Dr Xia Zhu describes the role of Christian academic groups in her faith:

I was brought up and educated in a system which believes in no god and claims that the reason why so many gods look like men is because they are simply human illusions. Ironically, it was in order to understand a different culture that I was encouraged to read the Bible by a professor from my undergraduate studies. 

My journey with the Lord started in a small Chinese Bible study group: studying Genesis for a whole year, wrestling with the ideas of creation, who Jesus is, and how Christianity is different from other religions. This group really helped me in exploring these questions (not necessarily always with satisfying answers). I continued with the books of John and Romans, exploring questions about ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ and the meaning of the cross. The study of the word of God led to a point where my misconception of the Bible being a book of fairy stories was corrected, and I was enthused with a passion for Christ, to walk His way and please Him.

As much as I enjoyed my PhD – the satisfaction of solving problems and finding reasons behind a phenomenon – I have to confess that I spent much of my time and energy in church-related activities (Bible study groups, sermon translation, theology classes, etc.). These certainly all appear to be ‘godly’ and I was enthusiastic about sharing the gospel (it still thrills me when I see people come to the Lord). PhD and research (as well as other non-church areas), were somehow – I’m not sure when – labelled as ‘secular’, ‘second class’, and not surprisingly ‘of secondary importance’ in my life.  That’s until I met a group of researchers in the Postgraduate Christian Forum (PCF). My first PCF meeting was rather disturbing, as it made it very clear that this group was not about evangelism. This challenged my restricted mindset of gospel sharing, changing people’s hearts and deepening our faith in Christ. This group was grappling with the theme of God’s purpose in each research discipline – and I continued attending.

The wrestling process has been rather rewarding: it has not only opened up my mind, challenging my preset thinking about ‘God’s work’ and ‘God in the workplace’, but also helped me to rediscover God’s purpose and value in research and to re-examine what is ‘secular’. PhD work is not merely satisfying intellectual activity by solving problems, nor just a key to the door of academia. Research is not an instrumental tool for gaining academic recognition and career progression. It is thinking God’s thoughts after Him and truly acknowledging that He is the lord of all (including research!).

The plaques in the old Coventry Cathedral say the following:

‘Hallowed be Thy Name in Industry, God be in my hands and in my making’,
‘Hallowed be Thy Name in Arts, God be in my senses and in my creating’,
‘Hallowed be Thy Name in Commerce, God be at my desk and in my trading’,
‘Hallowed be Thy Name in Government, God be in my plans and in my deciding’
‘Hallowed be Thy Name in Education, God be in my mind and in my growing’.
‘Hallowed be Thy Name in the Home, God be in my heart and in my loving’.

May we also pray:

‘Lord, Hallowed be Thy Name in research, God be in my projects and in my thinking.’