Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Sanctification of Your Studies

It is all too common in this modern age for there to be a separation between theological studies and all others studies, especially the sciences. Even in our studies of theology, whether it be a casual reading of the Bible or in depth exegesis, we approach "it" much as a forensic scientist, a morgue technician or a medical student approaches a dead body. Our study of God is reduced to the study of yet another subject or specimen. Our purpose, therefore, becomes to understand as opposed to knowing. The forensic scientist does not know the subject on the cold steel table. He or she does not know their favorite color, what gives them joy or what makes them sad. To them the subject need not be alive because their interest in them is only to understand scientific facts about their physiology and anatomy.

Is this the way you approach God? Is He just another subject for you to understand, a specimen to dissect to prove to others and yourself that you "know" God? The "study" of God is not a study of a cadaver. Have you not heard?

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalms 42:2)

Our God is a living God and so is His Word.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

God is more alive than you and I have been or ever will be. We find our life in Him as does all of creation. If this is so, then both our "study" of God Himself and of His creation are like getting to know ones own father or a dear friend. Does anyone study their friends or dearest loved ones as a mere subject to be well versed in? More importantly do you want people to know simple facts about you or to really truly know you? If a book were written about you, and someone read it would you consider it to be acceptable for them to say they know you? I don't think so.

If creation finds its life in God, then a study of creation is a study of God as well. All of creation tells us something unique about the Artist who created it. The Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) says this about the study of God and His creation in "The Reformed Pastor":

"It is the work of Christ to bring us back to God, and to restore us to the perfection of holiness and obedience; and as he is the way to the Father, so faith in him is the way to our former employment and enjoyment of God. I hope you perceive what I aim at in all this, namely, that to see God in his creatures, and to love him, and converse with him, was the employment of man in his upright state; that this is so far from ceasing to be our duty, that it is the work of Christ to bring us, by faith, back to it; and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of God's works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them. 'His works are great, sought of all them that have pleasure therein;' but not for ourselves, but for him that made them. Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works--this is true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object and the life of them all."

If at first we come to know God through His Word and Spirit, and truly come to "admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God" then we will also come to adore the great works of His hands, as though creation were another book of His. Are physics and other sciences so separate a study from theology if they are in essence a study of God Himself? Baxter thinks not.

"Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies. Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature must be read as one of God's books, which is purposely written for the revelation of himself."

So in summary, first, do not approach the "study" of God as the forensic scientist does his most recent dead body or as mere facts. To "study" God is to come into a deeper friendship and enjoyment of God Himself. Approach your reading of the Bible and theological studies prayerfully asking God that you might come to better known, adore and delight in Him.

Secondly and lastly, do not see the study of created things, whether it be physics, metaphysics, mathematics or anything else as a study separate from your getting to know and worship God more correctly. Come to your studies prayerfully asking God that you might better know, adore and delight in Him just as you do in your studies of His Word. As you do this you will come to see and know God in all things. You will see Him as the all in all, and your observations and enjoyment of the world around you will serve to deepen your relationship with God rather than distract from it. Satan will loose one of his greatest tools in this modern, busy world--the power of distraction. The world is God's and everything in it. Sanctify your studies.

~Quotes from "The Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter; Banner of Truth Trust, pg. 58-59.