But Is That Practical?

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Mike Matthews

illustration by Viktor Miller-Gausa

Mike Matthews
Editor in Chief

All my life I’ve heard people say I need to be “practical.”

As a writer and editor, I recognize that I have a blind spot because of my natural interest in “knowledge for knowledge‘ s sake.” So I regularly double-check to make sure I’m being helpful in all I say and do.

But try as I might, I still wrestle to understand what it means to be “practical.” Consider our magazine article about the La Brea Tar Pits (p. 72). Is it “practical”?

To me the tar pits are fascinating on many levels. I love imagining other worlds, and I love history too. But that doesn’t sound practical to most people.

I can guess what people mean by “practical.” They want information that is helpful in real life, insights that enable them to make wise decisions, to do things better, to assist others. Somehow, practical things are different from concepts we don’t “use” in a concrete way.

But what does this distinction mean in practice—and does it line up with Scripture? The Bible talks a lot about the things we do, but it links them to our thought life (Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45). God’s Word doesn’t separate our thoughts from our actions.

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Did you remember to breathe a couple of minutes ago? Your lungs’ “voluntary” muscles function automatically when you’re not thinking about it. That’s just one of many details about breathing that I never thought about, but God did! See page 38.

Unlike the Greek philosophers, the Hebrews considered wisdom to be “skill” that includes our actions. (The craftsmen who built the tabernacle were “wise” in Exodus 31:6 because they had the skill to get God’s work done!) Wisdom—skill—begins by knowing God’s Word and how it applies to life (Proverbs 9:10).

What are the most important things we’re supposed to be doing? Glorifying God, knowing him better, and making him known among the peoples of the earth. The world needs to hear God’s great plan of history, centered on the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

The most practical thing we can do, as I understand it, is to learn more about God’s ways and be able to explain them so others will glorify him. We try to find article topics which do that—including ice age fossils at La Brea.

As an editor, I want the magazine to be practical! How are we doing? Please pray for us. We need God’s wisdom!

Answers Magazine

May–June 2019

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