Archives For Life in the Academy

Below are suggested readings from my Urbana 12 seminar Serving Christ as a Professor. These are books or essays that Emerging Scholars Network staff and members have found especially helpful to their journey toward becoming a faculty member.

In each section, foundational or introductory selections are listed first, followed by books that are either more advanced or written for a specialized audience.

Be sure to also see our list of Best Books for Undergraduates from Urbana 09, as suggested by our blog readers. We know this is only a partial list of all the books we could have recommended. Did we omit one of your favorites? Recommend it in the comments!

The Life of the Mind

Greg Jao, Your Mind’s Mission
C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” published in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
Charles Malik, “The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar,” published in William Lane Craig and Paul Gould, ed. The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar: Redeeming the Soul, Redeeming the Mind
James Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling
John Stott, Your Mind Matters

Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Our review)
James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation
James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World Continue Reading…

Empty classroom

Are you connected with a community of Christian scholars?

Below is the first of a periodic offering of posts by Kate Peterson (pseudonym), an assistant professor in the humanities at a Christian institution of higher education. A special thank-you to Kate for expressing her desire to share with us some of her story, thereby providing a lens for some of the challenges faced by and insights which can be uniquely offered by scholars in the context of a Christian institution of higher education. As an alumnus of two Christian institutions, a student currently enrolled at another, and an InterVarsity staff who has visited a number of Christian institutions (and institutions which were founded to be Christian institutions), I personally find it an important part of the conversation of following Christ in higher education. ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV

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I’m disappointed. In myself, mostly. And struggling a bit. It hit hard when I began my first tenure track position at a Christian university straight out of grad school several years ago. But like my colleagues, I got used to it, so caught up in day-to-day pressures that it stopped bothering me.

But this semester, I’m on leave, conducting research in a country that has very few Christians. And so it struck me again: Why do I feel better supported as a Christian scholar here than at the Christian institution in the United States where I work?

I don’t mean to complain. I love my job. I appreciate the freedom I have to bring up my faith in the classroom. I love it that students raise spiritual questions during office hours. The institution supports spiritual mentoring, and meals with students are not only encouraged, but subsidized! I was excited when an energetic undergrad scheduled lunch with me my first month and asked openly, “So, are you a Christian?” That’s a question I’ve gotten fairly often from students who are genuinely struggling and really want to know. I’ve had conversations with students about being a Christian in my field, the moral implications of issues raised in classes, or how to apply what they learn in ministry. I’ve prayed with them about how to serve Christ in their major and how their studies impact their faith. I love it.

But one thing bothers me. Why do these conversations take place with students but not peers? Continue Reading…

A Place on Earth

Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth

The main character of Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth, as in many of his novels, is the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. While Berry is a masterful storyteller, the narrative is less important than the relationships that the characters have with each other, with the town and surrounding farmland they inhabit, and with the land itself.

Berry continually returns to the question of what effect a character has on the people, town, and land around him. When a character is introduced, Berry will often describe the condition of the person’s farm, home, or workplace. For example, Berry contrasts the relatively wealthy Roger Merchant with Roger’s tenant Gideon Crop. Roger inherited a large, profitable farm from his father, but has allowed it to fall into disuse; even Roger’s rental income is handled mostly by his lawyer. Gideon, meanwhile, inherited almost nothing from his father except a tenant relationship with Roger. What little Gideon has, however, is well-maintained and attended to. In Berry’s vision of the world, your stewardship of your home and workplace is a moral dimension of your character. It’s not the complete judgment, but it’s important.

Relationships are also part of this stewardship. One of Roger’s few friends — perhaps his only friend — is Mat Feltner, one of the heroes of Berry’s universe. Mat describes his friendship with Roger as “perplexing,” because Roger regularly calls on Mat for his counsel, keeps Mat engaged in long, rambling, over-complicated discussions of minor issues, and never takes Mat’s advice. Despite this frustrating pattern, Mat still invests time and care in his relationship with Roger. Mat’s attitude toward Roger, in many ways, mirrors his attitude towards farming: care, hard work, and good stewardship are their own rewards, regardless of the outcome.

Campus as a Place on Earth

As I have been reading A Place on Earth, two comparisons have come to mind. The first is the campus as a place made up of a combination of land, people, and relationships. In Berry’s novels, the history of an individual or a family is never far from the surface, and he will often interrupt the narrative with a back story that gives deeper meaning to the immediate situation. Isn’t it so often the case on campus that we can’t understand what’s happening without knowing the history that has led up to this moment? Continue Reading…