It is an abdication of scholarship when Christians do academic work with little reference to God. If all the universe and everything in it exist by the design of an infinite, personal God, to make his manifold glory known and loved, then to treat any subject without reference to God’s glory is not scholarship but instruction. All branches of learning… exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God, and loving man through Jesus Christ. – John Piper, in Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
Reading this hit me like a truck. I’m still finding my way in the world of academia as a new faculty member. I consider it a privilege to be teaching and researching at my university. But what privilege do I prioritize, having a relationship with the “infinite, personal God” or the privilege of being a part of this university ecosystem?
I recall from graduate school conducting an ongoing investigation about the faith and beliefs of the faculty members that I studied under. Often it was a collection of tidbits from personal interactions rather than from lectures or presentations. Rarely, if ever, did I hear two faculty members discuss anything about faith together nor did I hear specific beliefs discussed or offered about my academic area in relation to faith.
I experienced exactly two professors indicate their faith in Jesus Christ while I was under their tutelage. One very specifically stated in his syllabus overview that he would be unavailable during specific hours on Thursdays since because of his Christianity he prioritized a weekly Bible study that had met for 20-some-odd years. Another responded to my community service section of my application to graduate school that included several faith-based items that he was a member of a specific local church and asked about common friends we may have in the faith community. I can’t help but think that was their strategy, let them know early and the students won’t have to wonder. Both of these academics spoke freely about faith and how it influenced their decisions as faculty and family members, however, I never recall integration of faith and academics.
I’ve also had the privilege of having two professors come to know Christ after knowing them as an undergraduate student. I came to know this because they started showing up at my local church, singing in the men’s quartet, and leading Bible studies and being truly involved in the ministries university students were involved in. The community of students was amazed, as both of these individuals had been adamant about their opposition to Christ and the institution of church while in class lectures and conversations on campus. They were local legends on campus, and now off campus.
The comparison is striking. The Christian professors discussed little in lecture but made their faith known. The non-Christian professors discussed their views plainly and openly in class and in scholarly discussions. I pray that the newly converted professors are as adamant in class as they were pre-conversion, and that I learn a thing or two from them.
When I read the words of John Piper, I am challenged to pursue an academic life that makes “his manifold glory known and loved” in my scholarly work and mind.
How do you make God’s manifold glory known and loved through your scholarly work?
What steps will you take to be challenged to make God’s manifold glory known and loved through your scholarly work?
You have given us a great gift of teaching and scholarship. Help us to focus our efforts to do all things in Your name with great thankfulness. Teach us to make your manifold glory known and loved through our scholarly work. Align our hearts, minds, and bodies to your will. Thank you for your sacrifice and grace. Come soon. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
Piper, John. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
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