In ancient Athens, Luke tells us, “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Luke’s observation—half compliment, half put-down—shows both the promise and peril of intellectual environments. The desire to learn is virtuous—in fact, it provided Paul an opportunity to share the gospel—but in a fallen world pride and idolatry often sabotage genuine understanding. Most of Paul’s hearers were intellectually curious and ready to debate, but not humble, serious seekers of the truth.
In many ways, modern universities resemble ancient Athens. They are places to hear new things, to learn and grow in preparation for the rest of life. Unfortunately, like Athens they are also full of idols. Careerism, materialism, relativism, and a host of other isms abound, hiding along the path to true wisdom like bandits ready to seize the mind of unsuspecting students.
Paul’s famous speech in Acts 17 begins not with fierce condemnation but a simple observation: “as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’” At the very heart of pagan religion, Paul discerned, there was a confession of ignorance. For all their worldly wisdom and religious zeal, the Athenians recognized something was missing.
Much has changed in the 2,000 years since Paul spoke atop the Areopagus. What has not changed, even in a secular culture, is a haunting sense of theological ignorance. We can launch rockets into outer space and crack our own genetic code, but do we know God? Our confessions of ignorance may not be inscribed on altars of stone, but they show up in songs, speeches, and films. Even as the eminent powers of reason, science, and technology inflate our pride, we know deep down something is still missing.
In one of the earliest laments in the Bible, Job asks: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living” (Job 28:12-13). Job bears witness to a hard truth: man may be born with intuitive skill and an enormous capacity for knowledge, but wisdom does not come easy. It does not reside even in the brightest human minds, and we cannot produce it by collective effort. It cannot be created in a lab or mined by artificial intelligence. According to Scripture, wisdom must be sought for earnestly, given by God, and embraced with humility. Wisdom is the skill of living rightly oriented to reality—not just our visible, momentary reality but ultimate reality—reality as created and sustained by God, and directed to Him both now and forever. True wisdom recognizes human limits, resists an autonomous quest for knowledge and power, and finds its rest in God alone.
The tragedy of our times is that though wisdom is invaluable (Prov 8:11), it is despised. We don’t want to know God and be changed, but to be gods and change everything else with our powerful tools and delusions of grandeur. For all that the modern world offers us, wisdom is conspicuously absent.
Christians do not claim to be wise on their own; rather, their wisdom is found in Christ. They still stumble in various ways, and sadly often obscure the precious wisdom of the gospel. Nevertheless, by faith they possess the wisdom the world desperately needs. There is a genuine opportunity right now for Christians to display this wisdom by asking different questions, uncovering old truths, and telling a better story. When they do, they offer people real hope, and expose the dominant story of our secular age for what it really is: a repackaged fable—a flattering narrative reassembled from the ruins of Babel by those making yet another futile attempt to build the self-glorifying city of man.
Lord willing, The South Carolina Study Center will play a small part in this much needed recovery of Christian wisdom. To that end, I want to invite you to our first event on October 26th with Brad Littlejohn.
Brad has ten years of experience running an institution with a similar vision to The South Carolina Study Center. His lecture will help explain our mission as a Christian study center at USC. After this event, our goal is to open our house on a regular basis. We are still learning and growing as an organization, so please pray that God would give us wisdom and establish our steps as we walk by faith.