|Open Wide the Windows of Knowing|
|by T. M. Moore|
|July 17, 2012|
All true and complete knowledge is knowledge of God.
The importance of knowing how we know (12)
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…2 Corinthians 10:5
True and complete knowledge
All true and complete knowledge is knowledge of God.
That’s not to say that there is no knowledge at all apart from the knowledge of God. Rather, knowing God brings all knowing to a state of completion unattainable apart from it.
Human beings may know plenty of things without attaining the knowledge of God. For example, anyone could identify items in Andrew Wyeth’s painting, “The Big Room.” This is a familiar theme – a fireplace, with objects on the mantle; light streaming through windows on each side; a pedestal table with fresh apples in the foreground.
Anyone looking at this painting can recognize such features and describe them accurately. We can “know” what this painting consists of and probably make a stab at understanding the overarching theme or message Wyeth intended.
But unless we understand more about Andrew Wyeth and his relationship with his father, we can never fully appreciate “The Big Room.” Our knowledge of this important painting, while true, as far as it goes, can only become truer once we understand the deep sense of loss Wyeth experienced at his father’s sudden death in a train accident.
All knowing is like this. We now know, to cite another example, that the Higgs boson is the reason why particles have mass. Our knowledge about this elusive “God particle” is becoming clearer as a result of its having been definitively identified by the physicists at CERN in Switzerland. And physicists are still hoping to gain an even better understanding – a truer understanding – of the Higgs’ role in relation to other primary forces of the universe.
But our understanding of the arts and our knowledge of the standard model of physics, true as they may be, will not begin to approach completeness until we describe their place in the larger divine economy, as means and witnesses to the knowledge of God Himself. As we have seen, all true knowledge only becomes complete as it finds its meaning in the wisdom and knowledge of God embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ.
And this is true for every field of study and every type of knowledge. We can know truly; of that there is no doubt, whether in the arts or sciences or in any knowledge arena. But we can only know completely – and thus even more truly – as we know and use our knowledge in relation to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
And this suggests two things about our approach to knowing: First, all fields and ways of knowing are able to enrich our understanding of God, Christ, and the gift of eternal life. And second, growing in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ can only enhance and improve our all our knowing, no matter the field or arena of knowing, or the ends to which we hope to put them.
So how can we pursue both of those objectives in a quest to know truly and completely in every area and by every means of knowing?
All knowing is theology
If all knowing is indeed a path to the knowledge of God, then it follows that all study should be undertaken with a view to “learning” God as part of the journey. In a very real sense, therefore, all study and learning is a form of theology, a means whereby we may, through discipline and focus, expect to increase in the knowledge of God and His glory. John Calvin, for one, explained the importance of a liberal approach to learning if we hope to gain insight to the divine Being and will:
“In attestation of his wondrous wisdom, both the heavens and the earth present us with innumerable proofs, not only those more recondite proofs which astronomy, medicine, and all the natural sciences, are designed to illustrate, but proofs which force themselves on the notice of the most illiterate peasant, who cannot open his eyes without noticing them. It is true, indeed, that those who are more or less intimately acquainted with those liberal studies are thereby assisted and enabled to obtain a deeper insight into the secret workings of divine wisdom.”[i]
Over the centuries knowers working in various arenas have defined distinct but overlapping theological disciplines. Each of these provides a unique perspective or window on the knowledge of God. The more we are able to seek the knowledge of God through all these various windows, the truer and more complete our knowledge of Him will be. These “windows of glory” frame out all the various disciplines and fields of study whereby we may increase in knowledge, and in the knowledge of God specifically.
What are these “windows of glory”? They are six, which I will summarize here:
Biblical theology: The studies in this area help us to become familiar with the character, message, and themes of the Bible. They include all the disciplines related to interpreting the Bible as the Word of God.
Creational theology: Studies in this area engage us regularly in seeking the Lord through creation and culture. Here are include all the various disciplines of the arts and sciences.
Historical theology: Church history, Christian biography, the history of Christian doctrine and culture, and other kinds of historical studies help us to see how God has made Himself known to and through His people in the past, as well in various movements, people, events, and episodes in the historical record.
Systematic theology: This discipline asks questions of Scripture, then searches the Scriptures under the tutelage of the Spirit to discover God’s instruction (doctrine) about a wide range of topics.
Practical theology: These are the disciplines through which, by our active engagement in works of ministry, we meet God going with us to will and do through us that which finds favor in His sight.
Spiritual theology: Study in this area employs the means and disciplines of grace God has provided – prayer, meditation, worship, fasting, and so forth – in order to bring us more directly and consistently into participation with God Himself and His glory.
By taking up the pursuit of God within the frame of each of these windows, in a consistent and disciplined manner, we may expect to gain fuller exposure to the Lord’s self-revelation and to grow with greater balance, joy, and assurance in knowing Him.
Because the fields of study are so varied and vast, these “windows of glory” remind us both of the immensity of the Object of our study – God Himself – and the importance of a community of learners working together to harmonize their specialties for true and more complete knowledge of God.
All fields of study become truer and more complete as they pursue the knowledge of God and His glory. Conversely, as we grow in the knowledge of God our ability to make the best use of all fields and means of knowing can only be improved.
Again, this is not to say that only Christians can have true knowledge, or that “mature” Christians can have true knowledge in some discipline of study than a more disciplined unbeliever.
It simply makes sense that increasing in the knowledge of God should equip us for greater insight and consistency in “learning” the Lord in whatever field of study we may undertake. Once one knows something about Andrew Wyeth, his background and upbringing, and his love for the Brandywine Valley, all his paintings simply make more sense; their meanings become clearer in the light of a better understanding of the Brandywine’s most celebrated artist.
So it is with all knowing. All true knowledge drives us toward knowing God. Christians should be enthusiastic supporters of study and research in all areas and disciplines and by all the various means of knowing we have discussed in this series.
Even more, Christians should be active participants in the disciplined pursuit of the knowledge of God in as many fields and through as many windows of glory as each of us can accommodate within our own available time. Since the knowledge of God is the sum and substance of eternal life, we who possess that unspeakable gift should be working hard to make the most of it, “working out” our salvation in fear and trembling through the disciplined pursuit of the knowledge of God by every available means (Phil. 2:12).
[i] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, tr. By Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1953), I.v.2, Vol. I, p. 51.