At Emerging Scholars Network, we love to crowdsource ideas for following Christ faithfully and serving others well in the academic life. In the 2018/2019 academic year, we’ve been sharing brief insights on how to grow spiritually in the academic life. Read the series to date for more thoughts on spiritual growth from our writers. Brenda previously shared a version of these thoughts here, and you can read her other writing for ESN here.
The deeper one gets involved in one’s academic discipline, the more one is shaped by that discipline and discipled into a certain way of being and thinking. These ways of being and thinking affect one’s relationship with others and God, which brings both challenges and blessings.
Scientists, who are taught to question everything and accept as true only things that can be proven, often question the validity of their faith and Christian beliefs–because how can one prove that it is true? Musicians (and artists), who are taught the validity of each person’s experience, question the validity of their faith but for a very different reason: how can we accept that Christian beliefs are more true than someone else’s faith or beliefs? For people in professional grad programs, one’s questions about faith and beliefs are often very practical: what does faith and belief look like in the presence of suffering and death and the ugly side of human beings? Instead of berating ourselves (or others) for the faith questions that are almost an inevitable part of growing in our discipline, we can see these as opportunities to grow in our understanding of God and the world, especially as we learn from other Christians in our discipline who have also struggled with these questions.
We should also look for opportunities about how growing to love our discipline helps us grow to love God more. Many doctors and veterinarians delight in how the discoveries of medical science allow them to help others. Many scientists appreciate God better because of the wonders they discover in creation. Many musicians become closer to God through music. Many academics understand their own assumptions about the world, God, and others through being forced to identify the assumptions that those in their own discipline make about the same things.
About the author:
Brenda recently become campus pastor for Campus Edge Fellowship, a ministry to graduate students at Michigan State University. Until recently, she and her husband lived in an intentional faith community in Amsterdam where she is (still) a PhD candidate in Old Testament studies at the VU University. She also holds an M.Div. Brenda blogs at brendahey.blogspot.com and campusedgemsu.wordpress.com.