In his post this morning Scot suggests that missional people are asking folks in their own neighborhood: “How can I help you?” The answers to that question determines what “missional” means in that neighborhood. Given this definition missional campus ministry and missional churches in University communities will meet the University, students, faculty, scholars, staff, on their own terms. Missional campus ministry will not be a safe haven to shelter Christians students from the big bad world, it will equip students to engage the world and the University, to participate in the mission of God, to live out and spread the gospel.
This is a challenging endeavor. The tendency is for people to compartmentalize – and bracket. Faith life here - academic or professional discipline there, safely separated – and often a social life divorced from both of the others. But we need integration. This separation plays a role in loss of faith. Even when faith remains – standing up for the Christian faith and worldview in the University is a challenging task; it is well nigh impossible without integration.
IVP is publishing a series of books – The Christian Worldview Integration Series – designed to help college students
variety of disciplines integrate their Christian worldview into their
approach to their discipline. The first in the series, Education for Human Flourishing, came across my desk courtesy of IVP. The preface by the series editors Francis Beckwith and J.P. Moreland contains a number of ideas well worth some thought and interaction.
Consider two questions to start the conversation:
How do you integrate your Christian faith with “secular” life and discipline?
What is necessary to allow students and scholars within the University to integrate faith and life?
Integration, according to Beckwith and Moreland, is two fold – conceptual and personal.
In conceptual integration, our theological beliefs, especially those derived from careful study of the Bible, are blended and unified with important, reasonable ideas from our profession, or college major into a coherent, intellectually satisfying Christian worldview. … In personal integration we seek to live a unified life, a life in which we are the same in public as we are in private, a life in which the various aspects of our personality are consistent with each other and conducive to a life of human flourishing as a disciple of Jesus.
The two kinds of integration are deeply intertwined. All things being equal, the more authentic we are, the more integrity we have, the more we should be able to do conceptual integration with fidelity to Jesus and Scripture, and with intellectual honesty. All things being equal the more conceptual integration we accomplish, the more coherent will be our beliefs and the more confidence we will have in the truth of our Christian world view. (p. 9-10 Education for Human Flourishing)
They continue on to list several reasons why integration is crucial. Among the most important:
Neglect of integration results in a costly division between secular and sacred.
The nature of spiritual warfare necessitates integration – spiritual warfare is largely, although not entirely a war of ideas, – and we fight bad ideas with better ones.
Genuine life-transforming spiritual formation requires integration – not a veneer of faith on a secular life.
And – a final challenge:
For over fifty years, [atheist philosopher Quentin] Smith notes, the academic community has become increasingly secularized and atheistic even though there have been a fair number of Christian teachers involved in that community. How could this be? Smith’s answer amounts to the claim that Christians compartmentalized their faith, kept it tucked away in a private compartment of their lives and did not integrate their Christian ideas with their work. (p.26-27)
This, Beckwith and Moreland assert, has got to stop.
The big question, of course, is how to make a change. At Christian colleges there is often a gloss of faith over the disciplines – students are not trained to integrate. At the secular University even the gloss disappears. Most of the professors are not Christian and campus ministries do not have the numbers or the resource to make a difference. How then can we learn to integrate and provide an environment where, perhaps, it is passed down more clearly to the next generation of scholar?
Beckwith and Moreland hope that the Christian Worldview Series will help. The first volume Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis is available, and the second Psychology in the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology by John Coe and Todd Hall is anticipated in Feb. 2010 – with more in the works. I have serious doubts that this series of books will make any significant impact as long as the conversation plays it safe and remains confined to, and interacts only within, the evangelical ghetto.
What role can churches and campus ministries play in this process? I suggest that to make a difference – today and into the future we need to work with four stages of development. A scholar able to integrate and defend the faith within the University will need to work through these stages.
1. Come to faith. This is rather obvious, without a commitment to the gospel there is no faith to defend. Campus ministries must be concerned with presenting the gospel and living the gospel.
2. Understand the faith. This really means understanding the essence of the faith and developing an ability to separate the essential from the peripheral. It also requires a background that places the faith within historic Christian thinking. What is, to borrow an illustration from Keith Drury, written in pencil, what is written in ink, and what is written in blood. This provides the breathing room to actually engage and eventually integrate. (Read his story and use it to start a conversation. I’ve found it a powerful tool.)
3. Own the faith. Move past a faith that is defined by boundaries and propositions to a faith that is believed and owned. Understand what is meant by the core Christian doctrines and why they are important. This is an ongoing process.
4. Integrate the faith. A faith that is possessed, understood, and owned (or at least where progress in being made on understanding and owning) is capable of integration and defense.
This brings us back to the key question for the day…
How can a campus ministry act in a missional fashion to allow students and scholars within the University to integrate faith and life?
If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net