Freedom exists for some other purpose than itself, as Solzhenitsyn knew. I can make no better criticisms of America’s view of freedom.
No one can understand and fight for freedom without knowing something of what freedom is for; as it is, people think they have freedom when, in their quest for “freedom” (with the wrong purpose or no purpose), have given it up to be slaves, slaves to the tyranny of sin and ignorance and irrational suppression of discourse. But of course, this has happened all the time since the Fall.
What’s unfortunate on top of that is that many of them that profess spiritual freedom care nothing for cultivating a freedom of the mind by the very thing that should aid it: learning. Instead, they often enslave themselves and their children by pushing to use a sheet of paper for whatever the world does: advancement in a career. The purpose of a job isn’t just food on the table or even opportunities for evangelism. If it were just those two things, prostitution would be a legitimate profession.
Making a living and having opportunities to share the gospel are very important things. But imagine an unbeliever who may respect people who proclaim what they reasonably believe is an important truth and recognize that all people eventually have responsibilities to support themselves financially or raise a family. To him, this nevertheless looks like a hijacking of the university: that Christians come in, make no new contribution to the learning of truth, and leave. I may agree with the two goals above being worth thinking about, but I must admit that it does look very bad to focus on these two alone, and for good reason.
There must, then, be something else that justifies the existence of the university before the almighty God. If it’s just to be a hurdle to employment, we can make other hurdles. If it’s just to be a place to share the gospel, any place can serve that purpose, and we’re at the university because it exists: that might be fine, but why spend the money (yours or someone else’s) and the time it takes to be a student?
“Priorities: God over school”
Or instead people will “focus on their walk”. Since when, may I ask, is education separate from spirituality? If anyone thinks mind can be separated from spirit, let him take that case to God, for he will fail miserably: “It matters not what I did, because my intentions were good, and You look at the heart.” And who said the only part of the heart was our vague desires?
No, the same person who has a spirit has also a mind and a body. If the spirit were autonomous, and if God wanted just the spirit, He would not have inspired St. Paul to write,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12.1–2)
Spirituality versus study is a false distinction. What instead we’re talking about is preparing for a political economy midterm versus praying during a given time, or going to small group to be edified and to edify versus practising differential equations during a given time, or engaging with John Locke’s ideas on government (and weighing it by the measure of God’s word) versus singing verbal praises to God during a given time.
Deciding which one to give some time to is not about striking a realistic balance on how much to give to God, nor is it strictly about the spiritual and the unspiritual. If you can’t learn academic things as a spiritual activity, or if you can’t milk a cow as a spiritual activity, there’s nothing wrong with academics or cow-milking: the problem is that you can’t do it and have to learn how to do it. Sure, we can be distracted or seduced into idolatry, but eating a filet mignon can be a gluttinous act of idolatry or a worshipful act of praise to God.
There must be so much more that we’re missing about learning as an act of worship, and what biblically is the appropriate time and manner for it. Well, what do we know about it, and what can we learn about what God thinks of learning?