For many years, Christian’s Scholar’s Review has proclaimed that “its primary objective is the publication of peer-reviewed scholarship and research, within and across the disciplines, that advances the integration of faith and learning…” Despite the historic use of “integration” language, we have decided to instead focus on “Christ-Animating learning.” Why do we now propose a different language? I (Perry) have argued elsewhere1 that we need to abandon the phrase “the integration of faith and learning” for three reasons. The foremost reason is theological, and the second and third reasons are more practical. Regarding the latter, we see a number of problems with integration language when one goes from applying it within a college setting to applying it within a university setting.
First and most important, integration language unwittingly perpetuates a theological fallacy. Integration language is correctly based on the assumption that the Christian learner and scholar’s highest calling is to imitate the model and actions of the triune God, including his approach to knowledge. Yet, Arthur Holmes, recognizing the limits of humanity suggested, “Integration is a task never fully accomplished by anyone but God himself.”2 Contrary to Holmes, however, we do not believe God goes about integrating faith and learning. Our need to integrate faith and learning stems from our human sinfulness. For it is only in a fallen world, that learning becomes secularized, so that faith and learning must once again be integrated. So what does God do, and what, therefore, should we seek to do as we seek to faithfully imitate him? God is in the business of creating and also redeeming his fallen creation. Thus, our highest calling as educators involves imitating Christ by creating and redeeming in our area of calling. We believe this new language focuses on the way Christian educators should bear God’s image in the midst of education, particularly in advanced forms of education found in the university. By doing so, we as educators and learners truly become image bearers of God.
Second, the phrase “integration of faith and learning” downplays our need to focus on creating learners and learning. The phrase was developed when it was unclear how most of the learning being created in pluralistic universities related to a Christian worldview; therefore, Christians in small liberal arts colleges had to focus on integration. Yet, this emphasis neglects the fact that we also need to create our own learners and learning, not to mention create colleges and universities that sustain such efforts.
Third, integration language is difficult to apply across the disciplines. Indeed, describing how one integrates faith into music or engineering is a difficult task. For example, what is Christian jazz? Phrasing the task as integration neglects the fact that creative excellence is an equally important end as redeeming image bearers of God. To create great jazz is to bear God’s image. To create great scholarship that deepens our love for God and others is to bear God’s image.
To counter these deficiencies, I have offered other phrases such as “the creation and redemption of learners and learning” and “faith animating learning.”3 Regarding the former, I have come to agree with one reviewer who simply said that the phrase is just too clunky. Plus, I think the phrase ignores the important role of God’s ultimate Restoration in the Christian story. Finally, and most importantly, “faith animating learning,” just like “the integration of faith and learning,” leaves out Christ.4 Christ is the one who makes all wisdom that humans learn come alive whether through creation (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17), redemption (Col. 1:18-22), or in the final restoration of God’s kingdom where we know fully (I Cor. 13:12; Rev. 19-21). We know most fully through Christ and, even once we gain wisdom, we need Christ’s Spirit (Rom 8:9-10) to give us the strength to live into and out of what Christ has made alive including our thinking, affections, will, and behavior.
For all the reasons discussed above, we think we need to start talking about “Christ enlivening…” or “Christ animating…” (We will use the two phrases interchangeably on the blog), when we talk about whatever aspect of the academic world needs to be reborn. The best of all our integration efforts are dead without the enlivening work of Christ who brings them to life. Christ is behind the creation of great jazz (no matter who composes or plays it), the redemption of fallen residential communities, and our ultimate hope that God—and not science or some new political arrangement—will ultimately be the one to redeem creation, enact perfect justice, and embody eternal love. Thus, we need to explore what it means for Christ to animate every aspect of creation. We hope to accomplish that goal through this blog.
- Perry L. Glanzer, “Why We Should Discard the Integration of Faith and Learning: Rearticulating the Mission of the Christian Scholar,” Journal of Education and Christian Belief 12, 1 (2008 Spring): 41-51.
- Arthur Holmes, The Idea of a Christian College, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 45.
- Glanzer, “Why We Should Discard the Integration of Faith and Learning”; Perry L. Glanzer, Nathan F. Alleman, and Todd C. Ream, Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2017).
- Darin H. Davis, “Faith Animating Learning,” International Journal of Christianity & Education 21,2 (2017): 91-94.