God’s Glory in All Things, Secular or Sacred

“I express my Christian faith in scholarship by taking very seriously the Lord’s commandment to love him with all my heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Through my research and other scholarly activities I learn more about the wonderful intricacies of the Creation. Such discovery leads me to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Creator and for his presence in the world. Thus, I see my scholarship as an act of worship to the Creator and King. Just as an artist is honored when someone admires her masterpiece, so too our Lord is worshipped when we carefully and respectfully examine his Creation.”

Curtis Blankenspoor, Biology Professor, Calvin College

While I’m not a scientist or college professor (at least not right now, but it may be a possible door opened later!), I agree with him wholeheartedly. Blankenspoor, like all Christian brothers and sisters in science (and academia overall), here manifests the first Great Commandment to love the Lord with your heart, soul, and mind here (and in this case, the mind stands out).  My love for the Lord and His creation motivates me to seek His presence therein, and if the Lord leads me to a scholarly or otherwise professional career in the sciences, this may add a special dimension to that understanding.  If not, at least there is plenty of quality material in books, the Internet, etc., concerning such topics, wherein the glory of God can be found.

And this applies to all fields, not only the “hard” sciences that I tend to relish most.  Politics, geography, history, sociology, and other social sciences can also show God manifest in the details.  It equally applies to non-academic areas as well, like one’s lifework (which often draws on academic knowledge), parenting, and hobbies.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31, ESV, emphasis added).

Every area of life, even the most mundane things like eating and drinking (which in themselves, are manifestations of God’s glory, in their taste and nourishment) can be acts of worship in themselves.  In the final analysis, worship is more than a pious activity on Sunday mornings, but a godly attitude for the entire week.  This attitude quenches the “Ecclesiastes enigma” that may be suffered when you don’t truly adore and obey God Almighty.

Now that that’s out of the way (yet persistently always there!), let’s dig in!

Taking Bible Studies to Other Forms

Sometimes it’s very easy to have excessive allegiance to a mundane endeavor, and lose focus on God.  Being the bookworm I am, sometimes the topics I read can cause a big drift from the appreciation of the omnipresent (yet transcendent) pervasiveness of God and his mark on everything that is created.  Let’s turn to our old friend Ecclesiastes, a book with some irony, inasmuch as Solomon was very godly yet had so many burdens, but he explained all things in a “twisted” – yet God-inspired perspective.  Without further ado, let’s turn to Eccl 12:12 (ESV).

My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Wow!  Consider these three truisms!  Let’s delve into them.

  1.  We are to use good, critical judgement in our choices of reading and study, save perhaps Scripture (which all Christians are expected to read).  Obviously, because of the brevity of life (cf. Ps 90), it may not be worth your time to bother with certain subjects, whether because they are not interesting to you, or may present a poor influence.  Most of my scientific interest is in biology.  Therefore, most of my in-depth study, whether scholastic or personal, would lean to that.  In short, both quantity and quality are important in your nonfictional investigations.

2.  In Solomon’s time, books were handwritten and therefore arduous to write, centuries later we have Gutenberg’s printing press, and now we have not only books but Kindles and Nooks, websites (including this very blog you are reading), and all different sources.  Information can now be conveyed by photos, diagrams, video, audio, animations, etc.; in other words, “multimedia.”  Of course, technology moves on and some things are nearly extinct, such as library card catalogs.  Nonetheless, there is an explosion of information in the 20th and 21st centuries, and books (and all their modern kin) will flourish.  Rumor has it that books (as they are typically conceived) will have their own demise sooner or later.  As for Scripture, no problem; since its durability is in heaven (and not earth), it will follow the technology.

3.  Remember, like all things, study should be done in moderation.  In excess, you may become obsessed with retaining the entire coverage of the material read (or at least its majority), often to a sharper level of detail than needed.  Conversely, if your focus is on concepts and understanding, then you can more easily move on to other topics.  Keep in mind that true learning is reflected not in testing your memory, but in candid, spontaneous moments when something is applied or mentioned — and you know what they are talking about.

Two Tidbits of Advice

  1.  For most of you, I tend to recommend popular level books and websites (and yes, the popular press is a spectrum of various complexities).  I don’t typically recommend getting a true collegiate textbook unless you seriously want to pay its high price with the assurance you are poised that you will understand it.  After all, they’re meant for scholastic use, and they can often bring up questions, which can only be brought up duly with a professor that teaches such a class.
  2.  As long as it’s private, maybe a quick prayer can help you appreciate God’s work and wisdom in areas studied more thoroughly.  Remembering God’s omniscience (knowing all things, which we take a share of, or at least an approximation of such), omnipotence (his creation of the world by whatever method and sustenance of such), and omnipresence (pervading the cosmos through and through) should really power your endeavors to be God-glorifying.

In faith, make the Lord a “heavenly study buddy.”

A “Philabundance” of My Volunteering

Various poses at the Philabundance Food Bank at 3rd & Berks Sts. in North Philadelphia.  (Even the bottom right picture is a pose, soon after I was actually working in a clerical manner as depicted.)

Philabundance, a charity feeding hungry residents of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, got a, yes, “abundance” of my help.  My staff and I volunteered there today.  Yes, it’s (volunteer) work, and indeed spent half a workday’s worth (4 hours).  But it was quite fun, and indeed as calisthenic as it was charitable (I was even sweating, and it’s December!)  I also verified the different counts of items donated by different agencies (e.g., churches, community organizations).  Believe it or not, the majority of potential sources were slated for my assigned work, along with a few slots given to other volunteers.  Yet due to the time allotted I did not come even close.  But again, quality over quantity.

One source of items, by the way, the Quakertown Food Pantry in Quakertown, PA, where I lived for six years, typically only allowed probationers and parolees to contribute as a form of court-ordered community service.  Philabundance, on the other hand, is very much about volunteering.  It involves the heart (and even the mind), not a mandate by a third party (i.e., a judge or PO).  Volunteering after all, is meant to be voluntary.  And hence joyous.  Especially as we are in the holiday season now.  And it may look good on a future resume!

The following blog post will have an analysis on whether a given part (and hence the milieu) of a given building is public or not.  Visit the website of this great way to feed your community at philabundance.org, or look for a parallel organization if you do not live in the Philadelphia metro area.

Keep your pantry (Phil)abundant!  If you can’t, we’re here for you!

Putting the “Science” in Political Science

Diffusion (and its analog concerning water, osmosis).  Electric potential (aka “voltage”).  Heat.  Gravity.  Air pressure.  Without going into details, all physical and chemical phenomena these concern a high-to-low gradient of different entities to achieve equilibrium.  A concentrated fluid will make osmotic balance by the flow of water from the less “concentrated” (but richer in water) to the more dehydrated (and therefore more “concentrated” side).  Voltage dissipates from differences in positive and negative charges (thus giving us electric current).  Hot water poured into cold water will become lukewarm, since the temperature gradient has evened out.  Air pressure differences cause wind.  And of course, the higher something is above the ground, the sharper gravity’s effects will be.

This logic can be applied to politics in a similar way.  There’s the so-called “1%”  (the billionaires and multimillionaires) and the other “99%,” which includes everyone else.  Most likely you and me.

I am not technically endorsing any candidate, but Bernie Sanders definitely has a plan that should cause an “equilibrium” in politics.  By building a middle class, which could be whatever of proportions you could conceive, at the very least two quarters of rich and poor and half in the middle class.  More desirably, you can have lesser proportions of super-rich and super-poor and make a broader middle class (i.e., over half).  Now isn’t that wonderful?

If politics and religion are the titans of hush-hush thought, and religion already has plenty of its own tension with science, well, now I have an analogy that could be as provocative as it is pleasant.