The following is my summary of a sermon preached by Tom Wright in the chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge some years ago. As an undergraduate, I was gripped and inspired by this vision for my calling as a student. The main text was Revelation 5 , and there were also illuminating references to Job 29 and Psalm 8, the other texts for that particular evensong. The image above is my diagram illustrating his sermon.
It’s hard to predict how I will feel at the end of the Christmas break. Will I be refreshed and eager to get back to work? Or will the thought fill me with dread? Or both?
It can be especially difficult when your day-to-day work is somewhat mind numbing. Every PhD has these phases. (If yours doesn’t, I want to know your secret!) How can you go from pondering the birth of Jesus Christ one week, to spend the next week wrestling with your data, poring over arcane ancient texts, fighting with test tubes, dredging through reams of articles, or debugging your spaghetti-like code?
One of the things we are aiming to do through Faith-in-Scholarship is to direct Christian postgraduates (and others) to helpful resources and initiatives. This week I wanted to draw your attention to a book that helped me understand the academic task from a Christian worldview. This book is Cornelius Plantinga’s “Engaging God’s World: A Christian vision of faith, learning and living”.
When I moved from the Netherlands to the UK, I discovered that many British Christians knew the names of two Dutch Christians from the past: Corrie ten Boom  and Abraham Kuyper. However, though many had read some of Corrie ten Boom’s books, they did not know much about Abraham Kuyper other than that he said ‘there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’’ So who was he, and how did he come to this statement?
Academic scholarship prides itself on rigour and objectivity. Science is considered the most reliable body of rational knowledge about the natural world, while the arts and humanities pursue unbiased investigation of social phenomena, penetrating what it is to be human. Let the life of the mind flourish, and truth will prevail!
13-14 February 2015 will see the 3rd Christian Postgraduate Leaders’ Conference take place in Leeds.
One of our goals at Faith-in-Scholarship is to support leaders of local groups for Christian postgraduates. This kind of group exists at a good number of universities, but the groups are often small in number, fragile, and struggle to find resources or to make an impact. And there are far too many universities where no such group exists at all.
Research is an adventure into the unknown. As such, it’s risky business. What happens when things go wrong? Sometimes a project you’ve been working on for long hours turns out to lead nowhere. You’ve poured your energies into a big plan, only to find it doesn’t work. You may even suffer the blow of being pre-empted in publishing something that was your ‘baby’ – your big idea to show the world. At such times it’s easy for scary questions to enter our minds: Am I a waste of time? Am I not good enough to be an academic?
The European Reformation of the 16th century clarified the distinction between Christianity and the Church. The believer’s primary allegiance, claimed the Protestants, was to Jesus Christ, and church congregations were an essential expression of this rather than providing salvation itself. At this time came a renewed emphasis on Christ’s lordship over every area of life: all kinds of work were to be seen as vocations to pursue in service of Christ the coming King.
One of the things we are aiming to do through Faith-in-Scholarship is to direct Christian postgraduates (and others) to helpful resources and initiatives. We’re planning to ‘spotlight’ a few of these over the coming months.
First up is C-A-N-: the Christian Academic Network.