Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual Sciences

Not a strange idea at all.

I entreat Thee by all the holy disciples who learned the spiritual sciences both of Old and New Testament, with the seventy-two disciples...

  - Anonymous, Litany of Jesus, Irish, 15th century

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  - John 8.31, 32

It perhaps seems strange – if not oxymoronic – to see the words “spiritual” and “sciences” as part of the same idea.

In our day, people tend to think of “science” as something hard, objective, measurable, manipulatable, and true; whereas matters “spiritual” are more subjective, ephemeral, and susceptible to private interpretation. The idea of a spiritual science thus is not something most people today would consider a valid idea.

But “science” only refers to a way of knowing, of getting at the truth of something to elucidate its character, purpose, and potential uses. Science is a way of knowing, and thus we might expect there to be a science, a reliable set of protocols and practices, for knowing whatever we want to know. Thus, “spiritual science” is not at all an inappropriate field of study.

There are ways of knowing and ways of knowing. The scientific method is a valid way of knowing, within limits, about the material world – of what it consists, how it works, what are the best uses to which it may be put, and so forth. But the method of material science is limited in what it can tell us, since it deals only with material things, follows material processes, and seeks material results. Science can say nothing definitive whatsoever about other kinds of realities.

But what if there are spiritual realities – such as God – and if those spiritual realities are in some ways concerned with or interested in the cosmos of material things? What if, in fact, God not only made the cosmos, but upholds it by His Word of power, pervades it everywhere by His Presence and goodness, and loves it so much that He sent His Son to die for its redemption and reconciliation?

Wouldn’t this give a whole new raft of meaning to the material world? And would it not also suggest some ideas about the proper useof the cosmos? And would we not need more spiritual ways of knowing such matters, not confined by the protocols of material science, to aid in filling out whatever material science might reveal?

Which is why “spiritual sciences” – ways of knowing that draw on spiritual resources (such as Scripture) in order to engage spiritual realities (such as God and Christ) for spiritual purposes and ends (such as the progress of the Kingdom and the glory of God) – are so very important. The better we understand these spiritual sciences, and the more consistent use we make of them, the more we may expect to live in the world according to the true purposes of Him Who made it.

Further, since spiritual realities are the overriding, all-defining, all-sustaining realities, even of the material cosmos, we must allow them priority of place when it comes to the practice of all other sciences, or ways of knowing. Only the truth of God, which we come to know through faith in Jesus Christ, can set us free from the lies we might otherwise be drawn into by well-meaning but misguided thinkers.

We need to make good use of all the spiritual sciences available to us, beginning with reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God. The Bible is foundational to all other spiritual sciences – all other forms of theological study, as well as all disciplines of learning. Leave the Bible aside in any area of study, and you’ll be left with your own best ideas, or those of the age in which you live, for sorting out the truth about anything.

An early Harvard College rule declared the purpose of that institution as follows: “The main end of a student’s lilfe is to know God and Jesus Christ.” Would Harvard be a different university today if its directors, faculty, and administrators had held fast to that rule, and allowed the spiritual sciences, which were the original foundation of Harvard’s curriculum, to give proper guidance to all the rest?

As a follower of Christ and citizen of His Kingdom, make it your business to learn as much as you can. But make sure you keep the Word of God as the foundation of all your reading and study.

The more our knowing starts with Scriptures, progresses under Christ, and is targeted at God’s glory, the more all our knowing will be as God intends it to be (Rom. 8.36).

For Reflection
1. What are the spiritual sciences that can help us in learning Jesus?

2. How do you make use of these spiritual sciences?

Psalm 19.1-4, 7, 8 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The heav’ns declare God’s glory, the skies His work proclaim!
From day to day and night by night they shout His glorious Name!
No speech, no words, no voice is heard, yet all across the earth,
the lines of His all-present Word make known His holy worth.

The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure;
the simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command us pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.

Teach me how to know You, O Lord, and to know all Your truth so that I can…

Two resources

The InVerse Theology Project is a weekly audio study that, every six weeks, takes you through some aspect of the the theological sciences as part of the process of learning Jesus. Click here to begin listening to this weekly podcast.

Our book, Know, Love, Serve can help you develop a plan of reading and study that makes use of all kinds of learning to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Order your free copy by clicking here.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 120 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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