Today, as I write, it is Pentecost. We marked the festival at church this morning, and the coming of the Holy Spirit is regularly celebrated at churches throughout the world. But what does Pentecost mean for research? Should scholars celebrate it outside of church services?
It won't be news to anyone reading this blog that life as a researcher – perhaps particularly life as a doctoral student – can be, and often is, very isolating. You're working on a niche topic, which few other people may understand or seriously care about; your day-to-day research is self-driven and self-directed. Particularly in the humanities, there is often little to no organised time with peers.
To find a series of books that join up the dots in whole swathes of one's previous education is a wonderful experience. That's my experience of the writings of philosopher Marinus Dirk Stafleu, which I first discovered a year ago. His multi-volume project Philosophy of Dynamic Development flows from his career as a Christian studying physics and philosophy: from a PhD in quantum mechanics to teacher-teaching in Utrecht, in his native Netherlands.
'Where do you see yourself in five years' time?' It's a classic interview question – and one which I'm very glad I've not (yet) been asked. Have you ever been tempted to answer it with 'If it is the Lord's will, I will live and do this or that' (James 4:15)?
If all truth is God's truth, is there an academic topic where you could serve and glorify God by doing a PhD?
Christianity and the University Experience should be read by everyone concerned with ministry to students. It's the outcome of a project in 2009–2012 across thirteen English universities, investigating patterns of religious commitment among undergraduates identifying themselves as Christian. And perhaps the most striking finding of all was that 51% of all respondents identified
As we approach the most significant point in the Christian calendar – the weekend where we remember the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, our saviour – it is good to return to some of the core truths that he taught about himself whilst on earth. I've been struck recently in particular by one of the last things Jesus says to his disciples as he prepares for death, in John 15:
On 15-17 March 2019, about ten invited delegations of academics, postgrads and postgraduate ministry leaders gathered in New College, Oxford for the first Catalysing Postgraduate Ministry conference organised by the Oxford Pastorate as a spin-off of the Developing a Christian Mind conference. Both conferences took place in parallel, which fuelled exchange between the groups.
When God's Spirit brings about a movement of change, it often seems to begin in disparate places and diverse ways through people who don't know each other. For example, a remarkable number of broadly Evangelical organisations for cultural engagement seem to have sprung up in England in the 1980s – of which Thinking Faith Network (originally WYSOCS) is one. Now in our own time, I believe God is doing something important for Christian engagement in academia in Europe – starting with Christian doctoral students.