Academics and Faith

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It is that time of year when most college students are cramming for exams and submitting final papers. I remember secretly enjoying this final push at the end of a semester. There was something deeply satisfying about having such a clear purpose and putting so much work and energy into my academics.

As good as reading and writing and learning can be, I do remember a time during my Sophomore year of college, when my faith was extremely shaken by the content of my academic pursuits. 

I was a religion major in college and so my studies focused on all sorts of interesting ideas about Bible and theology and religion in general.

As I read works by Rudolf Bultmann, Albert Schweitzer, Friedrich Schleiermacher, William Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and many other old dead German guys (and even some who weren't German or dead), I began to feel as if my personal faith life was being attacked from all sides.  What was I possibly supposed to believe?  Here are people 10,000 times smarter than I’ll ever be, committing their lives to studying religion, reconstructing the historical Jesus, redefining what it means to pray from a theological standpoint etc. etc.  And here I am, reading all of this stuff, struggling with what to make of it all. 

But then a mentor pointed out a short little Bible verse that actually helped me hold all of these ideas AND my faith together: 

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” (Hebrews 11:1 taken from The Message)

I had a sort of revelation after reading this passage.  I thought about some of the great figures in the Bible, and I realized something: Moses, Joshua, Abraham, the Disciples, Paul, John the Baptist, none of these guys ever thought their way to God.  God came to them, and they faithfully responded.  

I might not know much, but I do know that no matter how hard I try to think and reason and research, I will never be able to grasp God.  God is infinite and so far beyond my comprehension.  Through my life experiences God has been revealed to me again and again, God has come to me in worship through song and sermon, bread and wine.

The academic stuff can enrich my life, but my relationship with God is about far more than academics.   It is my faith, not my brain (thanks be to God) that matters.  Life is worth living not because I've figured everything out, but because God extends grace to me again and again and again.   

Gracious God, may we all be enriched by our academic pursuits, but may we ultimately find faith and purpose in your love and grace.   Amen. 

Nate Preisinger