Our University – Faith and Reason

First in a series of thoughts regarding the intersection of faith and reason in university life.

I am a Christian.  I hold faith, founded on principles laid out in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, which I believe to be the inspired Word of God without equivocation, qualification or apology.  I share this with you so that any peculiarities of my Christianity, any predisposition they might create, any conception or world-view associated with this caste, are confessed. 

One of the failings of contemporary universities is that they nearly insist on a separation of spiritual and intellectual life, faith and reason.  No university leader with any sense of self-preservation would ever say such a thing, but if you watch carefully, you can see it.  This allows and encourages the address of important issues of the day from a perspective limited by the fact that an individual’s faith life is not cogent to the presentation of ideas, evidence, thought, or knowledge.  As if reason and faith are not cousins.

Mindlessness incarnate.

One troubling day, a person came to see me in my office and suggested that I would find a better fit at a Christian college or university.  I had recently expressed a personal perspective driven by my faith that he, and others, saw as inappropriate.  This man was an acquaintance, and the tragedy of the day was that he believed secularization of thought possible. 

Uninformed and irrational.

In mock sincerity I responded by saying that I thought it was a good idea.  I should go to a Christian university, he should go to a Jewish university – my friend is Jewish – our Muslim colleagues should go to a Muslim university, our Atheist friends should go to an Atheist university and so on, until a serious discussion of how faith affects thinking is excised through a stagnating homogeneity of thought.  Secular bliss of a fashion, but he was offended. 

He felt faith was acceptable, as long as it was acceptable.

This political correctness is profound in its narrowness, anti-intellectual by definition, and fundamentally opposed to the true nature of a university as a place of maturation and intellectual growth.  Sharing ideas, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable, is the work of a university.

Faith is an idea.

Sharing an idea does not require acceptance, except in the limited view of some who believe that those who do not hold a similar faith perspective are wrong, limited, narrow, or ignorant. 

We work to relegate faith to an idiosyncrasy or bias to be checked at the university gate upon arrival in the morning, and retrieved in the afternoon when we depart.

Like six-shooters in a saloon.

May God save us from ourselves.

The limitations and lost opportunities of such thinking are numbing and counter-productive to the true purpose of the university.

Consider this observation by Isaac Newton, who lived three centuries ago but surpasses even Albert Einstein among the most important scientists, according to a survey by Britain’s Royal Society: “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.”

In the mid-nineteenth century, an iconic American newspaper editor, Horace Greeley, said, “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”

Newton and Greeley seem reasonably intelligent by rigorously demanding historical standards.   

The value and impact of a particular faith view is not at issue here…that question should be left to seminar rooms seasoned with the power of reason, observation, empiricism, the good will of intelligent people, and civil discourse.

A question of faith and reason.

A question that universities should openly encourage and entertain in every aspect of university life.

2 thoughts on “Our University – Faith and Reason

  1. The late Frances Schaefer commented that…”most people pick up their presuppositions like the measles, it just happens.” The university should be grounded upon the assumption that there is in fact a multiplicity of worldviews, which first and foremost we reflect upon our own and them feel comfortable to take it to the marketplace of ideas. There was a reason why the trivium (“the three roads”) consisting of grammar, rhetoric and logic were developed in the early universities; these are the tools of healthy discourse!
    I can clearly recall years ago when I was on a travel/study tour of Greece with two faculty from the philosophy department and a classical Greek anthropologist all devout naturalists. We had been at the ancient site in Corinth and I was excited to stand in the agora where St Paul had been and reflect upon my own beliefs. That afternoon we all set down for some ice cream and I was bombarded for my belief in Christianity, it was a good afternoon, I tried to hold my ground, and in the end we all respected each others presuppositions and worldviews all the while with the students looking on…that is a University.

  2. Thanks for this article, if not for the sole reason of making me think since I read it yesterday. Try writing one of these with a 4 year old, a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old all within 10 feet of you. This is my second attempt at a reply. Hopefully this one makes it.

    I recall a certain instructor writing into the Daily Egyptian. He made the claim that Dr. Wendler should go to a parochial school and administrate. I call “him” instructor as opposed to professor, cause the word professor connotates professionalism, of which he had very little. According to a few students I knew who had this moron as an instructor, “his” lectures and grading process were anything but open minded.

    I recently dealt with my 4 year old’s pre-K classroom singing “holiday” songs that included an islamic request of the crescent moon and EID. Sorry, not on my watch. It’s not that I don’t want my children learning about islam. In fact, I want them to learn a lot about islam, in an educational way. Historical context, as applied throughout muslim lives, current events, etc. However, celebratory songs, dance, dress and the like are for those who choose islam and practice islam. There was a time even in the midwest where God was shunned, somewhere between the mid 80’s up until, oh, about September 11th 2001. You see where I’m going with this. Lower education in this country should try focusing on math and science, versus the sensitivity training of the day. Attaching IED’s and crescent moons to Christmas doesn’t make me want to understaaaaaaaand anymore. End the charade Ms. Greenjeans. Religious tolerance in the lower and higher grades is an illusion. For if it weren’t, the truth about islam would shed light on a lot of things that our schools are in no way prepared to handle. They are too busy indoctrinating recycling programs anyway.

    Higher education on the other hand is a different animal. It has it’s place, though not in a math or science class. Basically, I agree with “Faith and Reason”, with a few caveats. Sorry for how poorly my reply is written, I have 3 wonderful excuses though.

    Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches”. In many respects they were and still are today. But in other ways, lighthouses weren’t second only to the American Red Cross in aid when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. However, the Baptists were. Faith and love are different than religion. They are what makes us humane, not just human.

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