Posted by: gcarkner | October 2, 2018

Innovation, Integration, Convergence

I’ve recently found a copy of Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Thomas M. Crisp, Steve L. Porter and Gregg A. Ten Elshof (Eerdmans, 2014).

Elizabeth Lewis Hall, a US psychologist who works at Biola, writes a chapter in this book called “Structuring the Scholarly Imagination: Strategies for Christian Engagement with the Disciplines” (pp. 97-124). This article has helped me begin to define what integration means for me and what it might mean for those I seek to encourage. You can also get a lot of the content through this video: https://cct.biola.edu/structuring-the-scholarly-imagination/

In brief, Christian faith can contribute to your motivation for studying, the epistemology you use when you study, the content of what you study, the process by which you study, or the outcomes of your study. Lewis Hall understandably gives more attention to content than the others. She explains that sometimes faith can tell us what study questions are worth entering into, and sometimes it can provide a broader (biblical, moral, or eschatological) framework in which to contextualize the answers we find. Sometimes faith can fill in the gaps in (i.e., complement) the answers we find. For instance, science can perhaps describe a phenomenon but not determine its purpose or meaning.

5 Ways Faith can relate to Scholarship: Motivation, Epistemology, Content, Process, Outcomes

These can be subdivided and Lewis Hall provides a typology of modes of Christian engagement with scholarship on p. 118. Near the end of the article, she explains how that, even if every Christian scholar sought integration, it would look differently in different disciplines, in different institutional contexts. Maximal integration is probably only possible when the scholarly community is also a worshiping community. She suggests a continuum of disciplines according to the intensity or frequency of Christianity’s bearing. At the latter end are disciplines that have the most to do with interpretation and the nature of humanity, those closest to the centre of human existence. This is where we relate to God and also where sin affects us most drastically. I suppose that those are the disciplines, like philosophy, where you could imagine a credible academic conference focused especially on Christianity’s relationship to the field of study.

What I liked best in Lewis Hall’s approach is that it leaves us with so much to say to those who are in the disciplines near the beginning of this continuum, say, perhaps, aquaculture or metallurgy. For them, and indeed for all scholars, a Christian motivation for studying is pertinent. Are we studying as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us? Are we motivated by love for the world that God so loves? A Christian process of study is also important. Are we studying in a generous, hospitable, loving manner, and are we striving towards the interdependence that the Scriptures say characterizes the Body of Christ? For the more interpretive, human-nature-focused disciplines, Christian outcomes matter greatly. Are the applications we make from our study likely to provide benefit to human lives – and particularly to the lives of the most needy?

I offer this brief review hoping that it will prompt further discussion about what integration means,

Stephen Ney PhD English Literature

UBC Vancouver, Canada


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