This little nugget is hidden in Sertillanges’ chapter on the organization of life. And while this is the chapter with which I disagree with Sertillanges the most, there are some good bits of wisdom, not only for us aspiring intellectuals but for everyone. This particular truth seems simple, but oh how I wish it was followed today (by myself as much as anyone).

“Before giving out truth, acquire it for yourself” (52).

This is an obvious truth, but very seldom followed. Since I am in seminary, people will often ask me questions about the Bible or theology that I do not have any good answers for. It is very tempting (and I often succumb) to just rattle off the first few things that come to my head that sound like a good answer, but this is no help for anyone. If I don’t know something, even something I feel like I should know, I have to answer accordingly.

I am in the business of acquiring truth, but just because that is what I spend my time doing, doesn’t mean that I have all the answers (despite what I would like people to think). My pastor once commented about the difference between himself and his wife. He is a talker, and she is not. He said that ‘you would be amazed at how many less stupid things she says than me.’ This is true, when we open our mouths to give answers to questions we really shouldn’t, then we often say stupid things, and end up confusing everybody.

Can you imagine a world where people actually knew something about a subject before talking about it?

Continuing my lessons from Sertillanges’ wonderful little book, The Intellectual Life, are a series of observations about the relationship between the Truth and the Good:

Truth visits those who lover her, who surrender to her, and this love cannot be without virtue. (19)

The true springs up in the same soil as the good: their roots communicate. (19)

We think ‘with our whole soul,’ declared Plato. Presently we shall go much farther, we shall say: with our whole being. Knowledge involves everything in us, from the vital principle to the chemical composition of the least cell. (20)

Purity of thought requires purity of soul; that is a general and undeniable truth. (22)

…study must first of all leave room for worship, prayer, direct meditation on the things of God. (28 )

My pastor once told me a story about a time he was preparing a sermon. In the middle of his study he was so overwhelmed by the truth of what he was studying that he stood up at his desk and sang the doxology. I was very convicted. I have spent much time studying the Word, but I have never been moved to praise God because of it. Digging deeply into Scripture must be an act of worship or we are doing it wrong. I am guilty of this.

Another favorite ‘nugget’ I have gleaned from Sertilannges’ The Intellectual Life, is the following:

Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man. And therefore Jesus Christ made this unique assertion: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ (13)

One of my Hebrew professors in seminary always pressed on us to dig into the details of the Hebrew text. To go as far as we could go, and then to apply that depth to the average person (or a specific person) in the pew. How important it is to remember as we pursue the depths of academia that all that we learn must be also be practical or we have lost the goal of what we do.

Life often offers us little nuggets where we least expect them. I am taking an independent study on Research and Writing methods for my ThM. Having already completed a Master’s thesis and having taken a similar class in my MA, I thought this class would be repetition and a waste of time. But required is required. However, this class has introduced me to this gem of a book: A.G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life. This is truly a great resource of advice and encouragement for anyone looking to travel down the road of even semi-serious study. There have been so many quotable and impactful portions of this book that I wanted to start blogging on some of them occasionally. The first one that inspired me was this:

One does not need extraordinary gifts to carry some work through; average superiority suffices; the rest depends on energy and wise application of energy. (8 )

Now I do not consider myself to possess any extraordinary gifts, and though I may not word it as ‘average superiority’ I do consider myself in the averagely intelligent crowd. This is both an encouragement and a challenge. It is an encouragement because we do not all have to be of the ilk of Thomas Aquinas to produce quality intellectual work. But this is also a challenge because it depends on our energy and wise application of energy. In other words, it is ours to win or lose. The choice is up to us, how much energy, and more importantly ‘wise energy,’ are we willing to put into our endeavors? 

Another semester down! It has been a while since I’ve been able to write anything of note here (not that I ever really write anything of note) because I have been busy finishing finals and final projects. But now I am done. My Aramaic final went really well and my Hebrew Narrative final went as well as can be expected. I look forward to blogging about some of my projects in the future. But for now I’m gonna go take a nap!

How is it possible that no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I work early on in the semester, I still find myself in a spring just to finish everything by the end of the semester? What is it about the last few weeks of a semester that demand the hardest and most work, regardless of how much work you put in the rest of the semester. I’m sure more than one student can sympathize with me. I’ve heard tell of these students that do so much work early on in the semester that the last few weeks are just casually ‘brushing up’ for the final. But as far as I can tell these are but mythical creatures. Real students have to suffer the last few weeks of a semester. Real students know that the last few weeks of a semester mean blood, sweat and tears. It means a lot of coffee, a little sleep and a lot of stress. Bring it on semester, I’m a battle hardened veteran. Let’s rock!