Monday, 7 October 2013

Mission of the Mind

I have recently started as a voluntary student chaplain at King’s College London, and I have been struck by the College motto Sancte et Sapienter – ‘with holiness and wisdom’.

The writer of the book of Job says, ‘But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living. Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? God understands the way to it, and he knows its place… “Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”’ (Job 28). Or as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 2, ‘we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory… And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things for those who are spiritual.’

It seems to me that too often in church life we have separated holiness from wisdom. We have come to distrust the insights of the mind. I can remember being told by one faithful church elder, as I went to read Biblical Studies at university, that such an endeavour would ‘be the end of my faith’. There remain many who distrust the ‘educated clergy’. From generic anti-intellectualism, to the wilful denial of scientific insight, all too often we have bought into a false logic which claims: Belief in God is an act of faith; faith defies logic and science; therefore logic and science are incompatible with belief in God.

An overly-literal reading of the Bible (based on the misunderstanding that for something to be the ‘word of God’ it must be ‘literally true’, as if God were incapable of inspiring poetry, metaphor, or analogy) has led to the creation of a ‘Christian’ world-view which is over-and-against the best insights of the human mind. No wonder the new-atheists find us such easy targets. No wonder many sane, sensible, and questioning people run a mile to get away from us.

My point is this: God gives us our minds, inspires our intellects, and invites us to pursue wisdom; something which is, at its purest, a holy discipline. Holiness and wisdom, together – this is where true wisdom is to be found.

‘Mission of the Mind’ is the theme of Catalyst Live, a day of engaging speakers from the worlds of apologetics, theology, science and culture, organised by BMS World Mission. To book tickets for Manchester (27 November) or Reading (28 November) go to

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