A PUBLICATION OF THE CENTER FOR APOLOGETICS & CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
FAITH ACADEMY AND THE
Engaging the Culture with Grace and Truth
& Human Flourishing
THE CHRISTIAN SCHOLAR AS A CHRISTIAN PERSON
AN INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS KIDD
RESEARCH MENTORSHIP (AS DISCIPLESHIP)
THE STATE OF SCHOLARSHIP AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY Ronald E. Hawkins
Volu me 2 â€¢ Iss ue 2 Spr in g 2018
SPRING 2018 Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor Benjamin K. Forrest, Managing Editor Jack Carson, Associate Editor Joshua Erb, Assistant to the Managing Editor Edward E. Hindson, Editorial Board Gary Isaacs, Editorial Board Elisa Rollins, Editorial Board Gabriel B. Etzel, Editorial Board
Joshua Rice, Creative Director Emilee Ellsworth, Marketing Director Michael Strobel, Marketing Manager Ida Winstead, Project Coordinator Annie Shelmerdine, Graphic Designer
/LibertyUACE | @ LibertyUACE | ACE@liberty.edu | Liberty.edu/ACE
“Christian Scholarship and Human Flourishing,” Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth 2, no. 2 (Spring 2018): A publication of Liberty University Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
EVANGELICAL RESEARCH: A THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: DOMAINS OF CHRISTIAN RESEARCH IN CONVERSATION
FINDING THE GOOD: A HOPEFUL VISION FOR CHRISTIAN RESEARCH
HOW TO WRITE A CHRISTIAN SENTENCE: SOME REFLECTIONS ON SCHOLARSHIP
Joshua D. Chatraw
8 Evangelical Research: A Theological Problem
30 Finding the Good: A Hopeful Vision for Christian Research
Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor, â€œFaith and the Academy," Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
Lily Chang, Instructor of Philosophy, College of General Studies, Liberty University
12 The State of Scholarship at Liberty University Ronald E. Hawkins, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Liberty University
16 The Christian Scholar as a Christian Person George Marsden, Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
34 Research Mentorship (As Discipleship) Elisa Rollins, Assistant Vice Provost for Quality Enhancement of Undergraduate Education, Liberty University
37 CRS Review: Mechanical Engineering, Unmanned Aerial Flight, and the Dandelion Seed Hector Medina, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Liberty University
20 Roundtable Discussion: Domains of Christian Research in Conversation
Kyle Ceffaratti, B.S., School of Engineering & Computational Sciences, Liberty University
Mark Allen, Mark Foreman, Gary Isaacs, Mary Lowe, Chad Magnuson, and David Snead, Professors at Liberty University
39 How to Write a Christian Sentence: Some Reflections on Scholarship
26 The Scandal [and Future] of Christian Scholarship: An Interview with Thomas Kidd Thomas Kidd, Distinguished Professor of History, Baylor University
Jason Alvis, Research Fellow, Lecturer, Institute for Philosophy, University of Vienna
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
44 What Can the Church Offer for Effective Disability Interaction?: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Special Education and Christian Education
50 The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Student's Guide
Deanna Keith, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Education, School of Education, Liberty University Chris Hulshof, Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Religion, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
47 Incarnational and Revelational Commitment: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Linguistics and Hebrew Paul MĂźller, Associate Professor of English and Linguistics, College of Arts & Sciences, Liberty University Don Fowler, Professor of Biblical Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
Caleb Brown, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
51 Pro Rege: Living Under Christ's Kingship Joshua Erb, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
52 Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars Maria Kometer, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
53 Liberal Arts for the Christian Life Jack Carson, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
Training Champions for Christ since 1971
Joshua D. Chatraw Executive Editor, “Faith and the Academy" Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement
EVANGELICAL RESEARCH: A THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM Evangelicals and Research: Thinking, Doing, and Worshipping When I was a soon to be college graduate, wrestling with my next step in life, I had two options in front of me: graduate school or college ministry. In those exciting and anxious days of figuring out my next step, I was eager for advice. Some counseled me to hold off on more education, explaining, “You’re young and full of energy. There are plenty of ivory tower intellectuals in the world, what we need are “doers.” Get out there and get busy doing stuff for the kingdom.” I have to confess that now, looking back from this side of a long road to a Ph.D., I see more clearly the shades of wisdom in this advice; Jesus has called us on mission. However, I was not, nor am I today, fully convinced of this line of thinking. The problem with the ethos of this advice is not that it is activistic, but that it presents a false choice. The Lord has called his people to “do” and to “think”; when we separate the two, the results are often disastrous. This council, which I received over a decade ago, represents the Christian sub-culture I grew up in. Mark Noll has famously characterized our hereditary tendency as evangelicals to prioritize “doing” over “thinking”: “The evangelical ethos is activistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment.”1 In many Christians’ minds there is a precarious ditch between the sacred and the secular, and it isn’t clear to them how, for example, discovering a new species of insect or a previously unknown side of a famous historical figure has anything to do with their faith. Why this disconnect between faith and research? Certainly, how we got here is complex and resists a singular explanation. Yet, I’m convinced that at least part of the problem has been theological.
The Sinking Ship and Biblical Theology One major obstacle to understanding how pursuing academic research—or any sort of work, for that
matter—relates to Christian discipleship is the widespread tendency for Christians to have a “sinking ship” mentality about the world around us. One famous analogy views the world as a “sinking ship” with “souls on board.” If our boat is sinking, should the Christian mop the decks or save the souls? The answer posed by this analogy is supposed to be obvious. The problem is that, once again, we are being presented with a false choice, and the implied answer to this question doesn’t float with the best reading of the Scriptures.
Creation God created humans to be in relationship with him: to know him, worship him, and enjoy him forever. As image bearers, humans are called to live out this relationship with God by obeying his commission to steward creation. As his vice-regents, who were called to “have dominion,” we are to care and cultivate creation (Genesis 1:28–30). In other words, our relationship with our creator is related to our role in his creation. Creation was good in the very beginning, but it was incomplete. Creation was full of potential, and God made humans to develop creation’s latent possibilities as his vice-regents. In Genesis 1 and 2, God gives his image bearers a mandate which “involves representing and perhaps extending in some way God’s rule on earth through ordinary communal practices of human sociocultural life.”2 As the late John Stott once wrote, “Nature is what God gives; culture is what we do with it.”3 Seen within this theological framework, research is a necessary step towards our divinely given task of developing creation.
Fall Something, however, has gone wrong. Humans have turned away from God and the virtuous way he intended for us to fulfill his mandate. The root of the human predicament is that the creatures sought to have ultimate dominion and to subvert God’s authority, forsaking moral innocence. This breach
in our relationship with God resulted in universal implications for creation and our role in it. The task, to cultivate and develop creation, remains, but God’s image and his creation mandate—which includes discovering, developing, and creating—has been marred. The mandate is now frustrated by idolatry, the power of sin, and the “principalities” of evil.
Redemption The Christian Gospel is the message of “good news” for how God has reconciled his image bearers to himself by entering the world as a man, dying on the cross and rising again to redeem sinners, defeat evil and usher in the new creation. Those who are in Christ are restored to God, transformed by his Spirit, and called to make Him known as we steward creation. This stewardship includes both understanding and caring for the world. This means, for example, working against the disorder that now exists within the world and using our research to develop potentialities within creation.
New Creation As redeemed image-bearers, the people of God are to live out their vocations, witnessing to the importance of the physical world, to the creation mandate, and to the goodness of the world to come. By seeking to discover, develop, and reorder a disordered world through research, according to a moral framework and in proper relationship to the Creator, Christians “love God and love others,” as well as offer a vision of human flourishing to the world. We do not bring in the kingdom by offering such a vision, but we are to serve as a picture of the King’s care for the world and a preview of the consummation of his kingdom. In the final book of the Bible, God proclaims that he will one day dwell with a new humanity in a new creation (Revelation 21); both we and “the creation itself will be set from…bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). We await the day God will bring heaven to earth.
Thinking, Doing, and Worshipping We can at least partly agree with the boat analogy. The boat is in serious disrepair—no human effort will redeem this world. The world is marred by sin. But it is also filled with God’s grace—which has culminated in the revelation of Christ himself. His original calling remains on us to care for his creation. The gospel reminds us that God has not given up on this world he has created; he has entered into this world as a man and was resurrected as
the firstfruits of a new creation. The “theological problem” is only our problem if we fail articulate a doctrine of creation that is anchored in the gospel itself.4 Christian discipleship has short-circuited when it has neglected the creation mandate as central to the meaning of life and our role as image bearers. Two dangers exist if we fail to make the connection between academic research and biblical discipleship. First, our students and our churches will perhaps be pious, but they will likely also be suspicious, or at least apathetic, toward academics and research. Discipleship will focus on devotion, but it will be a devotion cut off from the day-to-day activities of work and research. They will continue to have a desire to “do,” but this “doing” will often result in unnecessary heartache and hurt because it will be cut off from needed knowledge about the world. Second, if we fail to make the connection between research and discipleship in our own lives, our research efforts will be idolatrous. Money and pride will drive us to spend ourselves on academic success, perhaps even under the veil of Christian excellence. But this will only be a mask that Christ will see through. We will be puffed with pride, but our souls will be empty. Our
only rewards will be fleeting and ultimately damaging; moth and rust will destroy them (Matthew 6:19), and we will despair when we realize all of our achievements don’t satisfy. The biblical storyline provides a telos in Christ that motivates our research and nourishes the soul. Flourishing as God’s image bearers means thinking and doing all things in Christ, but most of all it means longing for his kingdom while we wait and work for the King. With these theological convictions as our backdrop, the articles, interviews, and conversations in this issue are meant to be entry ways for further reflection and interdisciplinary conversations on what research and scholarship means at a Christian university.
Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), 12. 1
J. Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 60. 2
John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, ed. Roy McCloughry, 4th ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 222–23. 3
For a seminal work along these lines, see Oliver O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994). 4
Second Annual Conference on Theology and Culture Co-Sponsored by Liberty University Student Activities
FEB. 28-MARCH 2
INCH “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” Abraham Kuyper
SPEAKER: GREGORY THORNBURY PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, NEW YORK
Learn more at LUApologetics.com
Ronald E. Hawkins Provost and Chief Academic Officer Liberty University
The State of Scholarship at Liberty University I’ve always believed that there is something unique about Liberty University. If I pick a great word to describe us, I would say that at Liberty we are more “embracive” than most of our peer evangelical and secular institutions. We are the conservative university that welcomed to our stage Bernie Sanders and Ted Kennedy while our secular peers often shun conservatives at their campuses. At Liberty, we have demonstrated an openness to listening to and seeking to build relationships with people who are both inside and outside of our “camp.” Our students and faculty are exposed to and listen respectfully to persons whose positions they do not endorse. This is a day when the American university is being pushed to demonstrate its relevance. The continued relevance of universities will depend upon their meaningful contributions to life outside the university walls through what it does within those
walls. I believe we would agree that a highly valued currency in the university is research and scholarship. Liberty is first and foremost a university. Since we are serious about our status as a university, we must be as serious about research and scholarship as our peers in other universities. We demonstrate our legitimacy as a university among universities by listening well to our peers even when we disagree. We also demonstrate our legitimacy as a university when we engage in a conversation in a language that has legitimacy within the broader world of the academy. Research and scholarship provide common ground upon which evangelicals and their secular counterparts may meet for the common good. On this ground we labor together to produce something with demonstrated value for making things better for the peoples of our world. In doing this we demonstrate to a skeptical world that the
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
university does in fact occupy an important place in the building of our respective cultures. These collegial efforts serve the larger purpose of building bridges of connection between evangelical scholars and our more secular peers in public universities.1 These efforts allow us to function as salt and light in our world as we learn from one another, sharpen one another’s thoughts and become partners in the application of outcomes for the betterment of the publics we serve. I can never be certain that the words I am privileged to speak will not enter the heart of the hearer and ignite a spark of interest in the God whose love and grace I aspire to represent well.
The Scriptural Foundation for Research As important as the above considerations are, the rationale for involving Liberty faculty and students in research and scholarship rests on something more visceral for us. We assume this “embracive” and collegial posture with reference to the broader academy because we believe it puts us in sync with the passions embedded in the character of our God—the God of the Bible. This God has existed from eternity past within the context of a social community we call the trinity, a community which shows God to be, in the words of Tim Keller, a conversational God. Keller conceptualizes Scripture as God’s half of what He wants to be a dynamic conversation around topics like who He is, who we are and how we can have a growing and enriching relationship with Him and with one another.2
In the conversation, we are informed by God that Adam and Eve were created for dominion. They are stewards of all that God has created and given to them as a gift. However, more importantly they were created for relationship and conversation with the Creator and one another. The conversation banishes loneliness which is destructive to the human soul. In the creation of Adam and Eve our triune God extended His relational network. “The relational God does not remain in isolation. Rather, from the internal divine dynamic our God enters into relationship with creation.”3 His desire was to know them and to be known by them. As the sole bearers of the image of God, they were alone in their essence and position before God. Like their Creator, they were endowed with the power of imagination. For good and for ill they were given the freedom to think outside the box. Adam and Eve were granted by God the liberty to look at what was and reflect upon what could be. Failure to exercise curiosity and imagination for the purpose of creating something better, more useful, beautiful or efficient for the glory of God and the good of humans—for them and for us—would be a failure to be authentically and fully human. Eve and Adam lost some of their authenticity when they exercised their curiosity and capacity for research in pursuit of selfish gain.4 Failing to engage in research directed at outcomes that gladden the heart of our Creator is an abuse of human liberty. These abuses of the liberty that is at the core of our humanness
serve as vivid reminders of our tragic failure to live out the destiny ordained for us by the God whose image we bear. The liberty to utilize imagination for the glory of God and in the service of creating means and methods for the betterment of others provides a unique rationale for our engagement in research and scholarship at Liberty University. In this upside-down world where things are not the way they are supposed to be, research paves the way to discoveries that can make the lives of people better. Inquiring minds long for the creation of the new in the service of making life better for hurting people. Students catch this longing from their parents and professors. Students and professors in the Christcentered university demonstrate an infectious passion for the discovery of the better. A better medicine to fight cancer. A better way to improve the treatment for autism. A better way to assist victims of trauma. A better way to meet the need for renewable energy and reduce pollution. Good research and scholarship creates a better sonata that produces harmonization of the varied elements in our souls and the world. Good research creates an awe-inspiring painting, poem or statue that enlarges our appreciation for the beautiful in our world and sets in motion a healing power in the inner world of the soul.
Wisdom’s Invitation to Research I love the part of God’s conversation that we encounter when we read the wisdom books of the Bible. Reading that portion of the conversation fuels my interest in research and scholarship. The wisdom teacher in Ecclesiastes converses with us on the need for our pursuit of “the better.” Wisdom cries out to humanity, “There is a better way of viewing our place and purpose in the world!” It’s important to remind ourselves that Wisdom is both personal and “anointed cognition” in the scriptures (I Corinthians 1:30 and James 1:5). Wisdom sharpens our insights. Wisdom desires to partner with us for the creation of research initiatives and scholarly outcomes directed at making sense out of our world. Wisdom provides direction in a world now encircled in “vanity” and offers to assist us in uncovering a better path forward. Research and scholarship is at its best when it clarifies, orders and integrates information in such a way that the outcome may be used in the service of making something better. In conducting research we are often drawn into an experience with “awe.” Our minds and emotions
are frequently overwhelmed by the beauty and complexity of the objects of our attention. We are moved to the limits of our knowing and led in the encounter into a place of mystery. The encounter is often accompanied by a sense of how frightfully small we humans are. Something very sentimental often accompanies our collection of facts or work with artifacts. While experiencing the complexities attached to our research we often hear a small voice calling us to a larger conversation. There is no demand but only a gracious invitation to be still and listen for the voice of the one who made it all and worship. This is one of the most unique gifts that research offers to us and it is deeply valued in a Christ-centered university.
Blessed are the Meek One last thought regarding research and scholarship requires mentioning. People whose ventures into research and scholarship prove highly successful may be overcome with a spirit of superiority. The danger exists that we will become so convinced of the superiority of our definitions and facts that we simply feel no need to listen to other person’s points of view. What if we are wrong minded in our belief that the defense of the Christian faith hinges on building and articulating the better idea? We evangelicals have often worshipped at the altar of rational process.5 We rejoice that we are known by God but in our interaction have frequently not said much about what it really means to know ourselves deeply as a consequence of being known deeply by Him and others. To think in this way will bring us into a very special place with our Creator. This will be the place in which His grace overshadows us and causes us to confess humbly that our ideas always find completion in the ideas of others.
1 For a larger discussion of Scholarship in the Christian University see: Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). 2 Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin, 2014). 3 Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 101. 4 For an insightful consideration of the impact of sin on the human family see: Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995). 5 I have found James K. A. Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), helpful in deepening my thought on this subject.
THE CHRISTIAN SCHOLAR AS A CHRISTIAN PERSON Over the years, I have my done my share of advocacy for “the outrageous idea of Christian scholarship.” That has often necessarily involved arguments. Some of the arguments are to counter the claims of those who would dismiss faith-informed scholarship as intellectually irresponsible and not fit for mainstream academic discourse. Other arguments have been designed to help guide Christian scholars to see how to relate their faith to their academic disciplines. In spite of their necessity, there are at least a couple of dangers in developing good arguments for integrating our faith with our scholarship. One danger is that arguments intended to refute a person’s opinion often tend to alienate that person. Further, in such confrontations, the persons we are arguing against are seldom won over by arguments. It is likely that we all have had the experience of presenting a perfectly compelling argument, even to a friend or a spouse, only to find that the result is resentment backed up with resourcefully created new arguments that seem to us even faultier! When we are addressing academics whom we do not know well, the results may be even worse. The other danger is that, even among sympathetic friends or those whom we are teaching, our arguments may seem as abstractions. They may be seen simply as tools of the trade and not intimately connected to the larger picture of a Christian’s life and relationships. So here, just because the most fundamental point sometimes gets subordinated and even forgotten, I want to underscore that Christian scholarship must be a holistic enterprise.1 By that I mean simply that we should be thinking first of all about what it means to be a good Christian person and then to think of scholarship as an expression of that transformation that comes from Romans 12:1-2. After all, most of the good we do as Christian scholars and especially as Christian teachers is going to have more to do with our character and with the way we relate to others as persons than with the
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exact specifics of what we say. Thus, I have identified five personal dimensions necessary for consideration for the Christian person as Christian scholar. First, the sort of Christian person you are, and hence the sort of Christian scholar that you are, can be understood most basically in terms of your loves. In the phrase that James K. A. Smith has emphasized, “You are what you love.”2 Our central love is love of God. If we have truly experienced the love of God, then we will love God and love what God loves. Although we may not always do a good job of it, that will mean subordinating our selflove—and all the other loves that self-love involves—to the love of God, the love of other people, and love of whatever is good in God’s creation. Second, Christian scholarship, far from being an abstraction, is personal and relational. If we experience our relationship to God as our most essential relationship, then we will view everything else in the universe as having a personal relationship to God as well. We will see everything that we have, every talent that we have, as a gift from God. So we will not take undue pride in these gifts as though they made us better than others, but we want to use them in the service of God and other people. Having experienced the love of God in Christ, we will see God as at the center of this personal relational universe. This sensibility will help us to counter our natural tendency to see our self at the center. Instead, we will recognize that we are on the periphery along with everyone else. So if we feel called to engage in Christian scholarship, it will be in order to express our love to God and others through that vocation. Scholarship is not an end in itself but always a form of teaching or relating to others. Much of our most important work involves the personal interaction of the classroom. Other teaching, as in writing books or using electronic media, is less direct—but also essentially personal—these are our most basic ways of relating to other people. Third, Christian scholarship is also a communal activity. In fact, it means being involved in a number of differing communities. The most immediate of these are communities of other Christian scholars. Often Christian scholars will differ from each other. For instance, in my field there is a very helpful recent book, called Christian Historiography: Five Rival Versions.3 Despite our rivalries, nonetheless, we should be open to seeing our differing views as complementary as well—more like a “team of rivals.” And as Christian scholars, especially for those who work at church-related institutions, we also need to see the various disciplines, outside of our own field, as complementary to our work. In recent generations, mainstream academia has suffered from debilitating
specialization and disciplinary isolation. These provide major obstacles for seeing the big picture about anything. Christian academics, by way of contrast, have the common ground of shared faith and so are in better positions to work together across disciplines and to be open to learn from those outside our own fields. Sometimes that means abandoning habits learned in graduate school. Christians also have the basis for maintaining interdisciplinary organizations, conferences, and publications. Today’s electronic resources can help facilitate keeping up the friendships and cooperation that mark such communities. Fourth, the communal nature of Christian scholarship, furthermore, involves essential relationships to the larger Body of Christ. The church, after all, provides us our primary communal relationship. Christian scholarship takes place in the context of worship, both communal and personal. It is a “spiritual” practice. It is also one spiritual practice among many. The Body of Christ has many parts. As scholars, we want to remind others in the Body that there is a legitimate place for those who do hard thinking and to provide perspectives and tools that everyone else can use. But we have also to recognize that scholars are only one part of the body—and not the most important part—and that we need the other parts of that body. One of the greatest challenges for Christian scholars today is to communicate well with lay-people in their own faith communities. So much of contemporary American Christianity is driven by populist impulses and easily marketed formulas that there is often distrust of more considered and nuanced positions. Scholars need to be reaching out to such audiences, writing for them, teaching Sunday-school classes, and otherwise being exemplary church members. On disputed points, they must start with fundamental points of commonality and work from there, but the challenges can be great. The essentially communal nature of Christian scholarship as part of the Body of Christ should also involve listening to and learning from Christian communities different from our own. Despite our differences, we need to recognize that God is working redemptively in many Christian communities. One of the very important developments of the past half century or so has been the thawing of relationships between Protestants and Catholics and readiness to learn from each other. Intra-Protestant denominational rivalries have also receded. That likewise provides opportunity for practical ecumenism in working together with Christians of other faith traditions. And finally, a holistic relational understanding of Christian scholars and their scholarship should be marked by their
expressions of love not only to their fellow believers, but also to those outside of the Body of Christ. We belong to and ought to love not only our church communities, and our Christian academic communities, but also the human community. Christians of all sorts, including scholars, are taught to love all their neighbors, including strangers, and even their enemies. Thus, one attitude of Christian scholars will be that of listening to others. We should be listening to and learning from scholars whose outlooks are widely different from our own. Even though these may be rival views, we can here also sometimes take the stance of being a “team of rivals” who, instead of simply arguing, may be learning from each other. We should also be listening to and trying to learn from all sorts of people who are not scholars, and especially to those whose viewpoints may differ from our own. That will include some of our students. The best Christian scholars are, after all, those who are best known for the ways they treat other people—near and far. The best witness to the value of Christian scholarship is to have people who engage in it in loving and admirable ways.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn observes that people are converted from one paradigm to another not so much by arguments as by admiration. So, they may say “I don’t know how the proponents of [that] view succeed, but I must learn whatever they are doing, it is clearly right.”4 By extension, that is a good lesson for us if we hope to convince others of our views. They will be more convinced by how we live and do our work and by the virtues of the communities of which we are a part than by our arguments. 1 I am grateful to Robert Sweetman, Tracing the Lines: Spiritual Exercise and the Gesture of Christian Scholarship, (Wipf and Stock, 2016), for reminding me of this point. 2 James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016). 3 Jay Green, Christian Historiography: Five Rival Versions (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2015). 4 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 203.
CENTER for APOLOGETICS & CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT Check Out Our Upcoming Senior Fellows’ Publications “STILL EVANGELICAL? TEN INSIDERS RECONSIDER POLITICAL, SOCIAL, AND THEOLOGICAL MEANING”
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ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: DOMAINS OF CHRISTIAN RESEARCH IN CONVERSATION Moderated by Mark Allen, Chair, Department of Biblical Studies, Liberty University
Mark Allen, Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at the Rawlings School of Divinity, sat down with peer faculty of Liberty University to discuss the nature and scope of Christian research across the various fields represented in a Christian, liberal arts education. The following is a summary of their conversation on this topic.
What does scholarship and research look like in your field? David Snead, Professor of History From the history perspective, it really depends on the topic. I do military and diplomatic history, 20th century primarily, and while there’s an interaction between Christianity and diplomatic and military history, its oftentimes on the fringes. So, from my side of things I’m mainly interested in making sure that when I do history I’m doing it in way that would be pleasing to God. I try to base all my conclusions and my assertions, on carefully researched sources. I try to make sure that I am addressing any debates in the historiography, the arguments of other historians.
Gary Isaacs, Associate Professor of Biology I study gene expression. When I consider how I do that as a Christian and my role in representing the church to the world, I think, first, I’m supposed to do that research as well as anyone else. If being a Christian detracts from my ability to be a researcher then that has no value whatsoever in the world. I have turned the gospel into a detriment to learning truth, which is not the case. I think scholarship in my field as a Christian should look like an unbeliever’s in terms of what I put out. Particularly in the sciences, religion is seen as a handicap; it goes back to the dark ages, right? We have the scientific method now. I represent myself
to the world and the local scientific community by doing everything that they do and everything that they can do; but still, I have something extra that's a part of me that they don't have. However, my faith can only give me further insight if I choose to not run from things that challenge it. Critically researching shows a greater love for the truth because I’m not scared of anything I could find.
Mark Foreman, Professor of Philosophy There are a couple of things I can address here. First, philosophy is an area that studies arguments for beliefs. We look at issues and decide how to determine the truth about that issue. We look critically at the arguments on both sides and we approach research by trying to be as open to the truth as we can; we want to examine each argument with as little bias as possible. Introducing the concept of bias brings up the whole issue of coming from a Christian perspective. If you were to ask me how I do Christian research apart from secular research, I can’t answer your question. Ever since I’ve been a Christian, I’ve only done Christian research, and I’ve been a Christian since my first years of college. I’ve never done “secular” research. However, when we look at philosophical issues we have to be very leery of our Christian bias and how it might affect that research. There is this idea that you need to approach philosophy from a “neutral” perspective. I deny that position. I don’t think any of us come to anything from a neutral perspective. It's a myth. I call it the “myth of neutrality.” No one can simply reject all their presuppositions. The atheist doesn't do it, the theist doesn't do it.
Mary Lowe, Associate Dean, Rawlings School of Divinity Being a Christian certainly lends itself to the need to have a higher level of integrity and honesty and that's where scripture drives our ability to serve as Christians.
When we engage in the culture we must be engaging as researchers and they need to see us as a researcher and top in our field rather than always seeing it as just a Christian doing research. We must be able to compete on the level of doing good research. Good research has certain fundamentals that apply across the board, whether it’s Christians or atheists. But I think that scripture certainly is the rationale and influence for why we should be engaging in the sciences and other disciplines. It’s because we want to be excellent and it’s because we have God’s creation and we should be an active part of that.
David Snead, Professor of History If I can add, what I try to stress to my students is the same thing that Mark is pointing out. When we present our research, we are going to be judged for that by the academics around. We want to make sure that the research and presentation is as accurate and as thorough as possible. As Christians, people are going to hold us to a different standard, and if we fall short, then we’ve actually hurt our witness in some ways. That's something that drives me to be as accurate as possible.
Chad Magnuson, Associate Professor of Psychology We approach psychology as though it’s a science; it's a
scientific study of behavior and mental processes all the way from the biological elements of humanity down to cognition, behavior, relationships, and how all those mix together and influence human thinking and action. So we are empirical, we’re methodologically limited to what we can observe. A Christian doing this type of research follows the same procedures everybody else does in the field. However, I think many Christians find this approach unsatisfactory. We have this idea that our Christian faith should be more intertwined somehow, but I wonder if this is us thinking in our categories of the sacred/ secular distinction. These are the sacred activities, the God stuff, worshipping together, my quiet time, or whatever we’re going to call that and the secular stuff, that's my job, the research. The truth is, when I am engaging in research, there is no distinction. Science itself can be a means of worship and we’re engaging in worship as we’re doing the investigating, whether its history, or philosophy, or biology. This is an act of worship because we’re learning more about how God has made his created world which reflects who he is and his character rather than making that distinction. It’s all one big, sacramental reality that we’re living in.
Gary Isaacs, Associate Professor of Biology If you ask what Christian research looks like, the end product is a paper, a talk, a presentation, just like
everyone else. But if you went through the process with those people, you would know the difference. The character and the experience is deeper for the Christian, and the research can excite and encourage their faith. I get excited about the research we’re doing here at Liberty, because I feel like the students are getting less of that secular/sacred dichotomy than I had growing up; we’re blending it all together saying everything you do is for the honor and glory of God.
David Snead, Professor of History I mentioned earlier that I do 20th century diplomatic and military history, and I don't deliberately focus on Christians in my research. But one of the views of Christian history or of Christians doing history is that they should just study the church or the Bible. There is much more to it and one of the things I try to show at Liberty is studying any history is really an act of worship. It’s trying to understand God’s creation; to be a Christian historian doesn't mean you just study Christian history or the Bible, you’re studying history.
Mary Lowe, Associate Dean, Rawlings School of Divinity Added to that is something that my husband and I have stumbled across in our research in spiritual formation. This came closer to home when I was doing my dissertation study work. I was going to approach the issue of spiritual formation from a more
qualitative method but my advisor suggested that I use a quantitative method instead. He said that when people in the literature look at that, it gives a little more credibility to the issue of being spiritually formed when there’s a level of measurement or evaluation. How do you measure something that you can’t see? So what we have done over the last 10-15 years is to be more integrative in our approach and I think that's something that we don't learn how to do in research methods. What does history have to do with philosophy? What does theology have to do with psychology? We have borrowed from the sciences, particularly ecology, we look at how things grow in nature because we see a biblical hermeneutic. Scripture says to consider how things grow spiritually. If we want to know how to grow, go look at plants and see how they grow. We looked at that principle of that embedded, integrated ecosystem where everything is integrated with each other in ecology, and we take principles of that and apply that to spiritual formation; we grow spiritually when we are interconnected with other persons. We look at disciplines of sociology and that persons who are isolated are far less developmentally mature, and we apply that to spiritual principles. When we isolate from the body of believers there is a stunting of growth that happens to us spiritually. We approach research as an integrative discipline and use other sciences and bodies of research to assess and evaluate spiritual growth and development.
Mark Allen, Chair, Department of Biblical Studies I think one of the things that I’m hearing is, whether you call it Christian research or research from a Christian point of view, its holistic and its interdisciplinary. It’s open to integrating all areas of knowledge and research. I can remember the most upset I’ve been at a presentation of research was at the first SBL conference I went to in Chicago. They were doing Pentateuchal studies, so authorship, sources, etc., and I realized that they looked at a very narrow lane. These researchers were so worried about running in their lane that they were not contextualizing in a larger theological or ecclesial enterprise. They were only looking at that one piece of research and I was very disappointed. I was discouraged too because I think as Christians we know there are implications in our research for the church and there are implications for society. I think too we have also established that there is a difference between a bias and a framework. To have a Christian framework and do research within it— allowing research to inform the framework and the framework to inform the research—is different than just a pure bias.
Chad Magnuson, Associate Professor of Psychology I think there is an impression among scientists that we just let the facts speak for themselves. Show me the numbers, that's what I’m going to believe. Without the recognition that facts can’t interpret themselves; they require a worldview. In interpreting any set of data, we’re injecting our worldview into it. It’s this myth of objectivity you guys were talking about; we can’t be completely objective. Our worldview is going to color our interpretation but at least we're honest about it.
Mark Foreman, Professor of Philosophy Yeah, I want to be careful here but postmodernism is basically a view that takes that idea and goes to the other extreme. Since we’re totally subjective, we can’t make any truth claims. That is going too far, but I think there is a critical point we can make when we acknowledge there is a certain amount of subjectivity here. We need to be aware of that and try not to let it influence our research or results. It may have, so I
want to be aware of that, and I want you to be aware of that. Often times, one of the best ways to do this is to put yourself out in public before your peers and let them look at your research. You want a wide perspective of worldviews looking at it so that will help it to become a little more objective.
Mark Allen, Chair, Department of Biblical Studies I think that a corrective exists within our framework. Our framework tells us to be fair, to be objective, and to give someone their due.
Gary Isaacs, Associate Professor of Biology Yeah, and to have grace for others knowing that we make mistakes. The other thing that Christians need is humility. Most researchers have an air of arrogance because they hide all their negative data. They put their best foot forward and they don't show the wizard behind the curtain because they all want to be liked. They want to be published. Yet, our Christian faith would tell us not to do those things. We all know that one of the best things a professor can say in class is, “I don't know.” It’s one of the most attractive things to students. To hear someone they respect admit that something was a great question and they don't know the answer.
David Snead, Professor of History Mark brought up the search for the truth; we shouldn't be fearful or scared of the truth. In popular Christian history, the objective is sometimes to hide the darker side of Christian history, and so that's one of the things we fight in the history department. The popular interpretations are oftentimes very flawed and misleading. Christian research should be humble and honest.
Mary Lowe, Associate Dean, Rawlings School of Divinity I think we could do ourselves a favor by coming alongside other kinds of researchers and saying, “maybe I can learn something from you." There is something Christ-like about the air of people who admit they don't have all the answers and that there is still much to learn.
DIVERSITY Symposium FEB. 1 SPEAKERS: Lisa Fields Founder of the Jude 3 Project Vince Bantu Director of the City Ministry Initiative at Covenant Theological Seminary
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THE SCANDAL [AND FUTURE] OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP:
AN INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS KIDD Thomas Kidd recently took some time to have a conversation with the executive editor of “Faith and the Academy,” Joshua Chatraw. Kidd is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University who specializes in American Religious History.
Chatraw: Over two decades ago, Mark Noll wrote
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. What is your assessment of where we stand now? Have evangelicals made progress? Do you see some positives? Any areas of weakness?
Kidd: Well, I think that one important caveat on any
discussion about Evangelicals is: “Who are evangelicals?” It seems more and more difficult to figure out who evangelicals are these days, and how you answer that question determines whether we would be encouraged or discouraged by what’s going on. I think that, too often, what it means to be evangelical is defined by people who self-identify as evangelicals to pollsters. Those people are very amorphous; some of them might even tell you, “I consider myself an evangelical but I don't go to church.” It's a little hard to know what to make of people like that. It makes you wonder, “What makes them think they are evangelicals?” If we focus the discussion to institutes of higher learning that have distinctive evangelical hiring practices and constituencies and, maybe, statements of faith, there are a lot of reasons to be encouraged. I do think that things have changed somewhat since Mark Noll’s book. Partly because of people like Mark Noll, it’s become much more normal, not just for evangelicals, but for Christians of many different kinds, to engage in scholarly discussions in fields like history, philosophy, sociology, and so forth. When Noll wrote The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind these discussions were just starting to emerge, and now we’re getting into a second generation of mainstream evangelical scholarship.
Renowned as a printer, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin also published more works on religious topics than any other eighteenthcentury American layperson. Born to Boston Puritans, by his teenage years Franklin had abandoned the exclusive Christian faith of his family and embraced deism. But Franklin, as a man of faith, was far more complex than the “thorough deist” who emerges in his autobiography. As Thomas Kidd reveals, deist writers influenced Franklin’s beliefs, to be sure, but devout Christians in his life—including George Whitefield, the era’s greatest evangelical preacher; his parents; and his beloved sister Jane—kept him tethered to the Calvinist creed of his Puritan upbringing. Based on rigorous research into Franklin’s voluminous correspondence, essays, and almanacs, this fresh assessment of a well-known figure unpacks the contradictions and conundrums faith presented in Franklin’s life.
Thomas Kidd, Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017). $30
There are still some real challenges, however, in various fields. For instance, in biblical studies scholarship there are certain people like N.T. Wright who are taken quite seriously, but it can be difficult to break into fields that are totally dependent on a more critical approach to scripture. That doesn't make those discussions any less valuable or necessary. One of the things Noll explained was that Christians are too sequestered from mainstream academic discussions happening across the disciplines, and I think that has gotten considerably better over the past 20 years—especially the awareness that Christians could participate in those kinds of discussions.
Chatraw: It’s interesting that, on the biblical studies
side, there seems to be a little bit of difference between our context in America and British contexts. In the United Kingdom, you have N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and Simon Gathercole, who have each held posts at some of the UK’s most prestigious universities. In the US it doesn’t seem like quite the same thing. Do you have any insights historically on why that is the case?
Kidd: One of the contributing factors is that, in the
UK, so many of the faculty are believing, practicing Christians. I spent a semester at the University of St. Andrews a couple of years ago and, to my surprise, I found that I was going to church with several of the faculty on Sundays. One of the reasons for this is (and I usually have very little good to say about the legacy of church establishment) in the UK the idea of a state supported church has also meant that there is not such a strict separation of church and state. That does not mean that churches have been strong—the Church of England and the Church of Scotland are barely surviving at the congregational level these days—but it has also meant that it’s not unusual to have people coming from confessional perspectives at (what would be for us) a state school. Here that is very rarely the case, especially in a religion department at a state university. That really struck me. Many evangelical students who want an elite academic divinity school degree do end up going to the UK, and many of them to St. Andrews. It is an unusual situation. I think the conservative seminaries in the US are often the only ones that actually flourish in terms of numbers of students and enrollment, but they are very often internally focused and, rightfully, serve the interest of their denomination. That contributes to some of the difference.
Chatraw: We’re calling this issue “Christian Scholarship,” at least, that's our working title. Do you see possible dangers of using the adjective “Christian” to describe our scholarship? And as a secondary question to this: As
a historian, do any lessons from history come to mind that can help us with this question?
Well, I believe in the concept of Christian scholarship, so I don't have a problem with it myself, but I would say one of the problems that it potentially creates is that it privileges Christians working on topics in which your faith makes an explicit difference about your view on the subject. For example, some Christians might get the feeling that if you’re a historian and you’re working on an area of economic or political history that isn’t directly connected to issues of faith, it is somehow second rate. You’re glorifying God in the excellence of your work and the way that you relate to people, but not in explicitly addressing issues of faith in your scholarship. However, I think a dangerous flipside to the problem of preferencing work on explicitly religious topics is insisting that your faith has no effect on your work in less explicitly religious topics. I would say your faith must make a difference. It at least accounts for your interest in this topic, and I don't think we need to run away from the idea that we come from a perspective, in the same way everyone comes from a perspective on those issues. One of the most valuable lessons that came out of post-modernism is that there is no one who’s objective. We want to be fair, and fairness is an absolute standard in good scholarship, but no one operates from a position of objectivity when we’re dealing with questions of value, morality, and ultimate truth questions. We all are located somewhere on those kind of issues, and Christians are pretty obviously located on those types of questions. When you’re working on, for instance, religious history, it's a good idea to admit to yourself and your audience that you tend to have a certain view on this subject. The pioneers of Christian scholarship that I mentioned before were able to do openly Christian history while also publishing with really elite academic outlets. It can be done, and we have people across a number of disciplines who have shown us how to do it.
Chatraw: How do you think through serving the
church through your academic research or, to put it differently, what are our responsibilities to the church as researchers in our respective academic disciplines?
Well, regardless of what kind of topic you work on—from the mathematician who doesn't say much about their faith in their scholarship to the one who works on arguments for the existence of God—we have similar obligations that all believers have to the church. We need to be involved in church, serving in church, and supporting the church. I’m not impressed by someone who identifies as
a Christian scholar but is not really involved with church in a vital way. Sometimes we leave that out of discussions about Christian scholarship and what makes a Christian scholar. If Noll warned us about the poverty of evangelical intellectual life, then this is one of the places that I hope academics can help— seasoning the life of the church where possible with lessons from your research and your understanding of various subjects. In almost every kind of major topic there are pop Christian experts who are not helping with the intellectual quality of evangelical culture, and academics often just wring their hands about that and say, “Why won’t people listen to me?” Being involved in our churches can help with that. That is one of the reasons why my wife and I go to a church that, even though it has a number of professors who go there, wouldn’t be called an academic kind of church. We feel like it’s important for the life of our family, but it also provides an important kind of influence. We just want to go to a regular evangelical church and be part of it. I’ve worn a lot of different hats serving as an elder, a Sunday school teacher, and a small group leader. Occasionally, my own research will come up in those capacities. Just this past Sunday I was teaching a line by line bible study in my adult Sunday school class and someone in class asked me a historical question. I told him that I usually try not to talk about those things, but he replied “Yeah, but this is what you do, so you can go ahead and talk about it.” You don't want to be overbearing as an academic or else people won’t want to listen to you, but in the context of friendship and fellowship, academics can
have influence on discussions, whatever your field is.
Chatraw: What are some books that have shaped you as a scholar, and in what particular ways have these books made an impact on you?
Well, it certainly starts with my doctoral advisor, George Marsden. He has had the most profound intellectual and, in many ways, personal influence on me. I would cite his book, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, which discusses this whole theme that we’re talking about. Marsden makes an argument that the academy should be and can be open to Christian perspectives, and that in this day and age when people are routinely professing to use a feminist perspective, a Marxist perspective, or a certain kind of ethnic perspective, that Christian perspectives logically should be welcome at the table. Now, we know that a lot of times they are not welcome by certain figures in academia, but Marsden is saying that if we hold academia to its own standards and its professed commitment to diversity, Christian perspectives certainly should be welcome. He also says that Christians must learn to talk in a way that secular academia will be able to understand what we’re talking about. For example, you may not as a Christian historian just instantly go to providential explanations of things that happened in the past. You don't have to close the door to that; you don't have to explain, say, the Great Awakening (which I’ve worked on) as obviously only a natural event. However, you also don't assume that all your audience will be able to
accept it if you said, for instance, that you believe the Holy Spirit was behind the Great Awakening (which I do believe to a substantial extent). But when I’m writing about the Great Awakening for Yale University Press—and I’ve done a book for Yale on the Great Awakening—I can’t just say “as we all know, God was the one who made the Great Awakening happen,” because my whole audience doesn't know that. But, anybody reading my book and anyone who knows who I am also knows that I'm an evangelical and that I have that kind of perspective on it. As an example of that type of scholarship, I would cite Marsden’s biography of Jonathon Edwards which came out in 2003 and won the Bancroft Prize in American History. This prize is awarded by the Columbia University Department of History—not exactly an evangelical bastion. They said that this work is an illustration of the highest standards of scholarship in history by anyone’s standards, and even though it is coming from an explicitly Christian perspective and recommending Edward’s theology from a Christian perspective, they can see the scholarly value of it. I think it was a real milestone in the history of Christian scholarship for a Christian biography to get that level of recognition. That is not going to happen very often, but Marsden set an example of this aspirational goal.
Do you have some practical advice on productivity in research?
Well, I have a newsletter I write that has become fairly focused productivity in writing, how I
write, and so forth. I guess one of the greatest hits I would identify in my research and writing advice is the value of writing consistently rather than writing occasionally in a great burst. I know many people reading this will be in different kinds of teaching and writing situations, and they might find it daunting to figure out how to write regularly with so many students to work with and heavy administrative responsibilities. I would just say, even if you’re talking about carving out three hours a week, you can make some progress during the semester if you’ll just protect that time. Say on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning in this time slot, this is non-negotiable; I’m marking this off on my calendar, I make an appointment with myself, and I’m going to write on average this many words. When I’m actively writing on a book project, I usually shoot for about a thousand words each writing day. That especially works during the summer if I’m not teaching and I have free days; one thousand words is a pretty realistic goal. When I’m teaching maybe it’s less, but I think that having some kind of daily writing goal, even if you’re only able to write two or three days a week for a very short amount of time, is essential to making long term progress on your writing projects. If I had to give one indispensable piece of advice, it is being mindful of that writing goal and protecting whatever writing time you can spare every week; protecting it so that you’re making weekly progress and not letting weeks and months go by without making any progress on your current project(s).
Lily Chang Instructor of Philosophy College of General Studies, Liberty University
FINDING THE GOOD: A HOPEFUL VISION FOR CHRISTIAN RESEARCH Christians are foreigners and exiles in this world; our ultimate citizenship is in heaven.1 We shouldn’t need a passport or declaration for this birthright to be obvious. As Christians, our lives should naturally stand out, especially in what we do. That we are ambassadors should be apparent from how we live our lives. And, how we do academic research is merely an extension of that ambassadorial role. When we put this approach into action with our research, a certain hope emerges.
Searching for Purpose As a child, I remember asking about the purpose of life and feeling alone in searching for this telos. There had to be more to life than eating, going to school, sleeping, and then doing the same again the next morning. Everyone else seemed content with that mundane existence, day in and day out. I wasn’t. Far from it. But, in the interest of blending in, I stopped asking questions—for a while, at least. Toward the end of my sophomore year in college, an acquaintance encouraged me to try a class that seemed like a good fit for me. So, I took the plunge and signed up for my first philosophy class. That first class was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea how to read or study philosophy, and my poor grades were the evidence. In spite of this, I wasn’t deterred. For the first time in my life, I found good company with like-minded individuals, and my passion for philosophy grew into a major. During my doctoral program, I took particular interest in Aristotle, mostly because of his interest in eudaimonia, the highest good for humankind. It’s a Greek term which is often translated as “happiness” or “human flourishing.”
Pursuing the Highest Good Aristotle’s notion of happiness is appealing, even though these common translations fail to capture the
fullness of his meaning and the concept’s significance.2 Defining eudaimonia involves looking beyond the mundane. His concept encompasses a long-range goal that isn’t limited to the everyday, ordinary routines, but includes examining the telos (or purpose of life). More than that, the ultimate meaning or purpose in life is tied to the “highest good.” The highest good includes three criteria: (1) it is chosen for its own sake; (2) it is never chosen as a means to something else; and (3) all goods are desirable for its sake. Goods that meet one criterion but fail the other two criteria do not qualify as the highest good. For example, friendship, love, and virtue do not qualify as the highest good, because they fulfill the first but not the second criterion. According to Aristotle, eudaimonia alone qualifies as the highest good. There is much we can learn from Aristotle’s view of eudaimonia, and for Christians, pursuing the “highest good” is important for conducting excellent research.
Unique to Human Beings For Aristotle, eudaimonia requires fulfilling three conditions. Specifically, this includes participating in (1) intellectual activity and (2) virtuous activity, respectively, and engaging in (3) virtuous friendships. Eudaimonia is an ongoing, lifelong process of engaging in those three activities.
Intellectual Activity Happiness involves reasoning well regarding philosophical concerns and practical matters. As a philosopher, I appreciate the role our reasoning ability plays in the pursuit of happiness. More than that, for those of us who are trained to use our reasoning faculty, there’s a responsibility to do it and do it well.3 As Christian researchers, we have an obligation to reason well in conducting our research, making observations, and drawing conclusions. Though not strictly adhering to Aristotle’s understanding of intellectual activity, I believe there’s a sense of intellectual activity or reasoning well that all of us can and should engage. People should reason well and think critically, whether in conversation, in school, or at work.
And for Christians specifically, participating in this sort of intellectual activity can help us better comprehend who God is, the wonders of his creation, and who we are to him.
Virtuous Activity In addition to theoretical reasoning, practical reasoning is necessary to the pursuit of happiness.4 Being able to discern what to do or what counts as virtuous requires utilizing practical reason. And, what counts as virtuous in one scenario may not be considered virtuous in another circumstance. For instance, those who give money must figure out the right amount to give to the right person, at the right time, in appropriate circumstances. There is not one applicable rule that applies to all situations. What ought to be done must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Participating in practical reason applies to research work as well. We must figure out how to balance focusing on our own research and encouraging others in their work. We need to determine in what way, how, and when to strike this balance. All this comes with constant and frequent practice.
Virtuous Friendships Virtuous friendships do not just make happiness possible. They are necessary for eudaimonia.5 The very act of pursuing virtuous friendship gives people the opportunity to more fully exercise their reasoning ability and participate in virtuous activity. Additionally, human beings can love what is good and enjoy what is good by engaging in virtuous friendships. God himself is relational, in the form of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and He made human beings relational creatures as well. As relational beings, we need each otherâ€™s encouragement and help in restoring the image in which we were created. It is the lack of this telos in research and scholarship that has been a source of personal frustration in my foray into academia. Too often, our insecurities govern our actions, and we forget the potential that research has in cultivating dialogue and friendship around common interests, passions, and pursuits. A vision of co-researchers as friends and image bearers can bring the type of eudaimonia Aristotle describes.
Toward a Hopeful Vision As Christian scholars engaged in research, we have a responsibility to aim for excellence—not only Aristotelian excellence, but also, the type that Paul would commend to the church at Corinth, the type that brings glory to God in all things.6 I believe our individual effort in Christian research functions a lot like a musician readying for participation in an orchestra. Only after much preparation are the orchestra members ready to come together to create music. Individually, they play well, but together, beautiful harmonies are created. My oldest child, who’s a freshly minted elevenyear-old, started playing in the Denver Youth Artists Orchestra string ensemble this year. During six years of daily practice, my daughter has been doing what her violin teacher instructs and listening to corrections I offer. Isabella has worked to maintain correct form and posture; she has played scales, arpeggios, and performed other exercises that have helped her in the technical aspects of playing. She has continued practicing familiar pieces and learning new ones that challenge her. Likewise, in our research, we must work hard during the preparation phase by reading, gathering data, and writing. Only after we have done this and the research is complete are we ready to join the conversation and make a contribution, much like orchestral harmony. However, to do this well, we must set aside self-aggrandizing goals and recognize that
our research plays a part, not the part. Our individual research is to be valued for its unique role, whatever that may be. We should honor others’ work as equally capable of valuable contributions. And when research falls short of this goal, we response redemptively. We can appreciate how our work contributes a special part to the whole, without insulting others.7 There is hope for Christian research, one that involves doing excellent research, seeing how it fits into the grander scheme, and encouraging each other toward the goodness for which they were created.
1 1 Peter 1:11-12. 2 See Lily Chang, Aristotle on Happiness: A Comparison with Confucius (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, 2008), 8-9; and, Richard Kraut, “Two Conceptions of Happiness,” The Philosophical Review 88 (April 1979): 169 — footnote 7. 3 There are people whose reasoning ability have been compromised, through physical or developmental means, whether by birth or accident. The responsibility to reason well doesn’t apply to those individuals. It applies only to those who can reason. 4 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by H. Rackham, ed. Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), Book I Chapter 8, 39 — 1098b, 30-32. 5 Ibid., Book IX Chapter 9, 565 — 1170b, 18-19. 6 1 Corinthians 10:31. 7 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
Event MARCH 28 Co-sponsored by the Departments of English and Global Studies
SPEAKER: MICHAEL HAYKIN
Professor of Church History & Biblical Spirituality The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
LEARN MORE AT LUAPOLOGETICS.COM
Elisa Rollins Assistant Vice Provost for Quality Enhancement of Undergraduate Education Liberty University
RESEARCH MENTORSHIP (AS DISCIPLESHIP) Participation in research with faculty is not for a student who is faint of heart. It is a time-consuming endeavor, often added onto a student’s already overwhelming schedule full of curricular and co-curricular activities. Students are asked to take on research responsibilities that require subject specific knowledge and skills they are just beginning to develop all-the-while finding and bringing their own voice to the scholarly conversation. Research tasks can range from the mundane to the thrilling. And yet, despite the daunting commitment and rigor of the faculty/student research collaboration, students report that a relationship with a mentor is the most important aspect of their undergraduate research experience.1
Mentorship As educators concerned with research and mentorship, it is vital for us to ask why this facultystudent relationship has been reported to be the highlight of the student experience. The Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) has described mentoring as “the work of exposing our students to our own interests and enthusiasm, introducing them to a larger community of scholars, and helping them work through the emotional questions that might result in their adopting a way of life.”2 According to The Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Education (COEUR), student participation in a research mentorship experience with faculty is a best practice of a successful undergraduate research program (Hensel, 2012).3 Temple et al. explain this value, stating that, “Mentorship, then, helps students think about their potential future lives as professionals in a discipline or an interdisciplinary field with their accompanying content and logistics. If they can imagine themselves— in detail—as professionals and researchers, they can more easily develop the internal motivation required to realize such goals.”4 A powerful component of the research mentorship experience is that the relationship component builds avenues to extend influence and development of a student beyond knowledge and skills to answering “emotional questions” and “develop[ing] the internal motivations” and for us at Liberty, finding answers to life’s eternal questions.
Mentorship and Discipleship This element of effectiveness contributes to an easy transition from mentorship to discipleship. Upon first consideration, the research mentorship relationship might actually appear to parallel a faculty-student discipleship relationship. Yet, there is a distinction. According to Temple et al. the role of the mentor is seen as “…modeling (by living and narrating) a role (as a scholar, researcher, and teacher), so that our students can try that role on for themselves to see how well it fits.”5 Mentorship allows the student to experience what it means to be a researcher and professional in a field and to determine if it is worth the academic investment. But, note the key phrase of “how well it fits.” This is the point at which discipleship becomes distinct from mentorship. The term “discipleship” is found in the New Testament as the Greek verb akolouthein, “to walk behind, or to follow.”6 According to Dana Yeakley, a disciplemaker “brings intentional spiritual investment into their disciples’ lives. There is a mutual commitment to share the word, prayer, and the ups and downs of life, trusting that God will bring growth and strength to those we invest in.”7 To be in a discipleship relationship requires a commitment to follow the example that has been established, as the old chorus “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” says, “no turning back, no turning back,” in contrast to an experimental role that can easily be tried on and discarded.8
Mentorship as Discipleship When faculty view research mentorship as discipleship, they will emphasize to the student the importance of the “why” over the “what” and the “how.” Christian theology holds the researcher responsible for understanding the theological principles that inform research. The nature of the world in which we live is disordered and fallen, and because humans are made in the image of God, it is our responsibility to steward creation and cultivate (or “research”) the world. In this, we discover God on a more intimate level and foster human flourishing. As disciple makers, the faculty can emphasize the importance of this theological “why”
and challenge the mentee to see research as a way to fulfill Matthew 5:13-16. We fulfill the mandate to be the salt and light in the world by wisely stewarding knowledge—investigating research questions and applications that improve human conditions. Faculty, involved in research as Christians, understand that a researcher’s identity should hold to certain values, including humility, honesty, wisdom, courage, and respect.9 Cultivating these values within a student mentee is a spiritual investment, and intentionality is key for success. Mentoring students through the theological questions which inform research is important in preparing them to take ownership of research questions, for, “as the student matures, the mentor’s time commitment should lessen. The successful student will begin to take ownership of the project and suggest new means for resolving difficulties or new directions for the project.”10 If the characteristics of Christian research have been firmly instilled, the mentee will hold fast and true to an inquiry process guided by virtue.
Mentoring and Disciple-Making Mentorship as discipleship requires both mentoring and the vision that our mentoring has a greater than temporal value. It is an ongoing process whereby faculty choose to give of their time, energies, and efforts unto three ends: 1) the student’s personal edification, 2) the students vocational calling (in conjunction with the professor’s calling to teach), and 3) the professors own mandate to make disciples. Perhaps, an example of what this looks like might facilitate a faculty member’s own abilities to reflect on how this can be done in his or her own world/classroom. Dr. Mitch Morrison, Professor in the School of Aeronautics, mentors undergraduate students through a research course on Aviation Safety Techniques. As a research mentor seeking to make a spiritual investment in his students, Dr. Morrison brings students into the scholarly conversations surrounding safety in aviation, challenging them to consider how their role as a student scholar should be informed and influenced by their faith. Essentially, he challenges them to answer the “why” behind the “what.” As part of the final exam for this course, Dr. Morrison challenges the students to self-reflect on 1) their identity as a researcher and student in the aeronautics field, 2) their motivation for performance, and 3) how they add value as a participant. Responses to these questions indicate that Dr. Morrison’s spiritual investment in his research mentees is making an impact. One student’s comment
exemplifies how the theological foundation for research as well as the virtues inherent to a Christian researcher inform his personal “why?”
research and professional experiences with the spiritual commitment to take the gospel with them in whatever vocation they are called to throughout their lives.
I CANNOT ADD ANYTHING TO THE GOSPEL TO MAKE IT BETTER OR MORE VALUABLE. HOWEVER, I CAN ADD VALUE TO THE OTHER ASPECTS OF THE MISSION BY BEING THE BEST PILOT I CAN BE. I CANNOT BE COMPLACENT ABOUT ANY FLIGHT. I NEED TO BE SAFE AND NOT TAKE UNNECESSARY RISKS. ULTIMATELY, I MUST EMBRACE A LIFE OF HUMILITY AND SELFLESSNESS SO GOD’S GLORY MAY ABOUND.
1 Patricia Ann Mabrouk and Kristen Peters, “Student Perspectives on Undergraduate Research (UR) Experiences in Chemistry and Biology,” CUR Quarterly 21, no.1 (Fall 2000): 21, 25-33. 2 Louise Temple, Thomas Q. Sibley, and Amy J. Orr, eds., How to Mentor Undergraduate Researchers (Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research, 2010), 5. 3 Nancy Hensel, ed., Characteristics of Excellence in Undergraduate Research (Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research, 2012), 13-14. 4 Temple, Sibley, and Orr, Undergraduate Researchers, 5. 5 Ibid., 5. 6 David Augsburger, "Discipleship," in Global Dictionary of Theology, edited by William A. Dyrness, and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), accessed October 25, 2017, http://search. credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpacat/discipleship/0. 7 Dana Yeakley, “Three Important Ways Discipleship is Different from Mentoring,” Relevant, January 13, 2016, accessed October 4, 2017, https://relevantmagazine. com/god/practical-faith/3-important-ways-discipleship-different-mentoring.
As evidenced by the student statement above, research mentorship as discipleship is an avenue to profound and lasting academic, professional, and spiritual impact on a student. It is this relationship that builds in students the self-efficacy to move into challenging
8 William Jenkins Reynolds, ed., Assembly Songbook (Nashville: Broadman Press 1959), 17. 9 David S. Dockery, Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education, rev. ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2008). 10 Temple, Sibley, and Orr, Undergraduate Researchers, 7.
Hector Medina Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering School of Engineering & Computational Sciences Liberty University Kyle Ceffaratti B.S.’17, School of Engineering & Computational Sciences, Liberty University
MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, UNMANNED AERIAL FLIGHT, AND THE DANDELION SEED The utilization of lessons from nature is a widely known research discipline called “biomimicry.” The fine-tuned design of creation can assist scientists (or engineers) with discovering new ways to solve problems and challenges that humanity faces. In this brief essay, we will reflect on the success of nature in accomplishing multifuctionality with minimum energy usage. Specifically, we have observed the design of the dandelion seed and have concluded that there is plenty we can learn from dandelions that could help us design new engineering devices and optimize existing ones.
Encountering a Dandelion I (Hector) grew up in Venezuela, and never saw a dandelion until I moved to Richmond, VA, as an adult. What I saw intrigued me and led my curiosity to explore these seeds and the designs that make them up. Anemochorous seeds rely on their shape, size, weight, structural configuration, and other factors to aid in maximum dispersal. A typical dandelion seed is composed of many 6-mm long semi-rigid hairs. The wispy head of the seed serves as a parachute, which imposes a relatively low terminal
(falling) velocity of between 20 to 40 cm/s. Dandelions can be thought of as little, yet sophisticated natural parachutes. The trick part in the design of dandelions is that this parachute does not need its canopy to be a continuous fabric. Instead, the hairs interplay with “fibers” of air to make an “invisible interwoven canopy.” Another interesting part of the dandelionparachute design is that its seams consist of tapered, non-cylindrical cantilevers. The structural stability of these cantilevers play a key role in the flying time of the dandelion. Again, the longer the flying time, the farther the seed can be dispersed for a given wind condition.
Bringing Research to the Classroom A three phase hands-on project titled “Building Dandelion-Like Flying Robots” was proposed to the Center for Teaching Excellence and sponsored by the Liberty University Illuminate Grant—a grant designed with the hope of engaging students in research, supporting active learning, and integrating faith into the classroom. This project involved the collaboration of students from the mechanical engineering and computer engineering programs.
In the first phase, students built the structure and developed the electronics of flying robots to attempt to imitate the flying behavior of dandelions. Students used 3-D modeling software and 3-D printing to design and produce dandelion-inspired structures for the robots. The structures were equipped with tiny motors and propellers. The mechanical engineering students then teamed up with their computer engineering peers to design and develop electronic circuits to power and control the motors, thus providing the lift force of the robots. At this point, phase one has been accomplished. Funding for phases two and three is being pursued. Phase two will consist of incorporating sensors in order to control the flying behavior of the robots, and the final phase will be the manufacturing of an integrated circuit, containing all electronic components, that is light enough and small enough to fly. Students found that the challenge of trying to imitate such a seemingly simple natural system was rather enormous. For instance, since their design was constraint by weight and size, they immediately found that minimizing structure
size was radically constrained by the resolution of the 3-D printer and the intrinsic roughness of the material they were using. In addition, they ended up finding out (not without some level of frustration) that—without proper sensors and careful computer programming—the robots could not be properly controlled.
Faith Integration The essence of this project grew from an observation of creation. The intricacies reflect the design and purpose that God has used throughout His created world. Students quickly recognized the difficulty of designing something small enough to “float” through the air and yet sturdy enough to fulfill its purpose in dispersal. Lessons such as these confirm the existence of designed elements in creation and lead students to see the designer who gives us purpose—for as Paul said, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
Based on the research, students built dandelion-like flying robots.
39 Jason Alvis Research Fellow, Lecturer, Institute for Philosophy University of Vienna
HOW TO WRITE A CHRISTIAN SENTENCE: SOME REFLECTIONS ON SCHOLARSHIP “If it is Christian then it ought to be better.” What seemed like nearly every Wednesday of my undergraduate education, Dr. Falwell Sr. announced his dictum. He said it so often that it had crystallized in my mind as inherently true. During my seven year on-campus career at Liberty I thought myself an instrument of this truth and represented it with fervor as a Prayer Leader, Spiritual Life Director, Resident Assistant, Youth Quest leader, and even a recruiter who traveled the United States to advertise Liberty to future students. Rarely, however did I stop to consider exactly what Falwell's dictum really meant. In order to see its full meaning, it might benefit us to read that phrase backwards— “if it is better then it ought to be Christian.” Because when paired with the life and standard of Christ, “better” should take on a wholly different meaning today in our age of upgrades, technological advancements, spectacles, and prosperity. In the upside-down world of the gospel (where strength is found in weakness, the poor are rich, and the persecuted are blessed) greatness should be qualified by its subversion of the power structures that define the world's own greatnesses. In other words, the greatness embodied and exemplified by Christ is something altogether different than those kinds of greatness by which we find ourselves so easily enticed. This is where we should begin when thinking about Christian Scholarship. In addition to my time at Liberty, my understanding of scholarship has been influenced by spending the last four years in Vienna, Austria (not Australia, but that Virginia-sized European country) where I now work as an assistant head of research. If I have learned anything in this city, it is not the self-proclaimed strength or triumphalism of one's viewpoint that opens (even our own!) minds and hearts to change, but rather a certain style and form of humility— one that the Viennese seem to have perfected in the form of self-deprecation and self-irony. Here in the city of Freud, Mozart, and Klimt, the Pauline notion of the double-willed self (Romans 7:19) has not only become effervescent in secularized form,
but also parsed out into a painstakingly detailed psychology. Each of these thinkers’ works embodied the psychological and theological truths that we do not do what we want to do, that every competition first and foremost is with ourselves, and that we are always under threat of self-deception. Thus, in Vienna, laughing at yourself has become more than a developed skill. It is a national pastime and hobby. The influences of Liberty and Vienna upon my understanding of scholarship have been combined with a third—an ever present suspicion of so-called “Christian scholarship.” Although I teach at one of the world's leading philosophy departments at the University of Vienna and publish in my field’s top journals, my time as an undergrad at Liberty could be described as anything but scholarly. I was a starry-eyed convert juggling social justice projects, on-campus roles, a part-time job as a referee, and on the side, my studies. I received what I rightfully deserved in Professor Hinkson’s introduction to philosophy course: a lukewarm C. In defense of my 19 year old self, I was just learning how to live Christianly and could not fathom what scholarship had to do with it. After all, “Christ did not commit himself to writing—he wrote only in sand,” as the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once put it. Naturally, I did not have any arguments for why scholarship and Christianity were antithetical, nor had I even completed my assigned Kierkegaard readings (sorry, Professor Hinkson). Instead I only operated from a sinking suspicion that being Christian meant the humbling action of following Christ, the Christ who did not baptize books, but people. I did not think Christ wanted us to sit around in café houses or solitude huts in the woods in order to think, write, or learn. One of the paradoxes of information, after all, is that it can be numbing and debilitating, especially in what social theorists are calling our age “of nervousness,” “of intensity,” and “of extremities” in which we seek to out-information others.
Christian life is not about more information—I was convinced—but more transformation. This, at least, is one way I justify my less than impressive 2.5 undergrad GPA.
Christian Scholarship These days I remain skeptical about Christian scholarship, but perhaps for different reasons. I recently attended a conference in Belgium that boasted the keynotes of some of the most well-known Protestant Christian Philosophers. What began with high hopes ended in disappointment—much of the conference seemed more like a kind of protestant praise club—more in need of affirmation than rigorous thinking. Although shrouded in big words and fancy concepts, some of the scholarship there could have quickly been reduced to this: “Christianity is great, wonderful, and in fact the best worldview out there, and if we follow the arguments outlined here [fill in this blank with the particular piece of scholarship being presented] then it will only be logical that everyone else conclude the same.” It is neither the premise nor the conclusion per se that bothered me, but the style by which they were sought and attained. In general, this kind of scholarship often gets interpreted skeptically by those outside the Christian bubble as (a) more of a pragmatic selfaggrandizement of one’s own worldviews than an explication of Christian life, or (b) that its true target is the author herself—writing to convince herself again of what she believes. For these reasons such scholarship rarely reaches an escape velocity beyond the bubble of those who already presuppose its truth value. Of course, some scholarship necessitates that the truths at which we begin are also the truths at which we arrive after study and reflection. Yet I am convinced that Christian scholarship should learn to develop a humble hope for discovery by way of the renewal of the mind, and to such an end, it should be infused with what philosophers call “corrigibility” (the possibility of being wrong). Christian scholarship that only affirms the positions it always has held without any investigative muscle may run the risk of outright malpractice. Concerns of Christian scholarship are compounded by the fact that “Christian” does not function so well as an adjective when applied to things. One need only be reminded of the historical facts and culture wars of the last century: Hitler and his Nazis managed to
rally Deutsche Christen, who were “Christian German Nationalists” behind him, baptizing, shrouding, and justifying the Holocaust in an infinite cause. Or, for three months of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the Christian churches (Catholic and Protestant) had become the primary cleansing sites of massacres and the government’s ethnic cleansing. Should not examples such as these (despite their extremity) furnish caution in referring to things, movements, or ideas (and not simply people) as Christian? I do not wish to suggest that there is no place for Christian Scholarship, but rather that the form and means of its approach needs to take on a distinctly Christian kind of “better.” One of the central results of the gospel is its salvation from the poverty of wallowing, constant self-defense, and resentment— what Nietzsche called a “slave morality” or mentality. It is a gospel of victory, and as such forges its own unique kind of greatness by merit of Christ’s own achievements. Christian scholarship, if it is to be anything like the one whose namesake bears its explanatory weight, should teach that we need be neither defensive nor braggadocios because the gospel relieves us of these pressures. If I have had any bit of success in my still nascent career as a professional scholar, I am convinced that it has been because I strive to write in a style that emulates what I think the Christian life actually is— with humility-creating failures and bold confidence in new life. This is why scholarship done by Christians needs to be obsessed with starting on the weak spots and challenges of Christianity before focusing on the faults of other worldviews. This would welcome others to participate in such a project, not only in order to arrive at consensus or the right structural worldview, but to promote a life of discipleship. Christian scholars should not simply be trumpeters who advertise the Christian worldview, but thinkers of the confession of failures. This paradox (which exemplifies weakness in strength) is the glue that helps hold the gospel life together. Thus an ideal form of Christian scholarship would be one that is both confessional and apologetic in ways we usually do not think; Instead of trumpeting only its own creeds, it confesses its faults and reasonable concerns. And instead of only being defensive of itself, it apologizes for how Christ followers often fail to attain lives that line up with Christ’s standards. It would be a scholarship of faith in the sense that it finds its certainty is always slipping out from under its feet, not in a way that raises doubt to a pedestal, but in
a way that takes seriously Anselm’s fides quaerens intellectum, a “faith seeking understanding” that serves to dislodge our own false beliefs that so quickly become crystallized deposits within the mind.
famous dictum: “If it is Christian scholarship then it ought to be [a Christian kind of ] better.”
This is one reason why, as an LU alum, I am convinced that the actual, lived practices embodied at LU need to be at the forefront of how it portrays itself as a university. It was precisely such implicit, learned practices (from the accountability of community, to the necessity of daily quiet time) that have informed and improved my scholarship perhaps more than any other source. Beyond the platitude that “actions speak louder than words,” this recognition has evidenced for me that no means is ever only a means. The form or “kind” is just as important as the content. It is only in such a context of “kind” that I would add a slight nuance to Falwell's by now
Jason Alvis is an LU alum (2004, 2009), studied at the University of Virginia and University of Denver (Ph.D. 2013), and now specializes in 20th century European Philosophy and Religion. He was a research fellow at Stanford University (2015-16), and now serves as an Assistant Head of Research Program in the Institute for Philosophy at the University of Vienna. He is the author of The Inconspicuous God: Heidegger, French Phenomenology, and the Theological Turn (Indiana University Press, 2018) and The Generosity of Things: Marion and Derrida on the Gift and Desire (Springer Press 2016).
CO -HOSTED BY THE JERRY FALWELL LIBRARY
Tuesday, April 17 TWO LECTURES
“Public Witness in a Secular Age: A Theological Vision for Christianity and Politics” “What Hath Nature to Do with Grace? A Theological Vision for Higher Education” BRUCE ASHFORD Professor of Theology and Culture, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
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What Can the Church Offer for Effective Disability Interaction?: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Special Education and Christian Education Deanna Keith, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Education School of Education Chris Hulshof, Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Religion Rawlings School of Divinity
Imago Dei and Disabilities In the 2004 Disney/Pixar movie The Incredibles, Mrs. Incredible and her two children, Dash and Violet, have set off to rescue Mr. Incredible. He has been captured by the villain Syndrome. As Mrs. Incredible and her children split up, she hands each of them an oval face mask and says, â€œYour identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it.â€? The significance of identity is a pressing issue today. We are surrounded by cultural voices that seek to instill an identity on every human being. Yet, for the Christian,
any meaningful discussion on identity begins not with what culture says, but with what the Word of God says. Genesis 1:27 tells us that human beings are created in the image of God. This Imago Dei is one of the distinguishing marks that set man apart from all other created beings. However, it is this theological truth that often gets muddled when Christians set out to describe or define what it means to be made in the image of God. A good working understanding of the Imago Dei can help the church influence Christian education towards an academic environment of inclusion and compassion for those who are disabled.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God? In his book, the Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense of Life, Justin Buzzard asks and answer this very question. He writes,
"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE THE IMAGE OF GOD? ONE WORD THAT EXPLAINS IT WELL IS ‘REPRESENTATIVE.’ AS IMAGES OF GOD, WE REPRESENT GOD ON EARTH. WE BEAR HIS IMAGE BECAUSE THERE IS SOMETHING OF HIM IN US."₁ When we take this definition, and move out with it, we can begin to see how it could impact disability interaction in Christian education. Oftentimes inclusive education within a Christian environment is couched under the auspices of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). Unconsciously, this divides the educational community into two groups where the disabled will always be seen as something less than their peers. In this scenario, they are after all, the least of these. However, if we move away from this perspective to one where the disabled are viewed through their true identity, as image bearers who have within them something of Him, those who are disabled are defined not by something less but by something greater. They are viewed and valued for what they share with their peers. They, like them, bear the image of God. If interaction with the disabled community would focus on the image of God in every human being, then two crucial movements could take place. First, there would be a movement from sympathy to empathy. Where sympathy says, “I feel sorry for you. How can I help?” Empathy says, “I want to know what you are going through. How can I walk in your shoes and cry your tears?” An empathetic disability ministry has at its core the true identity of every individual. The second movement is from association to friendship. Association with those who are disabled creates a relationship where the disabled individual is nothing more than a ministry project. A movement towards friendship is a voluntary relationship that focuses on coming alongside a disabled person instead of doing something on behalf of that same individual. This honest and vulnerable movement is a result of locating disability interaction primarily on the Imago Dei. A biblical understanding of the image of God is essential
to informing the church’s approach to individuals with disabilities. A comprehensive theological understanding of disability cultivated within the church should emphasize God’s sovereignty, goodness, and glory within these circumstances. When the church illustrates an empathetic and loving approach to both disabled and non-disabled individuals, the grace of Christ is all the more magnified.
Applying the Imago Dei Principle to Disabilities in the Church and Beyond In recognizing that we are made according to God’s image, the foundation for a biblical approach to disabilities has been set. From here, members of the church must then seek to care for all of those within the body of Christ— this includes a concerted intentionality in maintaining an awareness of disabilities and an understanding of the best practices for serving such individuals. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” The model for approaching disabilities must involve this unity—enabled by God’s grace—which allows us to faithfully love and care for all of those in our midst within the church. Further, our presuppositions must recognize the sovereignty of God in disability. In John 9:1-3, after seeing a blind man, the disciples ask Christ, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” As John Knight indicates, “To be clear, God's sovereignty doesn't mean he merely permits disability... He sovereignly intends it, both for his glory and for our good—"that the works of God might be displayed."2 Functioning from this vantage point, we are able to serve those with disabilities powered by the grace of God, knowing that their circumstances were ordained by him for his glory. Application of this biblical understanding of disabilities must be visible within our churches. In order to provide an empathetic model with which to care for church members with disabilities, ministry policies and procedures must account for the accommodation of disabilities across all age ranges. From a practical perspective, this may involve components like ensuring accessibility for those with physical handicaps, providing audio enhancers for those with hearing difficulties, or providing a separate viewing room for parents of children whose disabilities may prevent them from sitting still or being quiet for long periods of time.
Further, promoting an inclusive environment may require the adaptation of children’s curriculum to flexibly apply across all learning needs and levels. Creating classes or small groups which specifically teach a biblical vision of disability will help churches with multiple facets of the endeavor: equipping those with disabilities to have a biblical view of themselves as well as teaching others members how to care for a loved one who is disabled. Additionally, providing opportunities for disabled members of the church to serve in ministry as parts of the body of Christ promotes their autonomy while continuing to magnify the grace of God. Trusting God’s sovereign goodness in understanding His view of disability tunes our hearts and minds to approach these individuals as fellow image-bearers. Practices for serving disabled individuals both within the church and within educational settings must be informed by empirical evidence and fueled by Gospel love. As Paul states in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There are no dividing lines whatsoever which render disabled individuals any less worthy of the grace of Christ, and as such, no less worthy of intentional efforts to remove any obstacles to their inclusion within loving and empathetic communities.
1 Justin Buzzard, The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense of Life. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013), 54. 2 John Knight, “Is God Sovereign Over Human Disability?” May 6, 2010, accessed November 8, 2017, http: //www.desiringgod.org/articles/ is-god-sovereign-over-human-disability.
Incarnational and Revelational Commitment: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Linguistics and Hebrew Paul Müller, Associate Professor of English and Linguistics College of Arts & Sciences Don Fowler, Professor of Biblical Studies Rawlings School of Divinity
From its first chapter in Genesis to its last chapter in Revelation, the biblical story is told in the context of literary, thematic, and cultural backgrounds that were part of the ancient world. God’s self-revelation is firmly situated in the languages and cultures of these eras. An appreciation for the willingness of the indescribable God to enter into the human world—both incarnationally and revelationally—is an important starting point for exploring cultural engagement from the perspectives of linguistics and biblical languages. In the Garden of Eden, God established a presence with the first pair that is paradigmatic for the entire biblical story (Genesis 3:8). Throughout, we witness God’s inconceivable humility in his incarnational presence and in his spoken word, offices which we, as his witnesses, are commissioned to carry forth.
The writer of Hebrews affirms for us that in Christ, the meaning of God is perfectly expressed. We may interpret this as contrasting with all the various ways— most articulately, human language—in which God had spoken in the past. But the writer gives us no such indication of contrast. The long-held doctrine of the church is that the words of Scripture are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. That is, that the words of the tongues of men—in the humility and infinite power of God—can be infused with the very breath with which God made man a living soul.
As most missionaries will quickly share, learning the language of those they serve is an essential part of living the gospel—and of cross-cultural Christian engagement. During this season of learning a new language, missionaries often feel helpless and useless, in spite of their high commitment to the mission and their field. However, this season of returning to the elementary principles of phonology, vocabulary, and grammar becomes, not merely the launching point for future ministry, but indeed the arduous stuff of incarnation, putting on, as it were, the linguistic and cultural self of those to whom, and for whom, the missionary is crucified in Christ. Much as God in his infinite humility translated himself into the corrupt flesh of sinful man, so too, those who, as Christ, are sent into the world (John 17:18), take on the living languages and cultures through which God continues to speak the Word to every tribe and tongue and people and nation—in the languages of their own hearts.
Incarnated language leads thus to revealed understanding, as language communicates that ineffable breath of God in the soul of man—meaning. Since God has revealed himself in every era, it follows that He has also spoken within the cultures of each era. The oft-stated “I will be with you” has significant—if problematic—consequences because the cultures shaped by humans generate relational and moral tensions between a holy God and human cultures.1 God could have chosen to give sterile and impersonal revelation from ‘above’ – in the form of dictation. Instead, He chose to unveil His perfect truths within imperfect and limited linguistic and cultural systems. God’s gracious desire to be in His created world occasioned His willingness to be in the presence of imperfection.
An Incarnational and Revelational Mandate God has spoken through the incarnate Christ, and continues to speak through the broken bits of human languages. Against the backgrounds of tattered human cultures, God is still divinely communicating the full transcendence of His nature. He continues to do this
in various ways, but in this the age of the Church, most particularly and most incarnationally, through men and women committed to the great commission, translating the both the written word of God in the languages and cultures of men and the living Word of God in the flesh and blood of their own lives. God’s written word speaks to us originally through the particular Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testaments in their respective cultures, and whether in the teaching and preaching of the word, in its apologetics or theological codification, or in its translation, we find ourselves continually pouring through the linguistic and cultural details of those texts to extract God’s transcendent and immanent meaning— God, the Word, God with us. This is the arduous work of translation, whether of word or of life. In a sense,
one truly has to wonder at God’s plan, to leave us as his witnesses, as his evidence of the incarnate word, the firstborn from the dead. But this is precisely what he has done. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, the earthen vessels of human languages and human cultures and above all human lives, translating, in the mystery and perfection of His power, the word of God into the words and lives of human flesh.
1 See John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, vol. 2, Israel’s Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006); Eugene Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2006). See especially part three.
Coming May 2018 BY DR. JOSHUA D. CHATRAW Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
DR. MARK D. ALLEN Chair, Department of Biblical Studies Senior Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
“Joshua Chatraw and Mark D. Allen have produced the most comprehensive, accessible, and up-to-date manual on Christian apologetics that I know of. Despite how full its treatment of the subject, it is eminently readable. The authors present all the various approaches to apologetics respectfully, proposing their own pathway that incorporates a large range of insights from many disciplines and thinkers. ... Highly recommended.” TIM KELLER Pastor Emeritus The Redeemer Presbyterian Churches of New York City
“One of the best books about apologetics I have read.” ALISTER E. MCGRATH Professor of Science and Religion Director of Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, Oxford University
Book Reviews Caleb Brown Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Liberty University
The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking by David Dockery and Timothy George introduces the series Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. The series outlines how Christians can pursue academics Christianly, interweave their faith life with their thought life, and involve their faith in the pursuit of psychology, philosophy, natural science, or other disciplines. As the introduction to this effort, The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking lays the groundwork for the rest of the series by briefly surveying the Christian faith. It aims to crystallize the distinctives of Christian thought and history, the elements that all Christian academics, whether practitioners in the liberal arts or natural sciences, ought to share and involve in their pursuit of knowledge. Specifically, it addresses the Christian traditions of biblical interpretation, doctrine formulation, education, and cultural engagement. Dockery and George begin their discussion of the Christian intellectual tradition by rejecting a separation between faith and reason. They urge an approach modeled by Origen, one which seriously pursues intellectual development in the context of holding fast to the central orthodox doctrines of God, Christ, the Spirit, Spiritual beings, and God’s final victory over evil. Chapter two traces the development of the historical consensus of the Christian tradition, beginning with Jerome and Augustine, including the thought and hermeneutics of people like Aquinas and the reformers, and concluding with the influence of Enlightenment philosophy. After laying out this consensus of tradition, the authors address challenges to it. They argue that Christian orthodoxy is often made explicit only when false doctrine emerges and must be refuted, as seen in the Church’s responses to Marcion, Arius, and Pelagius. The fact that the true doctrines of God and man are made clearer through struggle with heterodoxy does not minimize their truth. Chapter four delves deeper into the theological commitments of the Christian tradition, distinguishing between faith that the claims of Christianity are true and faith in Christ, commitment of oneself and of one’s future to the care of God. Dockery and George emphasize the importance of both types of faith. Their book concludes with a charge for believers to reclaim and further the Christian tradition through a pursuit of academic excellence which is not self-seeking but seeks the God who grounds and unifies all truth. Dockery, David S. and Timothy George. The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Students Guide. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. $7
Joshua Erb Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Liberty University
Pro Rege was initially an extended series of essays that Kuyper wrote for the Dutch publication Die Herault (The Herald) between 1907 and 1911, and they were then published in an independent work from 1911-1912.1 Lexham Press is doing a great service by translating and editing the complete works of Abraham Kuyper. These editions are beautifully bound, easy to read, and contain many explanatory notes that the reader can consult to better understand Kuyper’s references and comments that were specific to his culture. Lexham has published Pro Rege in three separate volumes. Kuyper wrote Pro Rege to address what he saw as a lack of attention to and recognition of Christ’s kingship over all creation, not just his church. Indeed, the title of this work in Latin means for our King. Kuyper observed that there was a bifurcation in the minds of many people at the time of his writing. Christians saw Christ as savior in the church, but when they left the confines of the church, it was as though they left Christ there and did not take his kingship with them into the world.2 There was an intellectual recognition that Christ is King, but it did not affect their lives. Kuyper recognized what an issue this was for the church, and he began his indictment against this mindset by pointing to Islam—particularly to the honor and respect that they have for Muhammed even though he is only viewed as a prophet. Kuyper further points out that Islam has, in many cases, greater reverence for Jesus as a Prophet than Christians do, even though we claim him as our savior and king.3 Throughout the pages of Pro Rege, Kuyper purposes to demonstrate the importance of recognizing the kingship of Christ over the world. A recognition of Christ as merely savior is an acknowledgement that focuses on what he has done that benefits us. This is a comfortable recognition. However, Kuyper argues that recognizing Christ as King demands something more of the believer. If Christ is King, “[He] demands faithfulness, allegiance, and submission.”4 The Kingship of Christ is the ultimate hope of the Christian. Christ is the King who goes to battle with Satan, the king of this world, to dethrone him for the sake of the souls of his children. It is this battle, Kuyper argues, and the “unfolding of Jesus’ kingship over the world” that “encompass and drive sacred history.”5 The kingship of Christ is a vital doctrine for the church to recognize, especially as the culture today tries to run farther and farther from this reality. Kuyper, Abraham. Pro Rege. Vol. 1, The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship. Edited by John Kok and Nelson D. Kloosterman. Translated by Albert Gootjes. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016. $31
1 Abraham Kuyper, Pro Rege: Living Under Christ’s Kingship, vol. 1, The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship, ed. John Kok and Nelson D. Kloosterman, trans. Albert Gootjes (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), xv. 2 Ibid., xxxii. 3 Ibid., 10. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid., 196.
Book Reviews Maria Kometer Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Liberty University
Reading Richard J. Mouw’s Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars is a truly challenging experience for anyone who has often wrestled with the “doers versus knowers” debate. Mouw engages in a discussion that he believes puts him at odds with many in the “fundamentalist” camp, asserting that, perhaps, it is not better to simply “do” without thought or reflection. Mouw presents to his readers that there is inherent merit to simply learning and understanding well without immediate tangible results, positing that critical thinking itself is a form of worship. Mouw begins his book with a brief discussion of his own emergence from a Christian culture that held great disdain for academics. He next clarifies that he does not believe that everyone must be an intellectual, citing passionate servants such as Mother Theresa. He asserts instead that intellectualism has a place in Christianity beyond being the feared antagonist, and is necessary for the body of Christ. Mouw discusses the need for church leaders to embrace their rigorous seminary training as a crucial step to being equipped for ministry, and goes on to assert that academic pursuits in the church should not be isolated personal endeavors but instead communal activities. And in these communities, he advocates for a “safe place” in which believers can learn, explore, and even doubt. He declares the importance of understanding creation and refusing to fear science, asserting the importance of acknowledging creation theories beyond the fundamentally accepted interpretation. Called to the Life of the Mind’s most powerful contribution to the discussion in which it participates is the noticeably humble tone. Mouw does not ridicule or belittle those with whom he disagrees, he simply presents a case for his own assertions. Mouw shows the logical flaws inherent in the mindset that elevates “spiritual” results and actions over intellectual thought while avoiding a condescending tone. While this topic is highly contested throughout Christianity and has been the cause of much disagreement, Called to the Life of the Mind represents its case with a humble and winsome approach that is extremely compelling. Mouw, Richard J. Called to the Life of the Mind: Some Advice for Evangelical Scholars. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014. $6
Jack Carson Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Liberty University
Liberal Arts for the Christian Life is a fitting addition to the book reviews included in this edition of Faith and the Academy. As a tribute to Leland Ryken—a distinguished Christian professor of English literature—this book is written at a level that is accessible for undergraduate students. Edited by Philip Ryken and Jeffry Davis, the essays in this work paint a beautiful vision for the importance of liberal arts education for Christians. The essays are short, comprehensible, and focused. As a summary, here are three basic—and in my opinion, incredibly important—points that are explained for the reader. First, this book rightly asserts that, since the liberal arts are designed to prepare students to be life-long learners capable of acquiring new skill sets, there is a sense in which liberal arts education opens the door to greater freedoms of expression and interest. Therefore, “the pursuit of Christ is the supreme liberal art—the fundamental discipline that sets us free.”1 The argument is that all believers can sympathize with the end goals of liberal arts education since belief in Christ embodies many of the same ideals. Second, the contributors build a theological foundation upon which believers can rest their pursuit of the liberal arts. This is primarily done through establishing the connection between learning and Christian faithfulness. As one contributor explained, “Christian thinking is a prerequisite for Christian action.”2 The contributors explain that learning to utilize logic, reason, grammar, and rhetoric equips the believer with the ability to articulate the Christian vision of life in a way that they could not otherwise. Third, the contributors explain that a Christian liberal arts education instills deep virtues and characteristics that reflect the grace and love of Christ. Through learning to listen attentively, understand deeply, and value virtues, the student can be equipped to engage with others in a caring way. One habit cultivated by a liberal arts education that is helpful for believers is reading. By becoming a habitual reader, young Christians can learn to place themselves into the minds and perspectives of others, and they can become effective communicators of grace. As one contributor explains, “Christian liberal arts education requires the learner to affirm certain basic pursuits: growth, depth, and compassion.”3 These pursuits, encouraged by the liberal arts, develop winsome, humble, and wise people—traits that equip Christians to pursue Christ well. Through these three points and many more, the contributers of Liberal Arts for the Christian Life express a profound love for education, particularly in the liberal arts. The passion of the authors—maybe even more than their reasoning—pushes the reader to adopt that same love. This book is a worthwhile read for anyone questioning the usefulness of liberal arts education, and it is a rallying call for renewed intellectual vigor within Christian education. Davis, Jeffery C. and Philip G. Ryken, eds. Liberal Arts for the Christian Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. $20
1 Jeffry C. Davis and Philip G. Ryken, eds., Liberal Arts for the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 34 Kindle. 2 Ibid. 86. 3 Ibid., 26.
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Students from all academic disciplines can participate. Applications for Fall 2018 are available at LUApologetics.com and must be submitted by April 15.
Shawn Akers, J.D. Dean, Helms School of Government Senior Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement
Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Senior Fellows Shawn Akers Mark Allen Joseph Brewer Joshua Chatraw Kenneth Dormer Keith Faulkner Mark Foreman Chris Gnanakan Ed Hindson Gary Isaacs Linda Mintle Karen Swallow Prior Gary Sibcy Samuel C. Smith
And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28
Coming Fall 2018 Vol. 3, no. 1 Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth “Global Christianity"