On occasion, I have been criticized for referring positively to some bit of wisdom gleaned from non-Christians. Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, writes in his book The Reason for God about the Christian concept of common grace. He refers to James 1:17:
"Every good and perfect gift comes down from above . . . from the father of lights."
Keller goes on to offer an explanation:
"This means that no matter who performs it, every act of goodness, wisdom, justice, and beauty is empowered by God. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill 'graciously'---that is, in a completely unmerited way. He casts them across all humanity, regardless of religious conviction, race, gender, or any other attribute to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world."
It's a wonderful concept, and an important one, I think. In my experience, all too often Christians take on an air of arrogance and shut themselves off from appreciating the talents and gifts of non-Christians. Certainly there is wisdom and beauty to be found in the works of non-Christian authors and artists, thanks be to God. Certainly we can benefit from the intelligence and skill of non-Christian teachers, scientists, and doctors, thanks be to God.
And certainly, as sinners all, not only do Christians not have the market cornered when it comes to morality, we also don't own all the talent, intelligence, beauty, and even wisdom.
If we can apply this principle of common grace to non-Christians, surely even more so we should remember it when it comes to fellow Christians with whom we have disagreements or differences of opinion. To disregard the wisdom of Roman Catholic authors such as Peter Kreeft or the late Richard Neuhaus, for example, would be presumptuous and wasteful.
We are charged to love others. Perhaps part of loving others is recognizing God's grace in them.
A former producer for CBS News and WORLDmag.com's newest contributor, Marcia Segelstein is an Episcopalian, a mom, and a reluctant rebel against the mainstream media, the Episcopal Church (and others who make up the rules instead of obeying them), and the decaying culture her children witness every day.