There is a line from Steven Garber’s book, The Fabric of Faithfulness 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), that I quote often when I am speaking to undergraduates. And since I am the chaplain of the Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship here in Singapore, I am often addressing medical and dental undergraduates. It comes from this passage:
I was talking about a book that explored the question “What is the point of education?” with a student who seemed remarkably insensitive to the responsibility of knowledge. His own studies were extremely self-oriented, with no concern for people: political theory, with no apparent concern for the polis. In the most selfish way, he saw his education as a passport to privilege. (83)
I often ask Christian undergraduates whether they see their tertiary education as a passport to privilege or as preparation for service?
Tertiary education is now not as exclusive as before, but it is still a path not open to many; and medicine and dentistry are still choice careers in most societies. Christian undergraduates must address this question early, as they embark on their university studies, and must address it often as they journey through their days as undergraduates. They must continue to answer this question after graduation and beyond. I think of my dental and medical colleagues when it begins to hit home how much money they can make. Privilege or service? (If God chooses to bless us materially, a stance of service means we ask the Lord for wisdom to be good stewards.)
As Garber himself points out in his excellent book, the answer to the question of the purpose of knowledge is predicated on the answer to a prior question — what is ultimately true? We need to get our worldview question settled first before we deal with the question of the meaning of education and, indeed, other life questions.
Is Jesus who He claims to be? Is the biblical view of life and reality correct? I think of all the educational programmes we run in our churches and in our campus ministries, as our young prepare to embark on their tertiary educational journey. Do we intentionally share with them a Christ-rooted vision for their education? Because if we don’t, the world will give them a different vision.