Academic study: waste of time or for God’s glory?

Mark Hutchinson at Faith in Scholarship discusses one of the deep questions that many Christian scholars face: am I doing this simply because I want to – wasting time on useless things even – or I am really doing this for God’s glory, even called to serve God in this way?

In speaking of his study of modern music, Hutchinson notes the following:

“At various points within my PhD, as part of the usual bouts of self-questioning that all postgraduate students experience from time to time, I found myself fearing that what I was doing was all a waste of time. Was this music just a distraction from my fundamental calling of telling people about Jesus? Or, perhaps even worse, was it a kind of destructive influence in itself, an emblem of the despair and darkness of the contemporary world which I should be resisting rather than embracing?”

Hutchinson’s answer was not a simple yes or no: yes, it’s good what he’s doing (or not), or yes, this is God’s calling. Instead, he tells instead of his love for his discipline:

“I love much of this [modern] music, and feel an enthusiasm for it which surpasses even the great and well-loved works of the Western canon. Indeed, often other, more ‘accessible’ or ‘uplifting’ music can seem rather boring by comparison. I love it for its complexity, which to me seems to mirror and respond to the complexity of the created world; I love it for its moments of fleeting but hard-earned beauty, which often speak to me of a deep yearning for redemption; I love it even for its free inclusion of sounds that are uncomfortable or perhaps disturbing, since these seem an honest response to the beautiful but broken world in which it is written and heard.”

I believe the love and a joy Hutchinson has for and in his discipline shows God’s presence in what he is doing more than any philosophical or theological arguments about calling.


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