Baylor University
May/ June 2005
Volume 1, Number 3

From the Director

Douglas HenryIntegrating Faith and Learning:
Beyond Caricatures to Constructive Models

A commitment to encourage the integration of Christian faith and intellectual life stands firmly in Baylor's core convictions and long heritage. Yet it is a contested, multi-faceted, and complex commitment that deserves careful scrutiny and implementation. We need constructive models of integration that go beyond the common caricatures and can usefully inform Christian scholarship and teaching.

Those who imagine that integrating faith and learning is something much less than it is — such as offering pious prayers in class, reciting Bible verses related to course content, or providing students spiritually sound advice — may wonder why so much is made of this matter. Yet while these are valuable and appropriate practices in some situations, they do not capture all that Baylor University stands behind in encouraging the integration of faith and learning.

The integration of faith and learning must be an ideal as rich and complex as the faith we profess and the disciplines we study. Consider the breadth and depth of the two relata: faith and learning.

Faith — "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" — certainly develops from many sources. This theological virtue, a gift from God, is received, nurtured, and rendered full only as we reflect on ourselves and the world in light of the Bible, Christian narrative, confessions and creeds, specific doctrines, ecclesial community, ethical teaching, and denominational emphases, to name a few. Consider how we might express our faith as we emphasize each of these resources in turn:

  • Bible. "I believe in the Bible as an authoritative and reliable guide for life. The Scriptures shape my thought and practice in ways consonant with God's will for the world."
  • Christian Narrative. "The meaning of my life is found in a story larger than me, in a grand narrative authored by God. This narrative tells me whence I came, whose I am, and whither I am going. It gives me the perspicuity of self-understanding and truth that puts everything else in proper order and perspective."
  • Confessions and Creeds. "With other believers I honor a common faith that is summarized in great statements of the church: 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord . . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.'"
  • Specific Doctrines. "Certain doctrines are salient in my scholarship and teaching, like the doctrine of creation (that God freely and lovingly brought into being everything that is, so that it is both contingent and subject to the order of God's will) or Christian teaching about sin (that all human beings, though formed for the sake of perfect and loving relationship with God, fail to measure up to the fullness of virtue and therefore stand in need of God's ready grace)."
  • Ecclesial Community. "I belong to the body of Christ, the gathered community called by God. As one among many members of this body, whose head is Christ, I am responsive to the other members and accountable before the Lord for what I do for them and say on their behalf."
  • Ethical teaching. "My life is shaped by distinctive ethical precepts, such as 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,' 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves,' and 'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.'"
  • Denominational emphasis. "A faith tradition informs my outlook — for instance, 'As a Catholic, I accept the Church's teaching about the downtrodden of the world and I embrace the preferential option for the poor,' or 'Because I am a Mennonite, I stand opposed to the war through my identification with the Prince of Peace,' or 'Being a Baptist, I affirm believer's baptism as a hallmark of voluntary acknowledgement of God's grace and love.'"

Our faith, which is mediated to us in these ways by God's providence, is more grand and substantial than simple pietism, Bible recitation, or spiritual advice. Thus, in "integrating faith and learning" we bring to bear on our scholarly vocation the fullness of Christian faith in all its simplicity and sophistication.

“...in ‘integrating faith and learning’ we bring to bear on our scholarly vocation the fullness of Christian faith in all its simplicity and sophistication.”

The other part of the "faith and learning" equation — learning — also has several levels:

  • Content. We teach certain facts, principles, ideas, stories, techniques, or texts — from Locke's theory of property, to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Grand Unification Theory, French grammar, eighteenth-century American history, economic equilibrium, or neonatal care. In some fields more than others, our faith may bear substantially, either critically or constructively, on selection of the content that we teach.
  • Motive. Why we study, as well as what we study, may be shaped by normative assumptions. Is the basic impetus behind the study or practice of a given discipline to secure truth or satisfy curiosity, to join the cultural elite or serve societal needs, to get ahead in life or faithfully live out a God-given calling? Christian faith should inform the motives behind our scholarship and teaching.
  • Questions. Christian faith may influence the questions we investigate — for example, "What is the legacy of the Bible in Western literature?" "Is forgiveness more psychologically healthy than its alternatives?" "Can rational choice theory adequately explain human behavior?" "How can engineers meet the needs of the third-world poor populations through appropriate technology?" "What is the virtue of humility, and is it conducive to epistemic success?" Such research questions are pursued at Baylor, and they are self-consciously prompted by Christian faith. Others may share interest in these questions and this should be encouraged; but Christians have special cause for seeking answers to them.
  • Methods. Sometimes academic methods may be influenced by Christian faithfulness — for instance, whether stem cells should be harvested from aborted fetuses for medical research, or whether religious identity and commitment should be relevant explanatory factors in the study of electoral politics.
  • Uses. The uses to which our work will be put may invite faithful reflection. Is it likely to be seized upon, in a Manhattan Project-style way, for making better bombs? Will it help Pfizer create a new and improved Viagra? Or will it reduce the incidence and debilitating effects of cancer, or provide clean water for those downriver from Waco?

The relationship between faith and learning in all these varied strands is complex, multifaceted, and often contestable. Colleagues of good will may reach different conclusions. Some academic disciplines may offer abundant opportunities for integrating faith and learning, for every source of faith impacts every level of learning in those disciplines. In other disciplines, fruitful integration takes a more focused and delimited form, perhaps only with Christian ethical teaching bearing on the uses to which expertise is directed.

Given the profundity of Christian faith and the expansiveness of the human mind, integrating faith and learning must not be formulaic, trite, or vapid. To the contrary, wholly faithful learning and learned faithfulness are the most exciting, fulfilling, and grand quests to which we may be committed.

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Recent Events

IFL Awarded $83,500 Grant

The Lilly Fellows Program National Network of Church-Related Colleges & Universities recently announced that it has awarded an $83,500 grant to IFL as a part of the LFP's National Research Conference initiative. Baylor's conference will be held in the fall of 2006 in conjunction with the Pruit Memorial Symposium. The conference theme will be The World and Christian Imagination, and the conference will convene an international group of scholars from across the disciplines to consider how Christian faith might inform our understanding of the world. Grant funds will be used, among other things, to underwrite participation in the conference by scholars from National Network member institutions.

Faculty Retreat

On May 16-20 at Laity Lodge, IFL hosted Vocation, Liberal Learning and the Professions, a retreat for Baylor faculty funded as a part of a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment and with the further support of the Howard E. Butt Foundation. The retreat enrolled 31 faculty members, including a strong contingent from the Louise Herrington School of Nursing. David Solomon, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture delivered two lectures, "Liberal Education: Liberation From What and For Whom" and "Autonomy and Medicine: Life After Liberation." Susan M. Felch, Professor of English at Calvin College delivered two lectures as well, "How the Christian Narrative Shapes Scholarship and Teaching?" and "Doubt and the Landscape of Delight: In Quest of Christian Liberal Learning." And Karren Kowalski, a national expert in the fields of acute and perinatal care, parental bereavement, and nursing leadership, spoke on "Calling and Leadership: The Importance of Character," and "The Practice of Storytelling: Understanding our Calling through Narrative."

Grant Opportunity Extended

In 2001, Baylor and IFL received a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment for Baylor Horizons: Called to Live, to Lead, to Serve, Baylor's version of Lilly's invitational grant initiative underwriting Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV). Because of Lilly's confidence in the good work done as a part of Baylor Horizons over the past five years, the University recently received an invitation to participate in a follow-up, $500,000 grant opportunity called Sustaining the Theological Exploration of Vocation. This new, half-million dollar program will help fund efforts begun under PTEV for three additional years, while recipient schools seek ways to make those programs self-sustaining. We express appreciation to the Lilly Endowment for its beneficent support of Baylor University and church-related higher education, its tremendous and important leadership in sustaining theological focus and substance within Christian higher education, and its willingness to consider a continued collaboration with Baylor on behalf of those aims.

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Take Note

Medical Ethics Conference

This October 13-15, in partnership with Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, IFL will host the first annual Baylor University Medical Ethics Conference, for the benefit of physicians, nurses, other health-care professionals, and members of the Baylor community. The conference will feature Robert P. George of Princeton University, Tristam Engelhardt of Rice University, Gilbert Meilaender of Valparaiso University, Jorge Garcia of Boston College, Mark Cherry of St. Edwards University, William F. May of Southern Methodist University, and David Solomon of the University of Notre Dame. Professors George, May, and Meilaender have served on the President's Council on Bioethics. With registration limited to one hundred participants, and with a nationally distinguished line-up of ethics consultants, the conference promises to be fully subscribed. For further information interested parties should see http://www.baylor.edu/IFL/mec/about.htm.

Pruit Memorial Symposium

The 2005 Pruit Memorial Symposium will be held November 10-12. The theme is Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West. Plenary speakers include David Bebbington of the University of Stirling and Baylor, Paul Freston of Calvin College, Mark Noll of Wheaton College, Dana Robert of Boston University, Lamin Sanneh of Yale University, and Brian Stanley of the University of Cambridge. As of the May 15 proposal deadline, we have received a record number of inquiries and proposals, and anticipate that more than a hundred papers presented by scholars from around the world will be featured on the program. You may find up-to-date information about the program at http://www.baylor.edu/IFL/Pruit2005/about.htm.

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Conference Calendar

Upcoming at Baylor  

October 13-15, 2005

Medical Ethics Conference
Featuring Mark Cherry, Tristam Engelhardt, Jorge Garcia, Robert George, William May, Gilbert Meilaender, David Solomon, and others.
 
November 10-12, 2005

Pruit Memorial Symposium
Global Christianity: Challenging Modernity and the West
Featuring David Bebbington, Paul Freston, Mark Noll, Dana Robert, Lamin Sanneh, and Brian Stanley.
 
March 30-April 1, 2006

Faithful Teaching and Scholarship in Language, Literature and Culture
Sponsored by the North American Christian Foreign Language Association

Upcoming beyond Baylor

July 24-August 6, 2005

C. S. Lewis Foundation
Making All Things New: The Good, True, & Beautiful in the 21st Century
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, England
 
August 3-7, 2005

Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy
Regent's Park College, Oxford, England
 
September 22-24, 2005

Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy
Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
 
September 30-October 2, 2005

Lilly Fellows Program 15th Annual National Conference
What Does It Mean to Be Faithful to a Tradition?
Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
 
November 10-12, 2005

Secularity and Globalization: What Comes after Modernity?
LFP National Research Conference, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
 
February 9-11, 2006

Faith, Hope, and Work
Wesleyan Center, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California
 

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