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By Which Light?

May 19, 2015


During a trip last year, my wife woke me up in the middle of the night to go look at a rock.  We were visiting Uluru, and several busloads of people joined us as we waited for the sun to rise on Ayers Rock.  Supposedly, we had all heard that this landmark “changes colour before your very eyes” at daybreak and dusk.  In other words, Uluru seems like a different rock depending on the light by which it is seen.


And light is an interesting thing when you think about it.  Whenever we see something, light is present (in our retina) making that vision possible.  We do not usually look at light itself; we tend to focus on other things by means of light—like gigantic rock formations.  If we choose to, though, we can focus on light itself…we can see rays of the sun piercing the horizon.  Light is something that can be seen while simultaneously enabling sight.  

Knowledge works in a similar way.  We make sense of things around us by means of a third thing—a kind of enabling factor that’s always present.  Many refer to it as a worldview…but what exactly is that? 
According to biblical scholar N. T. Wright, a worldview consists of stories, symbols, actions, and answers to basic questions through which people perceive reality.  Like sunlight, we are not usually conscious of our worldview as it shapes our knowledge.  We tend to look through rather than at it; yet, if we choose, we can focus on our worldview itself.  It is the kind of thing that can be understood while simultaneously enabling us to understand. 
And taking a good look at one’s worldview is important, especially when considering education.  Just as a visible object can appear different depending on the light, so too can things be known or interpreted differently depending on the worldview.  (Consider the various levels of understanding and religious significance that different people attribute to Uluru.)  That's why it's important for universities to acknowledge explicitly the worldview they teach "in light of."
One of the pillars of the Millis Institute is that we teach from a Christian worldview; education here is shaped by active commitment to and deeply held assumptions about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We believe that this framework is not only coherent, consistent, and reasonable, but it helps to make sense of competing perspectives on offer in society.  C. S. Lewis articulated this dual conviction when he wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”


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