“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
If the Christian community truly believes that God is the Architect and Creator of the physical world and the laws that govern the way it operates; if the Christian community truly believes God’s directive to his people to “have dominion” over the created world; and if the Christian community truly believes that “all truth is God’s truth,” then why has the Christian community so dramatically abandoned original research?
Scripture is very clear that God created his people and put them on earth to be agents of his rule. Although the Fall distorted and derailed man’s ability to execute this Prime Directive, the Lord provided redemption through Jesus for all who believe, thus establishing a new covenant which empowers the followers of Christ to once again have dominion in a way that glorifies God.
Please understand: Having dominion and managing the earth and our activities on it is part of our very identity as people made in the image of God.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8.3-8)
However, I fear we have fallen short — far short — of fulfilling the Prime Directive. One of the ways this is dramatically evident is the stark reality that secular research and secular ideas dominate the marketplace. The secular business and academic communities invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year on research in many different areas, thereby producing the books, articles, educational programs, and ideas that dominate the marketplace.
Tragically, the Christian community has nothing comparable to offer. Where is the Christian voice in the critical fields of study? Where is the original research funded and executed by the Christian academic and business communities? It must be acknowledged that we have no voice in original research. Apparently we just don’t think it is important, let alone a priority.
Secular institutions believe research is important, and they have made it a priority for many years. So have their donors. Don’t you find it strange that secular people and institutions are more committed to studying God’s creation than Christian people and institutions, especially when the secular people don’t even acknowledge that God is the Creator?
Consequently, a majority of the ideas and strategies that are shaping businesses and their leaders and employees are based on premises and supported by research that give little consideration to the lordship of Christ and authority of Scripture. Secular research, and therefore secular ideas, dominate the marketplace.
In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll writes about the powerful influence of the secular institutions of research and higher learning in Western culture: “They define what is important, they specify procedures to be respected, they set agendas for analyzing the practical problems of the world, they provide vocabulary for dealing with the perennial Great Issues, they produce the books that get read and that over decades continue to influence thinking around the world — and they do these tasks not only for the people who are aware of their existence but for us all.”
Evangelicals have abdicated and vacated the arena of original research in the sciences and in business. Evangelicals have no nationally recognized research university, and churches and marketplace ministries have virtually no R&D to develop and support a biblical, real-world approach to the systematic study of the natural world.
As a consequence, Christian scholars spend the majority of their time synthesizing secular research rather than conducting original research. This is a rear-guard action that, at best, covers our retreat from true leadership in the marketplace of ideas. At worst, it signals the admission of defeat.
This dynamic reveals a strange paradox. Secularists deny that God exists and therefore don’t believe God created the natural world. Nevertheless, they recognize nature is there, that we operate within it, and that nature therefore deserves to be rigorously studied via the scientific method. Christians, on the other hand, believe God exists, believe God created nature, recognize that we operate within nature, yet don’t seem to believe the natural world deserves to be rigorously studied via the scientific method.
For some perplexing reason, the Christian community has been content to surrender the rigorous study of the natural world to secular thinkers and secular institutions. The cultural consequences of this surrender are devastating.
However, it does not need to be this way. Imagine, if you will, a Christ-centered university where, in addition to a passion for educating students, there is a deep commitment to applying the scientific method to study the natural world created by God. Where, because of that research, breakthroughs in science, medicine, technology, and other fields emerge over time. Imagine further a network of Christ-centered universities committed to the systematic investigation of nature.
The impact would be profound.
If the Christian community wants to compete successfully in the marketplace of ideas, then it is time to step up, make the investment, do our homework, and earn the right to be heard.
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22.29)