Bernard of Clairvaux is reputed to have said,
There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity.
There are others who desire to know in order that they may be known: that is vanity.
Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonourable.
But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is love.
It is vital for the life of the church to have people who love the church through a ministry of the mind,a ministry of thinking, in order to enable the church to deal with the issues of the day. And writing for journals such as Crucible is a part of that important ministry.
I think that few people, at least in Australia, would claim the title of “Christian intellectual” but, in reality, many should. All those trained in theology and ministry, who have spent years in tertiary education learning to think theologically ought to be willing to see at least a part of their ministry as being that of thinking. Whether it is their first priority or not they ought to have an element of the Christian intellectual about them.
One problem with this is that other ministries of service and caring are taken as pointing towards the humility and self-sacrificing nature of the minister—these are qualities that are much valued—while any admission of an interest in intellectual thought is likely to be seen as pointing towards either a sense of superiority or a degree of irrelevance. There should be nothing further from the truth. Although Bernard’s assessment of the situation does allow that some seek knowledge for less than perfect motives he also reminds us of the importance of the ministry of thought for the overall state of the church.
In Habits of Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2000), James Sire provides a reminder of the characteristics of a Christian intellectual. He or she thinks broadly, loves ideas, speaks the truth, builds other up and lives the truth. Unfortunately, this is not easy. Many things militate against it, including the expectations of members, the requirements of the programs of our churches and the broader pressures of our times. There is a constant cultural pressure
to focus on pragmatics rather than principles,
* to be practical rather than philosophical, and
* to deal with personal rather than public issues.
Writing for, and reading journals such as Crucible will stimulate and strengthen the mind and build up the church. It is an essential part of Christian ministry that involves understanding the nature of truth for today. And, as Paul says, in “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Crucible invites those who wish to strengthen the church through the ministry of thought to join those who have contributed to this, and previous, editions of Crucible by sharing the results of their ministry of thought.
And we invite everyone to read the articles presented here with a desire to learn, in order to be able to build up the church for the sake of Jesus Christ.