Posts by Richard Gunton

The Kingdom of GodRight now postgrads are working particularly hard. In the UK, masters students have about a month left to submit dissertations, and many PhD students will be working to submit 2nd-year reports, trying to complete before funding runs out, or facing that final deadline. But the urgent can be the enemy of the important. Even if you have a deadline looming, read on… the Kingdom of God needs you!

“A scientist is a person who knows more and more about less and less, ” goes the saying [1], “until he knows everything about nothing.”  There were times during my PhD studies when I took heart from the first part of that quip, and times when the second half seemed all too realistic.  Nine years on (I submitted on 6 July), I’m reflecting on what doors the PhD has opened to me, and I hope my reflections will be helpful to readers seeking God’s guidance for their career.  I’ll first consider how a scholarly career can be justified, then give some examples of scholarly and non-scholarly work in my own case.

Thinking Faith Network is the parent of Faith-in-Scholarship. The organisation that supports FiSch is a 30-year-old UK-based charity committed to helping people explore how imaginative Christian thinking can transform and enrich every area of life. For a multimedia introduction, the promotional video released on 9 April is now available on YouTube. For some background, read on!

Norms ring

Our series “What is good scholarship?” has examined nine aspects* of God’s created order in which we can discern norms – different kinds of “goods”. We believe these norms are recognised to varying degrees by everyone, thanks to God’s grace.

In this post I want to show how faith lies at the heart of scholarship – perhaps in some ways that we hadn’t thought of before. I also want to explain why faith comes as the final virtue in our series ‘What is good scholarship?

CHAS

Chris Watkin, Senior Lecturer in French Studies at Monash University, Australia, recalls the origins of CHAS:

Cambridge has long been a stimulating home for Christian minds. Devout doctors, monks and other medieval scholars helped birth the world-famous university in 1209, key figures in the English Reformation studied, taught and preached in the town, and God-fearing pioneers in many disciplines have been nurtured in the colleges, departments and research institutes that make up the modern university. An inspiring documentary called “Saints and Scholars” tells the story of the development and influence of Christian thought in this historic market town – watch it at the Round Church if you haven’t seen it!

Our series on “good scholarship” has so far considered the logical and lingual aspects of reality.  Here I want to explore a particular kind of offence against principles of both logical distinction and lingual clarification.

Category errors arise when things are referred to in ways that imply they belong to a category of things to which they do not.  They were proposed by Gilbert Ryle in “The Concept of Mind” (1949).  He was concerned about the juxtaposition of “mind” and “body” as two comparable entities.  But the notion proved broadly applicable – and indeed is approached by other philosophers too.

Is academic work a kind of perfectionism? Single-minded focus certainly goes a long way in scholarship. But we must also be circumspect, not forgetting the constraints on our time and resources, our health and the need to make concessions to our audiences when communicating discoveries. All-round perfection will be an elusive goal. So what really is good scholarship, in God’s eyes?

The Faith-in-Scholarship working group on ecosystem services is starting to have an impact! Twelve of us started meeting back in February to work on a challenge in conservation science (read about the basic rationale). Now we’ve presented some of our work at an ecological conference in Rome and are working on journal articles. We want to substitute ‘ecosystem services’ with ‘ecosystem values’: read on to find out why.

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