.
4 Ibid., p. 42.