The calling of Christian postgrad students and academics — Ard Louis

Ard Louis[1] The calling of Christian postgrad students and academics (1/29/2012) from oxfordchristianmind (52 min, 52 sec).

Description: What does our calling to be disciples of Christ mean for our academic vocation (whether temporary as students or longer term as a career)? What are some of the promises and pitfalls of the scholarly life? How can academics and postgraduate students serve and relate to the wider body of Christ (the Church)?

Getting to know Ard Louis (Reader in Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford): Last spring I had opportunity to connect with Ard Louis at a conference. I appreciated extended conversation with an InterVarsity alumnus who brought international perspective to graduate studies in the United States, was blessed by participating in an InterVarsity fellowship, and continues following Christ with passion as an academic in another country. In addition to checking out the resources available at Developing a Christian Mind at Oxford [2], I also took time to soak in his excellent Veritas Forum presentations, e.g., Does Science Make Faith Obsolete? at Johns Hopkins University and Science and Spirituality at Swarthmore College.

The Illustrated Guide To A Ph.D.: Early in The calling of Christian postgrad students and academics, Ard Louis refers to The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. If you have not already done such, I encourage you to give The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. prayerful consideration individually and with fellow believers on campus. I find the progression of pictures providing a quite helpful lens on the “academic ladder” (or what I have at times referred to as the “academic chain of being”) in relationship to the “circle of human knowledge”.[3]

A Theology of Higher Education: As I shared in response to Seek the Welfare of the University, in 2014 the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) will give focused attention to the meaning/purpose of higher education and how this plays out in a working theology of higher education. The theology will dig a number of contexts, beginning with

  • a number of the disciplines
  • positions “up and down” the “academic ladder”.

Some of the next steps are fleshed out in The Challenge of ESN’s March Madness. The first and most important is providing nominations for ESN’s March Madness ’14:

What topics deserve attention not just during ESN’s March Madness, but throughout the coming months/years?

Which topics must Christians be prepared to engage in today’s higher education?

Please share your nominations at The Challenge of ESN’s March Madness.

BONUS: Part of an InterVarsity fellowship group (undergrad, grad, faculty, focused ministry)? Please encourage their participation. How do we get this idea “into the paint”? If your fellowship “takes it to the hole” with 10 or more topics gathered through the collaboration of at least three members of your fellowship by Sunday, February 23 midnight Tuesday, February 26 (ET)  your “team” will be entered for a prize of $100 of InterVarsity Press publications. ESN will randomly select three winners from the teams who “bring their game to the court”.

How do you submit as a team?  Include your fellowship group’s name and collaborators (first names) in the nominations submitted at The Challenge of ESN’s March Madness. AND email your fellowship’s name/contact information to ESN. Whether or not your team “hits the shot from downtown” with regard to the nominations prize drawing, you’ll be a part of the conversation which extends sixteen “tickets to the Dance”. AND maybe one or more of your nominations will be announced on the February 28 Selection Show 🙂 Now that would we be fun, wouldn’t it? Let’s get our game on! To God be the glory!

…We need Christian people to work as healers: as healing judges and prison staff, as healing teachers and administrators, as healing shopkeepers and bankers, as healing musicians and artists, as healing writers and scientists, as healing diplomats and politicians. We need people who will hold on to Christ firmly with one hand and reach out the other, with wit and skill and cheerfulness, with compassion and sorrow and tenderness, to the places where our world is in pain. We need people who will use all their god-given skills, as Paul used his, to analyse where things have gone wrong, to come to the place of pain, and to hold over the wound the only medicine which will really heal, which is the love of Christ made incarnate once more, your smile and mine, your tears and mine, your patient analysis and mine, your frustration and mine, your joy and mine…

— N. T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church (Eerdmans, 1997, p 101).


  1. Ard Louis is a Reader in Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology. He is also International Secretary for Christians in Science and an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and serves on the advisory board of the John Templeton Foundation. Prior to his post at Oxford he taught Theoretical Chemistry at Cambridge University where he was also director of studies in Natural Sciences at Hughes Hall. He was born in the Netherlands, was raised in Gabon and received his first degree from the University of Utrecht and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University. Website: — From Accessed 2/15/2014. ↩
  2. With regard to Developing a Christian Mind at Oxford, you may remember John Mulholland, The Charles Malik Society for Redeeming Reason, brought my focused attention to Christianity and the Life of the Mind: An Introduction (Developing a Christian Mind at Oxford). In response I posted How Christians relate to the world — Nigel Biggar and Seek the Welfare of the University (Jeremiah 29:7) — Donald Hay.Thank-you John! Great have you part of the team focused upon Engaging the University. To God be the glory! ↩
  3. Thank-you to Jeff Gissing for sharing with colleagues the link to The Illustrated Guide To A Ph.D (Matt Might. Business Insider. 3/17/2012.). ↩
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Tom Grosh IV

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 South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is 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!

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