In Episode 5 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, Evan Koons asks about the purpose of knowledge, wondering whether it’s simply a means to greater levels of self-fulfillment, or if there’s something more. “Is knowledge just a tool that we use to leverage to get more stuff?” he asks.
On the contrary, as he goes on to learn, “knowledge is a gift, and like all gifts in God’s oikonomia, it points us outside of ourselves.” As we participate in the Economy of Wisdom — whether through education, research, or innovation — we have a remarkable opportunity to love greater and serve better, further uncovering the mysteries and abundance of God, and sharing the wonder of his glory with the world around us.
Economists continue to affirm the creative power of human collaboration in generating new ideas, innovations, and discoveries that on the whole have improved our quality life and created enormous opportunities. Why, then, do Christians so often forget the breadth and depth, the aim and end of this core feature? For indeed, when paired with the whole-life transformation found in the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, which includes the renewing of our minds, such collaboration takes a whole new shape. Christians have unique call and contribution to this area, so if we hope to spread life and abundance to those in need across all areas of society, materially, socially, spiritually, and otherwise, having a rightly aligned perspective on the basic purpose of knowledge is essential.
As with all episodes in the series, Evan concludes the episode in the form a letter, reflecting on the gift of wisdom that God has given us, and how it ought to be pursued and shared with others for the life of the world. The full letter is published at the FLOW blog and is excerpted below:
Certainly, knowledge helps us do more; but more importantly, it helps us be more. The grand abundance that God has sown into our being is a sign of his abundance, yes, but it also speaks of his desire for us, the development and flourishing of the human person.
And our knowledge also helps us to serve more people more fully, to steward our gifts more faithfully. Our God-given insights help us discover new medicines, new means to feed more people, better ways to care for the world. But the creation isn’t just a means to act; the creation itself means. It signifies. It speaks. Look into the world and you’ll find something of him who made it. As John tells us, the generating force of the universe, the LOGOS, the Word, from the very beginning was with God, and was God, and all things that were made were made through him. And as Paul tells us, by understanding the things that are made, we can clearly see the invisible things of God–his eternal power, his divinity, his humility. And then, when faced with his glory, when we remember our humility, when we learn to fear the Lord, this is the beginning of wisdom.
So let us not be afraid to plumb the depths of God’s mysteries in the world. Let us build institutions of education, of research, of exploration, in the full confidence that what we learn will not contradict our faith, but will speak of God’s abundant majesty and grace. Let us explore that we may be more, that we may serve more, that we may know and love God more–that we may wonder at his magnificence.