Friday, October 9, 2009

Jefferson's Library

So as I noted a few days ago I got to spend the weekend in Washington D.C. with some dear brothers and sisters.

All in all we had a terrific weekend and I might make a few other notes on the trip in another post. However, here I wanted to make a short note about a conversation that we had in the Library of Congress. Overall I have to say that this was probably the prettiest building I've been in in D.C. And the exhibits were great too, not too many to squeeze into a short time span, each was well put together, and none were so exhaustive that it felt like I was reading someone's dissertation on the panel for the exhibit.

I particularly enjoyed the Founding of America exhibit. It had many early documents from the founding fathers of the US, including many that I read in my time as a History minor in college. (Cool Fact: I got to see a real copy of John Adams' "Thoughts on Government" pamphlet that I wrote a term paper on comparing his work to Paine's "Common Sense"!) But the highlight of that exhibit concluded with Thomas Jefferson's whole library. (See below, except in reality the room is much darker). We're talking huge amounts of books. Anyway one of the cool points came when my new friend Michael pointed out that he even had a copy of Calvin's Institutes. So kudos goes to Jefferson for reading awesome books like that. However, as we chatted I remembered that Jefferson was also the guy to basically make his own Bible. I don't remember the specifics either he tore or cut out everything in the Bible that was supernatural or that he didn't like.

As we discussed this and finding a book like the "Institutes" on his shelf we commented on how in spite of all of the books in his library Jefferson in the end was not saved and that reading books like the "Institutes" did him no good. He was merely a visitor reading things he didn't understand, when ultimate truth found in the Scripture was rejected and picked apart by his hard heart. We concluded remembering how God is the one who saves and no amount of human learning, no matter how vast the library, is useless unless God gives life. So I left there thanking God for his work to save sinners like me, and a check to my own heart that loves learning and knowledge about God often more than loving and knowing God. Coincidentally God also determined that this would be in my quiet times during last week too:

Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV)


Jason Knox said...

Awesome! That's a good word sir.

In one class we are studying Calvin's views on theology and wisdom. In the the institutes he writes that within Christ is hidden all true wisdom and that "out of him there is nothing worth knowing." He cites 1st Cor 2:2 and full on admits to desiring to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. "and most justly" for it is unlawful to go beyond the simplicity of the Gospel. The purpose of this prophetical dignity in Christ is to teach us, that in the doctrine which he delivered is substantially included a wisdom which is perfect in all its parts."(2.15.2)

You can have all of the "wisdom" in the world (including the Institutes), but if you don't know Christ, you don't know squat.

Matty Wolfgang said...

Amen, brother!

Calvin seems to have said it way better than we could have! In many ways that makes all of our learning simpler, in that we are to know Christ alone, but yet more complex as we see how all of the different aspects of the world find their ultimate root in Christ.

(Brain proceeds to explode...)