Is there a Christian way of thinking about your discipline? I think most of us would answer, ‘Yes,’ but spelling out what that means is usually a difficult task!
The most common reaction I get when I tell people I am an archaeologist is, ‘I always wanted to be an archaeologist when I was little!’ Since most people have left that dream behind and found more useful things to do, I sometimes find myself pondering why it is worthwhile to engage in archaeology.
Anti-intellectualism in the church has been well documented (Noll 1995) and is still a problem for Christian academics today. It may appear in many guises, but one is what Don Carson calls “blue-collar arrogance”. This is the idea that if you can’t do something practical – so that others can see the direct benefit or fruit of it, your job is fairly pointless. I encountered this recently when I was asked, “don’t you want to become a lawyer, teacher or vicar? In those jobs you can help people, serve the Church financially or serve the Church theologically and pastorally.”
This week, I’m taking a look at another initiative concerned with Christian scholarship.
Grad Resources has a unique model for engaging with the university. Based in the USA, it has a telephone helpline dedicated to PhD students in moments of crisis, or who feel a need for anonymous support. The National Grad Crisis Line (freephone
1.800.GRAD.HLP) receives hundreds of calls a month, apparently helping many postgraduate students avoid despair, self-harm and even suicide.
Recently I took time out of a holiday to finish preparing a conference paper. At the same time I could see a colleague becoming more stressed with the pressure of their work load, and read an article by the Vice Chancellor of a large British university, in which he admitted that university staff could not be expected to absorb any more work.
At one of our postgrads’ discussions, a friend doing a PhD in literature was sharing how difficult it is to attribute special authority to the Bible in the English faculty, where a first principal is that all texts are treated equally. Must we just make a special exception for this book, and take the ridicule on the (other) cheek?
A guest post by George Parsons
To do a PhD is to experience a unique form of chronic suffering. Thus, a description of the subtle downward drag of depression (to which working on a PhD, especially in the final stages, with its elements of exertion, isolation, uncertainty and anxiety, all over a long period, seems often to lead) resonates with me as I battle on with my thesis: ‘Depression says, “Surrender.” The message is relentless, and many comply, because even when you know that there is a purpose to your suffering, the battle seems too long.’
For many of us, Easter has strong associations with studying. The Easter holiday is the one you won’t really get if you’re coming up to big exams, because Easter term is exam term. Easter also comes when preparations for end-of-year performances and summer sporting events step up a gear. In some of the most intense years of our lives, Easter can seem to be brushed aside by ambition.
So far in this series we’ve looked at the why and the what of Christian postgraduate groups. Some of our readers will already be involved in such groups. But there are plenty of universities in the UK where no such group exists at all. The cpgrad.org.uk site has been around for years, and has a list of Christian postgraduate groups. There may be some gaps (do leave a comment here if you notice any), but most of the established groups are probably there, and it’s not a long list!