July 21, 2014

Wisdom for Life

Wisdom is not given to Christians merely for a few limited activities related to the church, but rather for every field of endeavour.

Wisdom comes from God.  Indeed the book of Proverbs teaches that not only is wisdom from God, it is basic to who he is – God is the ultimate paradigm of applied knowledge – wisdom is fundamental to his character and nature.  When we walk in wisdom we therefore imitate God.  God’s wisdom is associated specifically with creation in Scripture (Prov. 3 and 8), not just salvation.  The creation is not random, but ordered, planned and executed with perfect wisdom.  Certainly the depth of God’s wisdom is not fully comprehensible by us, but what is clearly taught in Scripture is the reality of creational ordinances – law and structure built into the fabric of God’s creation by a wisdom that we can discover.  This means we do not ‘invent’ and ‘make’ or ‘socially construct’ the meaning of reality, nor do we ‘develop new wisdom’ by self-realization, rather we discover it.  The marvel of the wisdom of God in Scripture is that we are able to share in the wisdom that made the world.  By wisdom, understanding and knowledge God created all things (Prov. 3:19-20).  Sin did not destroy God’s creation nor the wisdom and law manifest in it.  Rather, God subjected the creation to futility or a curse so that in redemption the creation could be restored and exalted by the wisdom of God, beginning with the regeneration of man’s heart (Rom. 8:19-31).

Scripture likewise reminds us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), not merely a ‘spiritual’ wisdom for a few limited activities related to the church.  He is the creative word and wisdom of God by whom all things were created (John 1:1ff; Col. 1).  As creator he has established normative principles of wisdom for every field of endeavor – aesthetic, mathematical, musical, scientific, linguistic, architectural, economic, medical, and so on.  As we walk in terms of God’s word and apply ourselves to wisdom we ‘discover’ how to apply knowledge in all these areas of life and gain understanding. 

God’s wisdom in Scripture is thus a unity, a comprehensive wisdom – the wisdom of creation is of the same source and nature as the wisdom bringing about re-creation.  This fact constitutes the eschatological dimension of wisdom in the Bible.  Proverbs 3:17 tells us wisdom is a “tree of life.”  From the context of this passage we recognise that this ‘tree of life’ alludes to the tree growing in Eden in Genesis and in the New Jerusalem in Revelation.  Thus the wisdom of God is eschatological.  God is re-creating and restoring (and elevating) all things in terms of this all- encompassing wisdom manifest in both creation and salvation.  Now, as his kingdom of priests, he fills us with his wisdom so that we participate with him in the reconciliation and restoration of all things to himself.

We should not therefore pit creation and re-creation against each other as some theologies do, because they form a unified whole.  As the Dutch thinker and theologian Willem Ouweneel has noted:

Roman Catholic and Protestant thinking has suffered enough under the scholastic splitting of creation and redemption, of earth and heaven, of body and soul…of general and special revelation, of the realm of God’s power and the realm of God’s grace, of providence and predestination (Power in Service, p. 96)

Creation grace and redemptive grace, creation and re-creation (salvation) cannot be considered apart from each other because it is the re-creation (renewal, restoration and elevation) of this creation through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the Father that Scripture has in view.  That is to say, creation is going to be delivered (Rom. 8:18-22), we are not going to be delivered from creation.  This means we cannot separate creation and the kingdom of God (like two kingdoms theorists and scholastics), because the new world of which Scripture speaks is not a replacement world, but a renewal, restoration and glorification of this one.  Re-creation by wisdom is thus the work of the kingdom of God in which we participate in each area of life as God gifts us (Ex. 31:1-11).  The creational word and redemptive word is one word of God.  Thus science, arts, culture, politics and all things else are the Christian’s legitimate domain of re-creation for the advancement of the kingdom of God.  Both creation before the Fall and re-creation after the Fall have in view the full shalom of man in traveling the route of wisdom – complete blessing in communion with God, walking in his ways.  Thus it was, and remains, our calling to bring out and unfold all of creation’s potentialities in terms of God’s command to turn creation into a culture.  All things hold together in Christ, the wisdom of God, and all things are being reconciled to God in Christ.  This is the unity of wisdom, for there is one creation of God and one revelation of God, one providence of God and one redemption of God and plan of salvation.  There is only one word in Jesus Christ in terms of whom all things consist – from the natural world to the human family, church, vocations, associations and every other sphere. We must think and live by the integrated unity of wisdom.  

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