Kuyper on Loving the Hunt of Scholarship
By Joseph Sunde
In “Scholastica II,” a convocation address delivered to Amsterdam’s Free University in 1900 (now translated under the title, Scholarship), Abraham Kuyper explores the ultimate goal of “genuine study,” asking, “Is it to seek or find?”
Alluding to those who search for the sake of searching, Kuyper concludes that “seeking should be in the service of finding” and that “the ultimate purpose of seeking is finding.”
“The shepherd who had lost his sheep did not rejoice in searching for it but in finding it,” Kuyper continues. “It was then that he called together his friends and neighbors and exclaimed: ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep.’”
Yet prior to this, he spends a good deal of time focusing on the search itself, arguing that our prospects for discovery are grim if we fail to love the discovery process. Although there are certainly those who prefer to dig for the sake of digging, with little thought about what or whether they’ll discover, there are also plenty who fail to love searching at all, digging only out of necessity or a quest for eventual money and power.
Christians must learn to balance both, Kuyper argues. But it all begins with loving the hunt:
You have heard of the recreational activity of the hunt. What is it that drives all those gentlemen who normally live a life of ease…to spend hours upon hours chasing across the fields and crawling through the woods? Is it to catch a hare for dinner or a partridge for supper? Apparently not, because any poultry shop can supply the most pampered palate with a wide assortment of game; and to have game on the menu for a whole week no doubt costs far less than a whole day of hunting with dogs and loaders. No, what matters for the true lover of the chase is not to taste or eat game, but to hunt. His passion is for the activity of hunting as such. Eating game is a bonus, but the thrill he is looking for is the actual chase.
…Poets or painters who are artists by the grace of God are those who write verse because they can’t stop themselves and who create paintings because it is their passion. And although this holds especially for artists, it is no less true of our artisans. A mason, a carpenter, a house painter, an upholsterer, if they think only of their weekly pay and derive no pleasure from making things beautiful, from building and upholstering, are not held in high regard by their bosses or their co-workers. Even the farmhand that plows and sows, disks or harrows, should find his enjoyment and passion in the work itself, or his boss will not take him seriously.
Given his audience, Kuyper connects this back to the area of scholarship, arguing that “a real student does not make any progress until the study itself gives him pleasure.” He who sets out to search for truth — “to grope for light in much that is dark and to hunt and dig where no one has gone before” — ought to take delight in the “chase” if he hopes to catch anything at all.
Yet even beyond the Economy of Wisdom, the analogies Kuyper offers demonstrate how far the insight actually goes. His imperative to find glory in the hunt ought not be confined to the area of scholarship, but applied in every sphere of Christian stewardship.
Wherever we are, and however we spend our days toiling, serving, innovating, loving, learning, and simply beholding, Christians are called not just to search in the service of finding, but to love and cherish the search itself.
Whether professors or students, masons or farmhands, painters or poets, husbands or wives, fathers or daughters, let us learn to love the hunt, and love it so that we might glorify God and one day rejoice in its fruits.
Download Kuyper’s Scholarship for free from the Acton Institute and Lexham Press
Originally published at the Acton PowerBlog