Last week I received a note from my dear friend, Professor Rick Steele, one of the stars on what has become such an extraordinary faculty of the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University. Dr. Steele is my go-to guy when I have questions about theology or church history, in part because he is brilliant, in part because he always takes the time to respond thoughtfully and carefully. As I have been exploring some of the pillars of Christian history lately — Augustine and Aquinas and St. Benedict — I’ve turned to Rick a number of times.
Well, a week ago, when we were snowed-in in Seattle, we were exchanging our thoughts on some topic of this sort, and Rick wrote something that just stunned me with its beauty: “What an astonishing gift the human mind truly is! I have long thought that the experience of stating a profound truth in a clear sentence is as close as human beings ever come to knowing what it was like for God to create everything out of nothing.”
Is this a joyful statement, or what? It is the joy of a scholar, the joy of someone who cares about language. It is the joy of someone who believes “profound truth” exists and that the exploration and discovery and articulation of such truth requires a “clear sentence.” This is the joy of a teacher, too, one who wants to communicate with others the truth he has discovered.
And, most of all, this is the joy of a teacher who believes that God’s kingdom breaks in at that moment when truth is encountered and expressed well. Such joy, this participation in God’s work of creation, making something beautiful out of nothing.
I love this. I love my friend Rick Steele. He represents for me the best of our work in a Christian university. This kind of work requires great discipline, training, and hard work, but the rewards — for the scholar, for our students, and for the world — are immense. What joy, indeed!