The University of Basel was founded in 1460 with approval from the Pope. It originally offered studies in four areas – arts, medicine, law, and theology. The emergence of universities, like most education in the Western world, came from the church. There was a growing thirst for knowledge. Knowledge of God and his creation. Areas of study in today’s humanities can be traced back to the early studies in theology. They were rooted in the study of God.
Today, enrollment in the humanities like philosophy, history, language, arts, and culture – are on the decline. One large Christian university recently shut down its philosophy department. These subjects are considered to be rather useless when it comes to finding a job. Pragmatism in education is what seems to matter. Studying a topic for the purpose of understanding is not highly valued. This has consequences in the ‘real’ world.
Last week, I read about a kidney from a genetically altered pig that was transplanted into a patient who was brain dead. The researchers found that the transplanted organ functioned normally. The use of pig parts could help with a shortage of human organs such as hearts, lungs, and livers. Researchers cautioned that there remain more questions and a long series of medical regulations before this happens.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that’s an incredible discovery and I’m a big believer in scientific research that can help the improve quality of life for millions of people. This discovery and thousands of others happen every day. Just think, we are on the verge of self-driving cars and holiday packages in outer space. There seems to be no limit to the possibilities of what we can do.
But, should we do it? Is life all about pragmatism now? If it works, do it? What about the moral and ethical implications of some of the discoveries we are making? How are we as Christians to view and understand these developments? How do we, as a society, hold these discussions before decisions are implemented?
We are sadly lacking in people who can help us understand the moral and ethical implications of our new world. It’s just not practical to get a degree in that stuff. Better to go into business and make money. Even Christians seem to be uninterested in the theological implications. It’s not just in the scientific world either. Current cultural discussions on race, immigration, religious freedom, sexuality and, sexual identity are hampered by people who have no depth of understanding about the history or moral issues being discussed. Instead, conversations are driven by fear and stereotypes that lead to division and resentment.
The book of Proverbs makes a consistent and passionate plea for wisdom. Get wisdom, get understanding (4:4), Do not forsake wisdom, she will protect you (4:6), The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (4:7).
Knowledge we have. Information is not lacking. What do we do with this knowledge and all that information? That requires wisdom. My plea is that we should spend more time studying topics like theology, philosophy, and history. We need proper categories for our discussions and decisions. Young people should not be discouraged from getting a degree in these areas. A new generation of deep and godly thinkers is required to help us continue to engage with a world that is so fractured.