Integration of Faith and Learning in the Disciplines
Any university that affirms the Christian faith must teach and uphold the foundational idea of the integration of one's faith with the various disciplines that are taught.
The basic premise articulated in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 and reiterated in Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27 and James 2:8 serves as a foundation for why we do whatever we do and how our life – our thoughts, actions, and motivations – demonstrate our commitment to Christ and our service to humanity. Summarizing the focus of our relationship with God and how we use our knowledge and position in this life, Scripture tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength means that our Christian worldview isn’t just a part of us, it is us. It defines our being and is the framework that informs, filters, and interprets all our actions and thoughts. If we understand the value of God-likeness (being created in the image of God), we have a responsibility to use our thinking, talents, and developed skills as an expression of the divine call that God places upon our life. The love of God is the motivation behind all disciplines and the foundation for excellence in our chosen field.
Whether a discipline has functional value or direct application is secondary to whether we use our cognitive abilities and developed skills to reflect who we are in God. We cannot separate our spiritual self from our disciplinary field. Integration means that we understand and affirm God’s pleasure in seeing His creation use talents, creativity, skill, and mind, whether for pragmatic purposes or sheer enjoyment. Whatever our field of study, we approach it as a sense of vocation and we use our creative functions to glorify and honor our Creator. We may or may not approach the particular constructs of a given discipline differently than other non-Christian experts in that field, but our motivation for study and use of the disciplines is based upon a sense of fulfillment and response to God’s call. This call helps us clarify our priorities.
Besides loving God, is loving neighbor. The application of truths (wherever they are found) is used not just to reflect God’s glory and grace in our own life, but also to benefit the common good (“love your neighbor”). Developing our skills and using our knowledge pleases God and benefits humanity. Hiding talent is a waste of God’s resources given to us as a cherished gift. We have an obligation to apply our knowledge to define, impact, and transform our culture and specific communities in which we have influence. When artisans responded to the giftings of the Spirit (see Exodus 31:3-6; 36:30-35), they used these skills to direct people back to God through the beauty and excellence of their craft. We use our insights for the good of humankind, for service, for reconciliation, for redemption, for the eternal values of the Kingdom.
No dichotomy should exist between our values, our study, and our vocation. Does this mean there is a “Christian” way to do math? Not necessarily. But, it means that a Christian who does math should practice math because it has value and contributes to some good. Faith and professional identity are not two separate things. Compartmentalization is impossible. You shan’t be a scientist first and Christian second. I am who I am because God made me this way and saw fit to entrust me with certain skills to be used for the good of others.
There may be no special Christian insight into paradigms or theorems, but there ought to at least be the motivation that I am using my intellect to glorify God. I am using my insights to help others because my faith in God, my dependence upon the Divine, and my understanding of grace imposes upon me a set of values and a purpose that go beyond utilitarianism. Christians must ask: To what extent is the divine image of God reflected in how we approach our discipline? Are we exhibiting the values of God-likeness and “goodness” (i.e., excellence), creativity (creative use of talent and ability), expression of giftedness, and the importance of contributing to eternal principles of the Kingdom? Are we being a good neighbor by serving others through our vocation thus reflecting our love for God?