Happenings

What it means to integrate faith and learning

Jul 2005    

IN THE last issue, I discussed the need for Christians to take God seriously and to integrate their faith with the knowledge gained in the university. Here, I address two issues: First, what integration of faith and learning means, and second, what are some of the practical measures we can do.

What does it mean to integrate our faith and learning? For some Christians, this might come as a surprise. After all, the dominant view today is that there is a difference between scientific facts on the one side and our values (or morality) on the other side.

Hence, many of us put on a “spiritual” aspect on Sundays and do our “Christian” things, e.g. Sunday schools and attend church services but put off that aspect when Monday comes. Our Christianity becomes artificially compartmentalised in one aspect of our lives with no relevance whatsoever on the other aspects.

We should be warned that the Bible does not allow for such a divide. After all, God is the Lord of every aspect of our life — not just the spiritual aspect — including studies! Summarised here are four areas of integration relevant to Christian discipleship in a vocation.

1. What are the ethical issues involved in my vocation and how do they relate to my ethical beliefs as a Christian? For instance, for those who are involved (or want to be involved) in the commercial sector, what kind of pay should we be paying our employees? If we are going to be in the medical profession, what should our attitude be towards those who come to our clinic and request for an abortion?

2. What does my field say about what is and what is not real, about what is true and false, and how do I understand that as a Christian? For example, if I am working in the sciences, is it really true that only those things that we can see or test are true?

3. What does my field say about the nature and limits of knowledge? For example, in many of the social sciences,
many of us would have to grapple with issues like whether we can know anything for certain (scepticism), whether there is such a thing as an objective fact (post-modernism) among others.

4. What methodology for gathering data does my field require before someone is allowed to assert his or her views about something? Does your field tend to limit proper methodology in a way you find unreasonable as a thinking Christian? For instance, some of us working in the field of economics would come across the claim that anything short of econometrics is “fluffy” or contend with the positivist framework.

The four areas above provide a basis for which we can try to work out what it means to be a Christian and to try to see the implications of that in our studies or academic vocation.

I have provided some suggestions here on some of the practical actions we can do to develop our Christian mind.

FOR FURTHER READING

• Moreland, James Porter. 1997. Love your God with All Your Mind. Navpress.
• Pearcy, Nancy. 2004. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity. Crossway. Just published. This book should provide an interesting and challenging read to many of us who have not thought through seriously the implications of our faith.

Many of the suggestions involve fellowship with other Christians.

◆ Bible Study Groups: It is with the ideas from the Bible that we penetrate the culture or our academic fields. Hence, we must first study the Bible for ourselves to know and understand what God has spoken and is still speaking to us today.

◆ Book reading clubs: Find a book that is slightly more challenging, e.g. written by Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, Mark Noll and Douglas Groothuis. We need to stretch our minds by reading something that is slightly more difficult than what we would normally read. Meeting other friends or more mature Christians to read a selection of a book regularly is helpful, especially since you could discuss the parts that you did not understand. For a suggestion of books to read, look at the bibliography provided at the Emerging Scholars Network or at Groothuis’ website or Ravi Zacharias’ website.

◆ Listen to good sermons, lectures, debates: For suggestions on where to get these resources, read the upcoming articles.

◆ Join an association, e.g. Emerging Scholars Network, Graduate Faculty Ministry: Be involved in your campus Varsity Christian Fellowship or Campus Crusade for Christ. There you are likely to meet other like-minded Christians who are also interested in trying to work out the relevance of Christianity in their academic fields.

On a national level, the Fellowship of Evangelical Students Singapore (FES) will also have activities geared towards students.

◆ Attend Christian events or courses: In Singapore, we are very blessed to have organisations such as Eagles Communication. Many of the larger churches run courses in the evenings to help the laity. For instance, Wesley Methodist Church has many courses that might be of interest.

The Aldersgate Convention is an annual event organised by The Methodist Church in Singapore.

There are many seminaries in Singapore where more issues are discussed on a more theological level. For instance, Trinity Theological College conducts many courses held after office hours to encourage greater participation.

◆ Church library: Many of our churches in Singapore have a church library. Go and talk to the church librarian or to the person in charge of the Christian Education department.

◆ Visit a Christian bookstore: If you have not stepped foot in a Christian bookstore, it is not too late to do so. You might be surprised that there is another person who is interested in the same topic as you. Furthermore, you will sometimes be able to get recommendations from the bookstore manager on the topic of your interest.

In the next issue, I will discuss more explicitly some of the pointers I found helpful to look out for in finding a suitable book.

Goh Mui Pong, a member of Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church, is pursuing his PhD in Politics at the University of Cambridge.

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