"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13.2
In his long and meandering career, marred by personal tragedy and frequently interrupted by national and international conflagration, John Comenius espoused encyclopedism: an educational initiative which seeks to unite disparate branches of learning into one unified curriculum. Only Comenius took the process two stages further, introducing religious and political dimensions, in the conviction that such a programme must reach for the skies as well as being rooted in reality, thereby introducing students to what might be termed pansophism: universal knowledge.
His own life bore testimony to such noble aspirations. Rather than referring back to a conversion experience in the tradition of St Paul, Augustine, Luther and the like, Comenius' career amounted to what Eugene Peterson famously described as A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Approaching his twilight years Comenius collated his ideas and reflected on his achievements in Unum necessarium, which was published in 1668. In the tradition of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, he confronts the frustration and futility which characterise a fallen world, veiling the beauty of God's original creation. Yet he never loses sight of the promise that Jesus' redemptive work on the cross will render everything worthwhile in the end, transforming the grief and pain into something meaningful and beautiful after all: the labyrinth becomes a rainbow?
And so Comenius ends where he began, commending a simple faith in Jesus, informed by the Bible and invigorated by the Holy Spirit. Only now he has the weight of experience behind him and a formidable corpus of intellectual endeavour which, in its time, produced a legacy which continues to bear fruit...