Inspiration and Application
The great innovators of the world have discovered a key to their inspiration: application. The final step in truly understanding anything is the deployment of what has been learned. Those that advocate the Bible as the best path to discovery of the truth must themselves discover that what Scripture advocates does not work if it remains an untested theory or a difficult to define philosophy. The great composer does not set to work because he or she is inspired, but becomes inspired because they are willing to work. Beethoven, Bach and Mozart had a tenacious work ethic. They would settle down day after day to the job at hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration; they got to work and found it.
Much of the apprehension about going about one’s search for truth with any particular level of inspiration depends on one’s attitude toward the perception of failure. The greatest innovators of the world discovered that failure was not truly failure if they turned it into a learning experience. Jonas Salk, the inventor of a vaccine for polio, had attempted to make the discovery two hundred times before he finally achieved it. Salk said, “I was taught not to use the word failure; I just discovered two hundred ways how not to vaccinate for polio.” Salk turned what could have been seen as setbacks into instructional steps that moved him ever closer to an answer. He discovered inspiration while working. Sir Edmund Hillary made several unsuccessful attempts to climb Mount Everest before he finally did. After one unsuccessful attempt he said to the mountain, “I’ll defeat you yet because you’re as big as you’re going to be, but I’m still growing.” Salk and Hillary had discovered the timeless truth that learning is living and living is learning.
The Bible is a profound book that never advocates anything more than a step by step application of the truth. The truth is the truth if it can be applied practically. However, it is never discovered to be the truth inspirationally until it is given an honest attempt at application. Institutions advocating what the Bible has to say are obligated to describe and instruct on how it is useful for establishing individual purpose and direction. It has to be shown to be something that will work and inspire to a greater perspective about life. That doesn’t happen through elaborate programs that may serve some purpose for the moment but may actually be relegating the truth to a secondary position.
A greater discovery of the truth may depend on how faithful one has been in what they already know and have proven through application to be true. A saying from an anonymous source goes, “Live to the fullest that which you understand, and that which you do not understand will soon be made clear.” Oxford professor and Biblical scholar Edward Pococke (1604-1691) did not simply advocate Christianity, he sought to demonstrate how, as a belief system, it made the most sense. He attempted to find truth in research, even if the system he studied conflicted with Christianity. Pococke said that while it was easy to disparage other belief systems, it was more difficult to work at spotting their errors and draw from them the truth(s) that may have been distorted or misunderstood. It was said of Pococke that as learned as he was, he was more of an observer of human behavior than a great conversationalist about it. He wanted to know if people really lived what they said they believed.
There is much in the world that is known and volumes more than is yet to be discovered. The greatest literature is that which does not need revision as time goes by. So it is with the truth. If it is true it will be proven to be so regardless of society, culture or time frame. Application of what is known opens the field up for greater inspiration about the truth. Inspiration will always be the result of applying what is known right now.
This column is the opinion of Dr. M. Hildon Guy, president of the University of Christian Studies and Sminary in Eagle River. He has doctorates in theology, education, counseling and apologetics. (www.universityofcss.org)