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I tried to summarize faithfully The Holy Spirit and Higher Education, but as it is a co-authored, content-rich, 320-page treatise, that was a daunting task. Coulter and Yong have wonderfully provided their own summary—one that brings into focus aspects that I did not find a place for. Their reply deftly presents both the book’s tone and its contents, so readers are now in a strong position to decide how the book will be most of use to them. Not having a weighty tome to draw upon, I am reduced to the more banal task of reiterating a few points.

The authors ask, “we wonder whether he agrees with our assessment that worldview thinking can promote that type of rationalism?” My answer is yes, absolutely. I, in turn, wish they had engaged with my Christ-shaped, Spirit-infused point regarding fruits. That critique should not be reduced to the question of “a concrete model.” They write: “Noll’s focus [Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind] is another feature of worldview confessionalism. . . . If we are correct, then this approach does not advance the integral humanism we espouse.” My point is that what it does or does not advance is an empirical as well as a theoretical question. To take a specific example, I have heard numerous—often diametrically opposed—accounts of what Calvinist ideas inevitably lead to: hyper-activity or fatalistic inactivity, arrogance or humility, assurance or insecurity, an over-reliance on explanation or mystery. At some point, I wonder if anyone is curious to find out what actual Calvinists are like and how that relates to their theory. Again, I am all for “beginning with the particularity of folk culture,” but are the authors interested in the question of what will help people who begin at the right place to arrive at a worthy destination?

I do not want anything so crude as metrics, but I do wish Coulter and Yong would offer just a few, specific, positive indicators or warning signs for creating or discerning a healthy Christian university. My fear is that administrators will read this book and just start saying “habitus” rather than “worldview” without doing the hard work to create a college where students are shaped in worthy ways—or even learning how they might go about such a task if they wished to do so.

This book is rightly envisioning something wider than Pentecostalism but— to start in Jerusalem—the charismatic portion of Christian higher education is too large and too important to leave aside the issue of whether or not it is producing good fruit. And the movement is not so rich in outstanding intellectual leaders that Yong and Coulter can assume that others will step up to give it clear guidance. The authors seem content to create a better account of Christian higher education, whereas—call me a Pentecostal dreamer like my grandmother—I am kind of hoping that Christian higher education will actually get better. My altar call is an improvisation upon E. M. Forster: “Only connect.”

Timothy Larsen

Wheaton College
Timothy Larsen, Ph.D, is Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College.