Too Many Hummingbirds, Too Few Eagles

May 19, 2004 | by | Topic: Education & SchoolsPrint Print

One day religious scribes were questioning Jesus and one of them asked Him which is the greatest of all the commandments.  The man who Christians believe is the Messiah responded to his inquisitor:

“The first of all the commandments is,
Hear, O Israel;
The Lord our God is one Lord:
and thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:
this is the first commandment.”

Admittedly, contemporary Christian believers understand what it means to love God with our hearts, but the typical American Christian is still are searching for what it means to love God “with all thy mind.”

Let me suggest that part of what it means to love God with our mind, our intellect, is found in the first question of the Westminster Confession of Faith, that great doctrinal statement that is historically embraced by English-speaking peoples in the Reformed and Presbyterian faith tradition.

Q1: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

A few years ago, the Christian thinker John Piper wrote a book sub-titled “Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.” That’s an oxymoron, according to most observers. But Piper’s point is important. Enjoying our God forever includes enjoying His creation NOW. At least part of loving God with our minds means we must understand theology, economics, psychology, sociology, history—a quick overview of Piper’s book “Desiring God” shows his agreement.

Permit the juxtaposition of a more secular quotation with that of the Confession:“It’s often been observed that ours is an age of ever-narrowing perspectives,” writes Roy Bostock who is a director at Yahoo! Inc. and chairman emeritus of BCom3 Group, Inc., the holding company that owns New York City’s largest advertising agency. “Shakespeare is for dreamers,” he continues. “Renaissance men are passé. In their place have sprung up an army of micro-specialists in a mind-numbing array of disciplines from genetic engineering and space weaponry development to robotics production and liver transplants.”

Listen carefully to Roy Bostock: “We need our specialist. We always will. A problem has developed because there has also been a simultaneous de-emphasis on the study and understanding of man’s history, literature, religions, psychology, political systems, sociology, arts and sciences.”

The conclusion of Bostock’s article? “Too many hummingbirds, too few eagles.”

One of the major distinctions of the limited number of colleges that emphasize the liberal arts and educating students about worldview issues is that they want students to understand the times. They want to graduate eagles—not hummingbirds.

Simply stated, a liberal arts degree opens doors while a specialized degree often closes them. The corollary to this axiom is this: By teaching learners to be eagles—to be broadly educated thinkers—we are also helping them to love God with their entire minds. And that, Jesus reminds us is the fulfillment of the first commandment.

The prophet Isaiah wrote that “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown

Daniel S. Brown, Jr. is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Grove City College (Pa.) where he teaches media law and ethics as well as communication theory. His recent books include “Interfaith Dialogue in Practice: Christian, Muslim, Jew,” available through Oxford University Press. He is also a contributing scholar with The Center for Vision and Values and holds advanced degrees from Miami University (Ohio) and Louisiana State University.

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