Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning in the Crossfire

In the Shadow of the Big One (WWII) the esteemed scholar C. S. Lewis penned Learning in War-Time. This brief essay was written to encourage university students who were not risking their lives in the war effort. He knew that they felt insignificant and cowardly while their friends and loved ones fought and died. How can we continue to take an interest in the academy, he asked, when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance? But Lewis realized that this was not just a question for war-time. It is an “all the times” question for the Christian. How can we study when at every moment lives are in the balance—eternal destinies—and we are studying literature or art or mathematics or sociology? Is academic work still important in the face of such national and eschatological realities? Or is it simply frivolous or selfish to invest in learning?

Evidently you have decided no—it is not frivolous. But is it a resounding NO? Do you really cherish learning, and does God? I am convinced that God made us to learn, and that our learning was to be connected somehow to God’s glory. Lewis argues that human culture has always existed under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself, and that there is no life apart from culture. In other words, we were made to invest in culture, but always with our eyes set on something beyond that culture.

Culture is our game, the human assignment. And academic culture is the special opportunity and challenge for college students. Faithful work on campus will be a battle, to be sure. Christian students are to be waging war with ideologies and intellectual lies (2 Corinthians 10:5)! The university is no place for cowards, and the work done on campus is far from insignificant. Fortunately, much of the time our work won’t feel like a battle. It will feel like we are doing the very thing that we were made for—loving the Lord our God with all of heart and soul and mind and strength.

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