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Monday, October 07, 2013

Life-long Learning "Under Heaven"

I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about learning and the Christian worldview. Past blog posts have considered the difference between learning “under the sun” and learning “under heaven” as explored by wise King Solomon. We now he did not turn out so well in the end because of compromised worldview. Is it possible to learn, to pursue education, to grow in wisdom in the context of the world in which we live?

Long after Solomon’s golden age ended and the kingdom was divided, we read in the historical literature that Israel was carried away in Babylonian captivity. Caught up in the capture were some notable young men that receive this assessment of their captors:

And in every manner of wisdom and understanding about which the king [Nebuchadnezzar] inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20).

Consider the situation: these young men were uprooted from their homeland and transplanted. Their integrity remained intact because God upheld their integrity. It is not difficult to imagine how they may have encouraged one another with scripture like Psalm 26. Their new teachers could only provide them a platform for deeper learning as they pursued education on their own.

While the culture tried to redefine them (as seen in giving them new names--interesting that we refer to them not in their native names, but their Babylonian names, except for Daniel) they used the culture for the glory of God. The young men learned the language, read the literature, familiarized themselves with the culture, learned court-protocol and with that learning, they served the true and living God, who upheld their integrity. The studied and worked from God’s perspective. Daniel and his friends graduated top of the class because they were open-minded in truth. The model excellent discipleship in their diligent application of what they learned “under heaven.”

There seems to be an unspoken rule that once one finishes high school, one is no longer required to learn. Some do press on to college, but often the same attitude surfaces again--learning may now cease. Perhaps there is the notion that learning = tuition. This is not the case at all. We are made to be life-long learners. It is impossible to stop learning; however, it is possible to be selective in learning, which in turn proves where excellence lies--”under the sun”-- in the realm of vanity, useless wisdom.

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