A friend in InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministry (GFM) forwarded to me the “discussion starter” he used for this week’s gathering of doctoral students.Â In addition to reading how you address the question posed, we’d love to “get our creative juices flowing” for future topics by learning what doctoral students discuss (or desire to discuss) on your campus. Please share in the comments section below. Thank-you! ~ Tom
Tomorrow when we meet our topic will be the following.
As you do your reading, studying, writing and researching as a Christian graduate student, in what ways do you find your Christian faith making some distinction in your academic work, and in what sense do you find it makes no distinction?
On the one hand, most of us would probably agree that there are many things about our academic work that don’t (and shouldn’t) reflect our faith in any direct way. If you wrote a paper that was affirmed by colleagues and adviser as being “good,” and then when they were told by someone else, “Oh and by the way, did you know that he/she is a committed Christian?” they responded, “I had no idea â€” what a surprise.” This might be considered by you to be a compliment. That is, you were glad that they recognized the quality of scholarship as the tip-off for their accolades, rather than your own personal faith ingredient. In this sense, “good scholarship” is a more generic thing, applying equally to Christians and atheists alike. The goal is to do “good scholarship, as a Christian,” rather than to do “good Christian scholarship.”
On the other hand, perhaps there are some things where we find, either day-to-day or over a long period of time, that our Christian faith really does come to play. Perhaps some aspects of our lives as Christian scholars where what we do, or how we do what we do, would be different if we weren’t followers of Christ. Or maybe not?
So, getting at this in a different way: On the one hand, we know we shouldn’t feel guilty for simply doing “good work” as academics when nothing apparent about what we are doing is in any sense particularly “Christian”. A Christian plumber fixes pipes exactly the same way that a Hindu plumber fixes pipes. The atheist and Christian mathematicians do their differential equations exactly the same way â€” and that’s all very fine and good. On the other hand, we believe that Christ’s two Great Commandments â€” loving God and loving others â€” should affect all we do. They aren’t to be compartmentalized into spiritual commandments that affect only our Sunday church attendance, prayer lives, personal devotions, and quality of our relationships, but which have nothing to do with what we do Monday through Friday in our academic work. We are whole people and are called to love God and love our neighbor 24/7. So the Christian academic who seeks to keep these two Commandments, and the atheist academic who doesn’t â€” something (?) will/should be different about each of them. Where does this “different-ness” manifest itself?
Please give the above a little bit of thought, and join us for conversation.
Note:For a glimpse of the Emerging Scholars Network’sÂ (ESN) vision click here.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!