What commitments inform Reflecting Faith?
The de Vries Institute at Calvin University aims to help Christian educators around the world deepen their capacity to root their work in higher education in Christian faith. Our work is rooted in a Reformed Christian tradition that emphasizes living the whole of life intentionally before God, an emphasis that is shared by many other Christian traditions. Rather than a separation of faith and learning into two separate arenas, or merely setting faith and learning side by side, our belief is that since faith commitments deal with all of life, they can also inform work in all disciplines and aspects of higher education. Christian faith does not simply happen alongside higher education in the form of personal prayer or chapel events. Rather, it frames and informs all of what we do, including prayer and worship but also our theorizing and teaching, leadership and service, our work, and our worldview.
Since the Bible is an authoritative touchstone for Christian faith, learning to read the Bible well and thinking through its implications is an important part of Christian scholarly work. At the same time, looking for isolated verses to solve problems in philosophy or physics can distort the intent of the biblical text and lead to questionable scholarship. The Bible is not an encyclopedia offering direct guidance on every discipline. The Christian intellectual task involves seeking to understand Scripture and the theological and philosophical traditions that have engaged with it. It involves working to understand the created world through all the disciplines that study it, exposing the ways in which our beliefs, assumptions, and limitations both enable and distort our knowing. It then involves seeking to articulate and live truth in a way that holds all of what we know together, including the Christian conviction that we live all of life in the presence of God. This is a demanding project that we do in community with others, past and present, working together toward approaches to higher education that are biblically rooted, academically rigorous, and creative in their contributions to the present needs of the world.
The very comprehensiveness of this vision means that there cannot be a simple, “one size fits all” formula or paradigm for a meaningful relationship between faith commitments and the work of higher education. What may be authentic and compelling in biochemistry may not necessarily be appropriate in sociology or art history. What makes sense in a classroom setting may not necessarily be the best approach for a journal article or a lab project. A theological theme that is generative for work in literary studies may have limited connection to economics. We can approach questions about how faith and learning connect through examining the philosophy and history of our disciplines, ethical and methodological questions, the worldviews implied by scholarly accounts, the values implicit in our approaches to teaching and learning, the ways in which we live sand serve together in academic communities, our involvement in the wrongs of the world and ways of seeking justice, and more.
What holds together work in all of these disparate areas is the Christian vision of “all things” created, held together, fallen, and yet reconciled in Christ (Colossians 1:15-20), and our calling as scholars, educators, and leaders to explore the implications of our faith for what we do in wise, compassionate, and responsible ways.