Sentiment or substance?

A familiar Negro Spiritual rightly muses, Everybody talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there. The truth is, a great deal of lip service is paid in Christian higher education to “integration of faith and learning” or “Christian worldview formation.” These are admirable sentiments but they will remain just that—sentiments, not substance—unless faculty members acquire the requisite knowledge and develop proficiency in the intellectual pursuits that make true integration possible. Your faculty ain’t goin’ there unless you sustain the vision for it and provide the necessary encouragement and opportunities.

Last but definitely not least

I have thus far recommended four capacities and competencies should you focus on helping your faculty develop: self-awareness, scholarly currency, interdisciplinary engagement, and teaching and learning proficiency. The last and perhaps most critical relative to your claim to be an institution of distinctively biblical higher education is biblical/theological worldview integration.

First, a side note: In cases where a faculty member’s primary academic discipline is Bible or theology the previous section regarding interdisciplinary conversations and contributions more directly pertains. For the rest, your coaching should emphasize to faculty members the importance of achieving a high and ever-increasing level of commitment to and proficiency in biblical integration.

Biblical integration deficit

Integration presupposes there are substantial and roughly equal subject area ingredients to integrate. When a person lacks substantive biblical/theological preparation, it follows that substantive and sound integration is unlikely to occur. I recommend that you adopt as a standard faculty employment preference that the academic preparation of each member of your faculty includes formal biblical/theological study. If as is more likely, however, some of your faculty hires lack such formal educational preparation, you should make it a priority to allocate the time and funding necessary for them to acquire it.

Four key integration categories you have to master

What, then, are some key building blocks of biblical/theological worldview integration? It seems to me that true integration requires a faculty member to comprehend and critique biblically at least the following aspects of their scholarly or professional discipline:

  • Epistemology – What are the prevailing orthodoxies among scholars and practitioners related to this discipline as to what can be known? What comprises appropriate means of testing and validating truth claims within this field of study? To what extent do empirical or constructivist truth claim commitments predominate?
  • Disciplinary belief core consensus – What key ideas, theories, vocabulary, definitions, conclusions are embraced by virtually the entire community of scholars and students of this discipline? To what extent does each of these key elements correspond to or contradict biblical propositions?
  • Competing beliefs/theories – What are the major competing theories and beliefs (i.e., “schools of thought”) various segments of disciplinary scholars adhere to and advocate?
  • Theoretical foundations of key methodological approaches – What theoretical grounding underlies major methodologies of research and practice in this field? How would you critique these biblically and theologically?

When a faculty member can provide evidence of their grasp of each of the above  and cogent biblical answers to each of the above

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing

The biblical/theological knowledge deficit of many otherwise sincerely godly and spiritually vital faculty members cannot equip them to integrate above the level of superficial sentiment rather than sound and substantive integration of thinking and living.

As we wrap up this series next time, I want to talk about one final faculty development topic: why you should envision faculty development as a collective, not individual, enterprise.


Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

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