Monday, March 31, 2014

A model Christian scholar: Nicholas Wolterstorff.

I recently read two short and helpful articles by Nicholas Wolterstorff.

The Grace That Shaped My Life is a short autobiography. Several things stood out to me.

First, the influence of his childhood in a Dutch Reformed community: characterised by simplicity, sobriety, and measure.

Second, the influence of Abraham Kuyper and his Reformed view of life and scholarship.
"The scope of divine redemption is not just the saving of lost souls but the renewal of life - and even more than that: the renewal of all creation. Redemption is for flourishing".

Third, his introduction to justice as "one of the fundamental categories through which I view the world." This occurred through encounters with Palestinian Christians and black South African pastor Allan Boesak.

Fourth, through the grief of the tragic death of his son he came to understand the suffering love of God.

 The second article is a brief address he gave marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. He addresses the distinctives of true Christian scholarship: a love of learning and understanding. The following paragraph summarises the main idea.
The orientation that I have all-too-briefly been describing, of meditating with awed and reverential delight on God's works of creation and redemption, seeking to discern the wisdom embodied therein, has virtually disappeared from the modern world, rejected by secularists, neglected by Christians who have turned it into one among other religious beliefs that they hold. So I invite you to do some imagining. Imagine that we have recovered this vision, and that for us it truly is an orientation toward reality rather than one religious belief among others. Then we would see it as the point of the natural and human sciences not just to produce theoretical constructs worthy of admiration but to enhance our understanding. And we would regard the object of our understanding not as something just there but as a work of God, infused with divine wisdom. Love of learning, so understood, would lead us to reverence these works of divine wisdom and to praise their maker, some of whose wisdom we had now glimpsed. Cell biology of the past fifty years is an extraordinary scientific construct--admirable both for its intrinsic worth and for its technological utility. But more than that, it has revealed to us some of the astounding intricacy of the divine wisdom embedded in creation.
Following a challenge from Terry Halliday, it was this approach that inspired my last post Awe and wonder in the face of science. That is my first feeble attempt to take up this challenge.

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