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I can still recall my nervousness as I taught my first classes at a Christian college. I was well-educated in electrical engineering at a large secular university, which is to say I was not well-educated in anything else. I had spent many years being catechized to think like an engineer, but faith remained largely peripheral to my studies. I was a Christian who was a scholar, but not yet a Christian scholar. And yet there I was a new faculty member expected to “integrate faith” in the classroom. I wince when I recall my first feeble attempts at faith integration—urging my computer science students to march into their careers and “transform technology” for God’s kingdom. It was a ringing phrase, but the content was admittedly thin. In those early days, I fear I sometimes offered my students stones for bread.

To be sure, developing as a Christian scholar can occur through reading good books, but my most fruitful growth occurred in the context of relationships. As a new faculty member, still wet behind the ears, I benefitted from conversations with other faculty around a variety of books that laid a compelling vision for Christian scholarship. Like iron sharpening iron, I was stimulated through cross-disciplinary conversations with colleagues in philosophy, theology, social sciences, humanities, and the arts. These experiences were hosted by a faculty development leader and lubricated by coffee and cookies with dedicated time and space.

These formal interactions were complemented by informal conversations in the hallways, the coffee shop, and sometimes the living rooms of colleagues, leading to fruitful collaborations in the form of joint presentations and co-authored publications. At one university, I met informally with a group of colleagues for years as we worked our way through one book after another in animated dialogue. Another university provided funding and food for faculty to meet over a book discussion, and even provided funds for the author to come and speak with us.

At my current institution, I enjoy book discussions led by a wise emeritus faculty member, taking workshops provided by the de Vries Institute, and publishing Christian scholarship supported by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship. After serving at three different Christian universities, I have become absolutely convinced that a culture of fruitful collegial interactions is not automatic but requires intentionality to avoid the natural slide into disciplinary silos.1

As a new faculty member, I was grateful to be assigned a wise mentor. This mentor showed care, became a trusted conversation partner, and offered sage advice as I navigated my way in my new vocation. He remains a good friend. Being a Christian scholar is not just about Christian teaching and scholarship, but about living out one’s faith within the institution and more broadly. A Christian scholar cannot simply be “book smart.” Love and other Christian virtues are not just abstract concepts but need to be practiced in community. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). To be plausible, a Christian scholar must also model faith integration in how they interact with staff, students, with colleagues in other departments, in committee meetings, in administrative decision making, budgeting, and when contentious issues arise (like core curriculum discussions). I found a mentor who not only could articulate a Christian world-and-life view but one whose life incarnated that worldview.

I also grew from interactions with others in my field through Christian disciplinary organizations and conferences. For me, the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences (ACMS), the Christian Engineering Society (CES), and the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) connected me with a wide network of Christian scholars. These networks exposed me to insights from other Christian traditions and the “prior work” of faith integration in my field. I was able to join a rich, ongoing dialogue with people who were working in the same vineyard and puzzling through the same disciplinary questions that I was. Many of these connections have since become close friends and collaborators.

Many Christian scholars can testify to the gift of other people in their lives, including pastors, former teachers, and friends. For me, that person was my wife, Carina. My first encounter with Christian higher education came when we were dating: I was an undergraduate engineering student at a large secular university while she was attending a Christian college. I could sense that the culture, ethos, and worldview at a Christian college were quite different from what I was experiencing. Later, Carina and I were married and one of the wedding vows we exchanged was a promise to encourage each other “to develop the gifts that God had given us.” This she surely did. Sitting in a cubicle farm as a young engineer, I began to wrestle with what faith had to do with my work. Carina shared with me the Christian world-and-life view she had learned in college. She handed me her first edition copy of Creation Regained, a textbook from one of her core courses that would have a profound impact on me.

Carina encouraged me to pursue a call into Christian higher education, even though it would be far less lucrative than engineering. We had three kids and a mortgage, but she readily agreed, after much prayer, that I should quit my engineering job, return to get my PhD and pursue teaching. Eventually, I landed my first position at the very college where we had met (and the author of Creation Regained became a colleague and conversation partner). My employment in Christian higher education was not without upheavals, requiring a move from Redeemer University to Dordt University and later to Calvin University. Throughout these transitions, Carina remained a wise conversation partner, providing valuable feedback on much of my Christian scholarship (including this blog). Sadly, Carina passed away in December 2023, but I remain profoundly grateful to God for her. She was the most precious gift God has given me, next to my own life and salvation. Who knows, without her I may still be puzzling how to serve God in a cubicle farm somewhere.

While my own personal journey developing as a Christian scholar is unique, I strongly believe that it takes a village to form a Christian scholar. Aside from personal influences in one’s life, Christian universities that are serious about their mission must be intentional about faculty development and create a culture of working towards the shared project of Christian scholarship.


  1. Such interactions seem to be inversely proportional to the size of the campus; when faculty are spread across different buildings multidisciplinary interactions are far less likely to occur through serendipity.

Derek C. Schuurman

Calvin University
Derek C. Schuurman is Professor of Computer Science at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI. He is author of Shaping a Digital World and co-author of A Christian Field Guide to Technology for Engineers and Designers (IVP Academic).


  • Sheri Popp says:

    Thanks for your testimony to power of learning communities to help shape us as educators. Your experience mirrors what I learned from my doctoral research with a cohort of new faculty participating in a year long orientation course. While there were many benefits gained from the content presented and discussed, far and away the most beneficial impact was the sense of community the participants developed. They used both formal and informal meetings to share their struggles and successes, pray for one another, and point the group to resources that would help them persist through that first difficult year of teaching.

    And I’m very sorry for the loss of your wife. Blessings and peace to you!

  • Thank you for these timely thoughts. They remind me of a comment made by a student who described her newly-found commitment to Christ that resulted from her enrollment at a Christian institution for just one semester. When asked if there was a specific person in mind who was especially influential in this change of outlook she replied with something like, “No … it was the whole place!” May your blog encourage all Christian educators to be intentional in shaping a “village” that will promote true integrative Christian scholarship.

  • Gordon Moulden says:

    This is a great reminder of our spiritual responsibility to one another as scholars–and also to our secular colleagues, for those believers working in public or secular private universities and colleges. CS Lewis was led to Christ by colleagues such as J.R.R. Tolkien and other Christian scholars who were members of an academic writers group known as the “Inklings”. Both inside and outside of academia, or colleagues will in one way or another have an impact on us, and each Christian has a call, wherever the Lord has placed us, to be “salt and light”.

  • Marybeth says:

    A beautiful tribute. Thank you, Derek.