Biblical Perspectives on Academic Research – Some Brief Notes

Biblical Perspectives on Academic Research – Some Brief Notes
Dr David Twiss (Medical Physicist, retired)

These notes comprise a brief overview of Scripture which is not intended to be comprehensive or conclusive.  Taken together with the appended comments, it is hoped that they provide some initial guidance on the perspective which the Bible takes on knowledge and wisdom as they ought to be applied, not only to academic life, but also to the whole life pattern of the Christian.

Phil 4.8   Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
        –For the Christian academic the moral standards by which all work is done should be in line with Paul’s guidance – too many excellent qualities to list again, but clear and self-explanatory in the original context.

James 3.13-15   Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
        –Any wisdom that we may have in the academic life should lead the Christian academic to acknowledge his humility before the Lord.  There is no place for selfish “one-upmanship” over a fellow academic. In fact, such attitudes lead us away from the Lord.

1 Peter 2.12   Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
        –As we live in the world, both at work and also at leisure, Christians exist in an environment which generally gives little or no thought to Christian or even spiritual things.  It is therefore vital that the Christian academic tries to live by standards which assert the need for him to act in a more Christ-like way and to make this way plain to those around him.

Jer. 9.23-24   This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, ” declares the Lord.
        –For the Christian academic, knowledge of the Lord ought to be at least as important as the academic knowledge which is possessed.  That spiritual knowledge should say a great deal to the academic about how he conducts his life and his work.

Ecc. 4.4-6   And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour.  This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. The fool folds his hands and ruins himself.  Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
        –Our motives for being involved in the academic life should always challenge us.  Are we undertaking our work for a meaningful purpose or is it work only for a nebulous pursuit of knowledge?

Ecc. 7.11-12   Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.  Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.
        –There is nothing inherently wrong in pursuing knowledge through the academic life.  But does that pursuit make a contribution, however small it may be, to the benefit of mankind, or is it merely a means of paying the bills?

Ecc. 8.1   Who is like a wise man?  Who knows the explanation of things?  Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.
        –For the Christian, the academic life ought to make us feel comfortable with ourselves, as well as encouraging us in the pursuit of knowledge.

Ecc. 9.17-18   The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded that the shouts of a ruler of fools.  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
        –There is no place for taking an aggressive stance about the merits of our work if we are Christian.  Far better that the quality of the work we have done should speak for itself.

Ecc. 12.9-10   Not only was the teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.  The teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
        –The work that the Christian academic does should involve not only passing on knowledge, but also the greatest care in searching out and understanding that knowledge for himself in preparation for the task.