Kidner on wisdom’s breadth

It was no misuse of scripture to inscribe over the entrance of not only the old Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge but, in the 1970s, of the new Cavendish as well (this time in English, not Latin!) the words of Psalm 111:2 (AV),

“The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.”

In this spirit Solomon, who had prayed for wisdom for the task of government and for discernment ‘between good and evil’ (1 Ki. 3:9), did not confine his thinking to these professionally useful realms, but ‘spoke of trees… also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish’ (1 Ki. 4:33[5:13, Heb.]). This makes common ground with the interests of all men. The presence of this kind of material in Scripture invites the man of God to study his whole environment, not simply that part of it which bears directly on the covenant or on morality. In these books he is aware of his fellow men as human beings rather than as Israelites or gentiles; and when he turns to other creatures he can enjoy them with an artist’s eye, noting for example their Grace of movement or their skill in using their native elements. So he is taking God’s creatorship as seriously as his redemption, and is giving due weight to the solidarity between ‘all parts of his dominion’, material and immaterial, measuring all alike by the single concept of wisdom — from the universe itself down to the behavior of a colony of ants, or the child or a courting couple, or of a buyer and seller doing business.

This has an immediate bearing on — at one extreme — the exclusive pietism which is a recurrent tendency within Christianity; and at another extreme, on the absolute autonomy which secularists claim for human culture — two opposite reactions against the crown rights of Deity, yet not dissimilar in their effects. The former would shut God in to the narrow circle of worship, ethics, evangelism and eschatology; the latter would shut God out of nine-tenths of the human scene, allowing him no voice and sociology, education, art or science, and allowing these realms no benefit of the Creator’s mind and judgment.

Derek Kidner in “The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes”, p. 13-14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *