Posted by: gcarkner | May 31, 2015

Twin Heritages Recovered

Twin Heritages: Christ and University

What if we could harness the power, resources and critical skills of the research university for the growth and health of the contemporary church and its mission? What if we could harness the full richness of Christian history and spirituality, benevolence and moral capacity for the enrichment and inspiration of the university community and academia itself?

It would surely break open a new, powerful vision of unparalleled creativity and promote untold good for humanity. It would give us  fire in the belly we have hardly imagined. It would be a boon to research and a boon to the church, producing a win/win scenario. The alienation between these two highly influential institutions, two carriers of significant weighty heritage, is nothing short of a tragedy of late modernity. Perhaps we are due for some Big Sky Re-Thinking.

Envision the Possibilities

  • Faith and Reason could pull together like plow horses. We could rethink their relationship.
  • Science and the Imagination could complement one another with intensity.
  • Wisdom could be combined with the Holy Spirit to enrich philosophy and education.
  • Goodness and Beauty could become central to research and application of insight.
  • Excellence of character could complement excellence of scholarship in the formation of students and the model of professors.
  • A new paradigm of freedom could be discovered: as generosity of spirit rather than freedom as an end in itself, a freedom that builds community and promotes joy, and is connected to the good.
  • We could recover Christian Humanism for robust social change, and satiate our hunger and thirst for meaning and purpose. There is a robust tradition to tap into here.
  • The Wonder of the Cosmos (13.8 billion light years across) made available through powerful telescopes could complement an appreciation of the Creator who loves us intensely, has a vested interest in our well-being, in this small corner of the known universe on the edge of the Milky Way.
  • Pioneering in science through particle accelerators, revolutionary breakthroughs in genetics, nanotechnology and neuroscience could be complemented by a great leap forward in human compassion and  social responsibility, a leap forward in ownership of responsibility for climate change and our relationship to the biosphere.

Potential New Discoveries

  • We could find new drivers for social change, justice, addressing violence, inequity and exploitation.
  • We could discover new solutions and perspectives on international relations, renew our cultural language of peace making, forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • We could build a deeper, richer identity capital in young adults, connect them to the eternal weight of glory, and help them think more clearly about investing their talents and passion wisely for kingdom purposes.
  • We could recover a ground for morality and a hope for better, more rational moral discourse and mutual understanding rooted in God’s unfathomable goodness. Moral dialogue would be given new traction.
  • We could come to appreciate the full range of God’s giftedness to humanity and become better stewards of that giftedness. This includes our long-range cultural heritage.
  • We could combine the brilliant insights of the immanent and the transcendent to accomplish new breakthroughs in thinking, restore our sense of awe and wonder. This would open horizons for fruitful reflection and positive stewardship.
  • We could discover a new caliber of leadership, noble in character, marked by servanthood, humility and generosity, proved to empowering others. Love, empathy and compassion would become a marketable skill.

A New Courage Would Emerge

  • To take on the Big Questions to challenge our thinking, our creativity, our self-reflection and mindfulness. We could find new solutions to persistent problems. Narrow mindedness and empty rhetoric would be put behind us.
  • To rethink our anthropology and concept of self in community, perhaps to help us understand our story and our embeddedness This also involves personal honesty about our failures to do the good and right thing, and a commitment to be less narcissistic and greedy.
  • To recover the capital virtues for inspired, empowered living and educate  the use of our freedom and choice with virtue.
  • To explore the incarnation as central to human identity and cultural advance: Jesus as the Yes and Amen to it All. It could become a new plausibility structure for the way we live.
  • To use some things other than GDP to measure our success as a nations and as a global community, e.g. social and environmental responsibility.
  • To reassess the value and potential of the poetic to reveal who we are as whole persons in relationship. New epiphanies of grace could emerge.
  • To bring under intense scrutiny current reductionistic philosophies of naturalistic materialism and moral subjectivism and ethical relativism, revealing the ways in which they restrict our thinking and our imagination, preventing human progress and cooperation.

A Force for Change

  • Recovery of the broken relationship between word and world, signifier and signified and revival of our flat Language is a key area for recovery.
  • Enhancement of democracy, as people become more aware and responsible citizens, mindful of the common good, and active in public discourse, where they experience more engagement and less alienation from political and economic elites. They would learn more about how their freedom interfaces with taking responsibility.
  • Prayer would move mountains in the church, the university and society and become more central to discernment of the wisest options to solve problems, promote justice and for future planning. It would also help to sort out differences, promote discernment (phronesis) between good and evil.
  • Hunger for knowledge would be complemented by hunger for God and a committed posture of humility and peacemaking, reduction of violence.
  • It would potentially transform greedy plutocrats into benevolent benefactors for the common good, especially concerning the Global South and indebted nations. International relations could be enhanced through mutual cooperation.
  • More business activity would operate with a moral compass, and concern itself also with responsible contribution to society and giving back to society, as well as environmental stewardship and a healthy workplace, with justice for workers.
  • It could save the threatened humanities and liberal arts in our lower and higher education institutions. This includes theology and balanced anthropology needed for whole person development and cultural understanding.
  • It could move the world to come up with solutions within alternative energy to head off further, more intense global warming disaster scenarios, and help protect those most vulnerable such as climate refugees.
  • We could escape some of the darker aspects of our current anarchic nihilism and the Dionysian elements and trends of society.

Indeed what would it be like to recover God’s Shalom, his love, wisdom and will at the heart of academia and the heart of the church and for these two heritages to pull together? It would be intensely creative and constructive! There is a strong call to wisdom in the ancient Hebrew Proverbs from the centre of town; perhaps this call can be re-issued from top of the towers of our modern universities: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If we were to map the future with fresh wisdom, it would change everything; we would get a moral as well as a technical skill education. It would offer a very positive paradigm shift, an unparalleled vision for a more just society, a more equitable world for human flourishing. Saint Anselm wrote, “Jesus is the intelligence of intelligence, the knowledge of knowledge, the wisdom of wisdom, and the truth of truth.” This might help with the current crisis of identity and failed vision in the church and in the university that is the subject of so many books and articles. It could break out a whole new paradigm for renewal of culture, and redraw the boundaries of what it means to be human. This is the power and direction of the vita contemplativa.

~Gordon Carkner Ph.D. in Identity and Culture

See Charles Habib Malik, A Christian Critique of the University;

Douglas V. Henry and Michael D. Beaty (eds.) Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as Foundation for Intellectual Community (2006) Douglas Todd Vancouver Sun “Can Higher Education Rediscover its Soul?”


 David Lyle Jeffrey, Baylor University Honors College: Education for Wisdom: Intrinsic Goods

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 2.16.36 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: