“I’m still waiting to read a scientific paper that gives a biological explanation of the emergence of biological science among us human beings, also a naturalist account of what motivates people to become evolutionary psychologists and why others are impressed by their explanations.” — A taste of the pointed wit which draws one into Part 3 of Vinoth Ramachandra‘s Engaging the University (22:04). As you my remember from Part 2, the recording cut off as he began a “defense of the human.” Ramachandra focuses on resisting the biological reductionism which combines neurological imaging of the human brain with “the popular pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology.”
Biological reductionism requires much more consideration than that given to it by Ramachandra. What better way than a dialogic university ministry, i.e., “a ministry which takes the university seriously on its own terms”? But can we as members of the campus community truly take up Ramachandra’s challenge to embrace university ministry as “a distinctive calling, not simply an extension or parallel of church based ministries”? Can we support a ministry which “listens as well as speaks . . . seeks to stimulate respectful conversations both within and across academic disciplines, and with Christians and non-Christians alike”?
In following Christ, Ramachandra pushes ahead where few campus ministry leaders dare to tread:
The ideas and issues on the frontier of learning and the leading edges of debate are celebrated for what they reveal of God and of his reign. The barriers between students and faculty or professors are overcome in much the same way that they are in research laboratories, advanced seminars and major research projects. Dialogue is a central defining activity of any respectable university. It’s what academic freedom is all about. . . .
There is much more to consider and apply to particular campus and disciplinary contexts as Ramachandra advocates Christians being on the forefront of promoting a dialogic pluralism throughout the university. I encourage you to listen to and discuss the audio on your campus. May it will lead you into
- starting conversations and joining on-going conversations on every topic that is of public interest.
- practicing “constrained disagreement” when engaged in teaching and inquiry, i.e., inquiry within the point of view and enter controversy with rival standpoints. — Note: Ramachandra draws a “mouthful” from Alasdair MacIntyre.
- cultural criticism guided by a hermeneutics of charity. Note: Ramachandra draws from Charles Mathewes’s Augustinian perspective.
- a paradigm shift in university missionary engagement.
A paradigm shift in university missionary engagement?
Ramachandra offers, “A prophetic Christian engagement with the university would involve . . .
- forming learning and witnessing communities comprising students, researchers, faculty and administrators who engage courageously and dialogically with the diverse academic disciplines and conversations that constitute university life. . . . the crossing of status hierarchies and not replicating in universities whatever can be done in local churches. . . .
- seeking to influence universities so that they become more humane and just institutions . . . Jesus Christ is present even though unacknowledged in the laboratory, the music class, the radio astronomy center, the student union debates . . . and all the conversations formal and informal that make up university life. And we are called to discern His Presence and activity and then articulate it with courage and wisdom.
- reminding the university of its ultimately religious character. . . . all knowing is interpersonal. . . . all knowing is premised on love of that which gives itself to be known and trust in members of a seeking community. That is the first profession of every professor whether acknowledged or not and it is the founding confession of the university, even if the university pretends that faith commitments have no place within it. . . . ” — Note: Ramachandra draws from Augustine.
- [realizing that] “around the world these are life and death issues.” I encourage you to listen and not miss the ending quote from Terry Halliday, political sociologist in Chicago, on his experiences with students and professors in China who are great heroes of faith “pleading for the tools to think Christianly” across the spectrum of fields in the face of the rapidly approaching future.
- Note: A Mission to the University (5/13/2013) focuses upon material from the Question-and-Answer time exploring the paradigm shift in university missionary engagement.
As I have noted before, please consider this series a teaser inviting you, your peers, and campus community into dialogue with the primary material of Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra‘s 2012 Henry Martyn Lectures. Feel free to engage in conversation with this post/series not only by commenting below, but also in sharing stories of how such communities of engagement are developing with those whom you are connected with and proposals you have for sharing the fruit with the Emerging Scholars Network.
Updated 6/14/2013. 8:25 AM.
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!