Skip to main content

In this essay Stephen Moroney provides an updated map to help readers grasp several ways that faith and learning intersect for professors and for students, in the academy and in the classroom, in the curriculum, and in lived experience. Integration approaches often focus on relating the content of the Christian faith to the content of the discipline being studied. Worldview approaches typically emphasize thinking about the subject matter from a Christian perspective. Practice and formation approaches normally stress the development of faithful disciples through classroom activities and assignments. Mapping the recent literature on faith and learning provides an orientation to the contemporary terrain and reveals that each of the map “locations” has something valuable to contribute. Mr. Moroney teaches theology at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.


In 1992 William Hasker noted that what was lacking in the faith-learning integration literature was “a systematic mapping” of “the general ways in which the worldview issues connect with the particular concerns of various disciplines.”1 So, Hasker set out “to map the territory between broadly global and narrowly disciplinary discussions of the integration of faith and learning.”2 When it came to strategies for integration, Hasker followed Ronald Nelson’s earlier classification scheme (compatibilist, reconstructionalist, and transformationalist), endorsing it as a valuable contribution to Hasker’s larger map-making project.3

Nelson’s typology, published twenty-five years ago, was a useful guide when Hasker incorporated it into his map of faith-learning integration twenty years ago. In fact, Nelson’s schema and Hasker’s map continue to be cited because they still shed light on some of the ways that Christian scholars may approach their academic disciplines.4 These earlier works have enduring value, much like the National Geographic United States Classic wall map still serves many classrooms and homes well in identifying essential places in the United States.

When there is little change in the terrain, older maps remain useful. A Rand McNally atlas from the 1980s will prove entirely adequate to GPS-less travelers today who stick to the main highway as they cross the state of North Dakota (just stay on I-94!). On the other hand, maps of Eastern Europe from the 1980s are woefully out of date because of substantial changes in the geo-political landscape of the former USSR and nearby territories. This essay contends that in the past few decades there have been significant developments in how Christian scholars conceive of their academic tasks, so that it is time for an updated map. While recognizing that there have been helpful maps produced since the work of Nelson and Hasker,5 this essay asserts that a new map is warranted, one that can help scholars navigate the contemporary terrain.

The purpose of this essay, then, is to re-map the current state of how Christian scholars approach the intersection of faith and learning. Just as most maps are covered with small print that identifies important geographic sites, this essay is dotted with many footnotes that cite important works on the intersection of faith and learning. And just as most maps use larger and bolder print to designate especially prominent places, this essay gives special attention to three “locations” or approaches that have been prominent in the faith and learning literature, especially within the past decade. Though each of the three “locations” is marked by distinctive characteristics, they are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, many Christian scholars find it enriching to draw on helpful aspects of several of the approaches described below.

Location #1: Faith-Learning Integration Approaches

The first location on our map has some affinities to Washington, D.C. Just as the United States’ capital is a place where conventional paradigms are heralded by some and criticized by others, faith-learning integration has been an “establishment approach” over the past few decades, but it also has come under attack by those who find it inadequate. The language and concept of faith-learning integration has been utilized by many, but it has not commanded the consent of all, with dissenters challenging this traditional way of doing business.

Though the meaning of the phrase “faith-learning integration” is contested,6 it is commonly explained in the following way. Most university scholars receive their doctoral education (and often their earlier bachelors and masters degrees) at secular universities where they are typically taught, whether explicitly or tacitly, that their religious views are best kept private. Often Christians in such settings have not had the opportunity to bring together their advanced academic training (“the secular”) with their cherished religious beliefs (“the sacred”). The project of faith-learning integration, then, is really an effort to “reintegrate” spheres of truth that have been artificially disconnected in most scholars’ graduate school experience and perhaps more broadly disconnected in academic circles since the Enlightenment.

Faith-learning integration assumes that “all truth is God’s truth,” that “there is no conflict between God’s truth and other truth,” and that by itself “secular learning is incomplete and often distorted.”7 Thus the integration of faith and learning attempts to join together what humans should never have separated, fusing biblical truth with truth from all other disciplines in pursuit of a unified, coherent understanding of all the truth which a person may encounter. As one champion of the integration paradigm put it, “what Christians seek is nothing less than the unification of knowledge, bringing together into one Christ-centered, reintegrated whole all we can know from God’s revelation and all we can discover through the exercise of our faculties. This is what we mean by ‘the integration of faith and learning.’”8

Most proponents of faith-learning integration insist that while chapel programming, required theology courses, dorm Bible studies, opening class devotions, and personal faculty-student relationships are good things, “in themselves they fall short of the basic task of integrating faith and learning, which is the acquisition, organization, and presentation of knowledge informed by a Christian worldview.”9 So, what its proponents most often mean by faith-learning integration is something like “the development of interconnections, relationships, and mutual clarifications between Christian truth and academic content.”10 By deliberately reflecting on the relationships between theological knowledge and disciplinary knowledge, no matter what the field of study, scholars are able to uncover the connections that already exist.11

This approach is nicely illustrated by two series of books that promote faith-learning integration for undergraduate students. The first series was published by Harper for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) in order to examine psychology, history, biology, literature, business, sociology, music, and mathematics “through the eyes of faith.”12 More recently, InterVarsity Press has published a “Christian Worldview Integration Series” which pursues a variety of integrative tasks and addresses several integrative problems in education, communication, psychology, politics, literature, philosophy, and business.13

The 116 member campuses of the CCCU and its 54 affiliate campuses have been key sites for faith-learning integration approaches. As the president of a CCCU institution observed, “the integration of faith and knowledge is the most distinctive task of Christian higher education—always was, is now, always will be.”14 Support for this observation may be found in recent survey data from both faculty and students at CCCU schools.

When asked their reasons for taking the job at a CCCU school, the two most frequent reasons given by nearly 2,000 faculty were “commitment to Christian higher education” (45%) and “opportunity for me to integrate faith and learning” (30%).15 Once they got the job, 95% of the faculty at these schools agreed that they “have a good idea of what is meant by the phrase, ‘the integration of faith and learning’”16 and 84% of them reported that “it is not difficult for me to integrate faith and learning in my discipline.”17 This perception is shared by students at CCCU schools, with 93% of the students agreeing that they “have a good idea of what is meant by the phrase, ‘the integration of faith and learning,’”18 and 82% of students reporting that “the faculty at this college/university have enhanced my faith.”19

Of course, as analysts have pointed out, “these results, which are essentially a request for self-evaluation, do not necessarily imply that the integration of faith and learning has a common understanding among CCCU faculty members or is successfully practiced across disciplines.”20 On the flipside, others believe that though it may be a bit vague at times, affirming the language and concept of faith-learning integration, even if only in principle, is nonetheless positive.21

So, the “faith-learning integration” paradigm is widely employed and defended, but critics continue to see problems with it. One criticism is that despite the rhetoric of “integration” being a two-way street, in the practice of many Christian scholars the traffic flows in only one direction. When this is the case, the integration model has functionally “meant that faith has the right, and indeed the duty, to critique learning but that learning has no authority to critique faith.”22 This stance is problematic, say critics, because it fails to acknowledge that Christians’ understanding of the faith is imperfect and subject to correction, rather than being an immovable point from which to pronounce judgments on contemporary scholarship. The critics here call for more epistemological humility in allowing a mutually enriching conversation between faith and learning rather than insisting that our current understanding of the faith always trump our current scholarly ideas. Besides faith-informed scholarship, the critics insist, we also need academically-shaped faith in which “Christian scholars turn the issues around and use their disciplinary knowledge as a fixed point of reference to critique or tweak their own Christian faith.”23

A second criticism is that because the integration model is grounded in the Calvinistic tradition it is not a natural fit for Christian scholars whose roots are in other streams of the Church. Those hailing from “the Catholic, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Anabaptist, or any other non-Reformed tradition,” say the critics, “will probably feel they are speaking a second language of sorts if they try to adopt the integration model in its entirety” because “some of the core theological concerns of non-Reformed Christian traditions simply do not translate into integration-speak.”24 On a related note, critics believe the integration model works well with disciplines that are philosophically-driven and theory-conscious but that it is not an especially helpful paradigm for disciplines that are oriented in more pragmatic directions.25

A third criticism is that the language and concept of “‘integration’ reflects modernist sensibilities, valorizing the autonomy of the individual, who within himself melds faith and scholarship into a unified, almost monumental, form—like modernist architecture.”26 Critics find the integration model to be rational, argumentative, and competitive rather than contemplative, conversational, and cooperative.27 While the former has its place, critics believe it also has severe limitations since “abstract, logical thinking by itself is ‘too simple to offer us the type of self-understanding we need’ because it cannot ‘grapple with the messy material of grief, love, anger and fear’ that so profoundly shapes our lives.”28 Beyond the abstract analysis of the integration model, critics say that full-orbed Christian scholarship needs to give more attention to “shared mystery at the wonder of life,” more emphasis on “the questions one feels compelled to ask than the answers one provides,” and more recognition that “interactions between faith and learning are at best complex, convoluted, and unpredictable.”29

Of course these criticisms have met with responses. In reply to the first criticism, advocates of the faith-learning integration model have insisted that while traffic should run both ways down the street of faith and learning, when impasses are reached there are good biblical, epistemological, and historical reasons for most often granting the right of way to faith (the apprehension of special revelation) and most often expecting human learning (the apprehension of general revelation) to yield.30 In response to the second criticism, proponents acknowledge that the integration model has been effectively championed by those in the Reformed tradition but they believe that pursuing a “biblical, Christ-centered vision of integration” is not uniquely Calvinist but instead “rises out of a biblical rationale, one that belongs to all Christians everywhere,” whether they choose to use the language of “integration” or not.31 In reply to the third criticism, advocates have insisted that while the integrative task pursues a common goal of “a unified, Christ-centered understanding of the world,” this in no way implies “a cookie-cutter approach to Christian scholarship” but rather affirms “a wide variety of useful approaches across the several academic divisions, across the many disciplines, even within each discipline.”32

The dialogue between “integrators” and their critics will undoubtedly continue. Even sympathizers may question the helpfulness of “faith-learning integration” language.33 For the cartographic purposes of this essay what is noteworthy is that while the language and concept of faith-learning integration remains a mainstay among Christian scholars, it is only one among many approaches. In earlier decades the language of faith-learning integration could be found in the mission statement of the Christian College Consortium.34 Now the mission of the larger sister institution, the CCCU, has been recast “to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.”35 When Hasker wrote two decades ago, “faith-learning integration” was the overarching title for his whole map. In the contemporary terrain, faith-learning integration approaches are still prominent, as is Washington, D.C., but they exist alongside other important approaches, including their nearest neighbor, Christian worldview approaches.

Location #2: Christian Worldview Approaches

Those who fly through the southern part of the central United States often find themselves routed through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, a crucial part of the DFW “metroplex.” Their counterparts flying through the northern part of the central United States often pass through the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, found near the borderland of the “twin cities.” In the northeast, many people today likewise see Baltimore-Washington as constituting a metroplex, twin cities, or a megalopolis. The cities can be distinguished, for instance, in the rivalry between their major league baseball teams, but they are also intricately intertwined, as with their use of the Baltimore-Washington airport and Baltimore-Washington parkway. If we think of faith-learning integration approaches as location #1, akin to Washington, D.C., we might think of Christian worldview approaches as location #2, akin to Baltimore, Maryland. Though distinguishable, they are very close neighbors with residents traveling freely between the two.36

The second “location” has a long history.37 The basic argument here is that, whether they realize it or not, all people have worldviews—sets of lenses through which they view the world. As Abraham Kuyper observed, human knowing is shaped by prior human commitments, including religious commitments.38 Those sympathetic to worldview approaches insist that Max Weber’s fact-value distinction is mistaken. Rather, they say, our worldviews guide both what we believe the world is like and what we believe the world should be like. Our worldviews are necessarily religious, so the claim goes, and it is impossible for scholars to be religiously neutral.39 Inevitably, then, proponents of this approach argue that “one’s interpretations of phenomena or data will be influenced by one’s worldview.”40 This being the case, it seems best for a scholar to test and examine his or her worldview alongside competing worldviews.41

Worldview approaches focus on the intellectual framework that Christianity provides for its adherents. Those worldview thinkers within the Reformed tradition especially emphasize the value of a creation-fall-redemption scheme for interpreting the world.42 Proponents frequently argue that because a Christian worldview more closely approximates reality than secular approaches, it provides its followers with an advantage in the pursuit of knowledge, allowing them to see truths that their unbelieving counterparts may miss.43 Although human limitations and sin should inculcate epistemological humility in all of us, believers and unbelievers alike, advocates of a Christian worldview often assert that it should be adopted because it is “superior rationally, morally, and existentially to any alternative system of belief” be that naturalism, atheistic existentialism, pantheism, or other “street versions” of those competing perspectives.44

A Christian worldview is said to offer us a coherent, meaningful way of seeing life, which provides Christians with distinctive perspectives on technology, sexuality and marriage, the environment, the arts and recreation, science, and vocation, among other areas.45 In this way, it is claimed, “a Christian worldview provides the framework for Christian scholarship in any and every field,” be it literature, music, social science, health care, social work, or business.46 On this approach, then, Christian scholars and students are called to engage in “distinctively Christian thinking” or “to think in Christian categories” about every possible subject matter so that we can show how “Christian thinking is applicable across the educational curriculum.”47

Because Christian worldview approaches have a long history, their continuing presence as a prominent location on our updated map is no surprise. What is really new at this second location is the recent criticism it has received. Some of the criticism comes from those who say they are weary from sitting through too many youth group talks on the subject or those who believe they have seen worldview language used simplistically and reductionistically to bash various non-Christian-isms that are not treated with intellectual integrity.48 Another corrective asserts that besides helping believers develop a Christian worldview, we must also help them identify and intentionally resist the often subtle but extremely powerful influences of other culturally-embedded worldviews such as individualism, consumerism, nationalism, moral relativism, and salvation by therapy.49 These popular-level worldviews purportedly have been overlooked because “they usually fly under the radar of conscious thought” and influence us as “the cultural air we breathe.”50

A related worry is that worldview discussions too often remain on the cerebral level without connecting integrally to how we actually live. Critics say that worldview approaches are limited by their faulty anthropology which leads them to believe that “the site of contestation between worldviews or ground-motives is located in the realm of ideas.”51 Consequently worldview proponents tend to neglect the ways in which people’s hearts and imaginations are oriented to the world not just by their mental beliefs but also by habit-forming bodily practices that shape their desires and loves—watching television advertisements, shopping at the mall, and so on.52 It is a mistake, say these critics, to view people primarily as thinking beings who need to be informed by a Christian worldview rather than primarily as desiring beings who need to be formed by Christian liturgies.53 Put bluntly, this criticism is that “worldview-talk has misconstrued the nature and task of Christian education because the operative notion of worldview at work there has been tied to a stunted, rationalist picture of the human person.”54

Proponents of Christian worldview approaches sometimes assert that people’s worldviews drive their values which drive their choices which cumulatively constitute the broader culture. Therefore, so goes the argument, as we change the common person’s worldview we change his or her values which change his or her choices which change the culture.55 Critics of the worldview approach assert, by contrast, that such a perspective is naively idealistic, ignores the ways culture is embedded in institutions and power structures, and cannot account for the disproportionate cultural influence exercised by groups that do not represent the majority or mainstream perspective.56 There is little hope for changing the culture by changing ordinary people’s worldviews because, say the critics, cultural change is usually initiated by overlapping networks of elites and their institutions.57

In response to such concerns, advocates of Christian worldview approaches have acknowledged that a person’s worldview must be understood as much more than a set of mental beliefs, and rather is a broader “fundamental orientation of the heart” which is “the central operating chamber of every human being.”58 Recent worldview proponents have also been more careful to tie our thinking to our living by insisting that “if worldview thinking is to prove valuable in our lives, it must help make us better believers and doers of the truth. Otherwise it becomes a mental exercise that breeds arrogance and shores up the false security of intellectual elites.”59 Revisionists who want to hold onto this paradigm claim that if Christian worldview approaches give more attention to contextualization within postmodern culture, they have the exciting potential to be missional, ecumenical, and incarnational.60

So, to sum up this second location on our updated map, Christian worldview approaches are a bit like Baltimore. They are closely related to the faith-learning integration approaches of their D.C. neighbors. It is not uncommon for academicians to lean on the construct of a Christian worldview to explain how they “think from a Christian perspective,” which in turn shapes how they integrate their faith selectively with current ideas in their discipline. These two approaches have significant overlap. Many scholars would happily identify themselves as drawing equally on the worldview and integration paradigms (residents of the greater Baltimore-Washington megalopolis), while others might prefer to use an address that reflects their primary allegiance to the integration paradigm (Washington) or the worldview paradigm (Baltimore). Both the integration and worldview approaches have long-established histories, are slowly changing in response to their critics, and remain major “sites” where faith and learning intersect.

Location #3: Practice and Formation Approaches

The third location on our updated map is more like Austin, Texas, a smaller but rapidly growing city that would have warranted little attention on big-picture maps a few decades ago. Some of those who reside in this new location have deliberately moved away from integration and worldview approaches, while others see no problem in traveling back and forth between the locales, allowing their time in Austin to enrich what they do in Baltimore-Washington and vice-versa. In any case, it is clear that just as the capital of Texas is a far cry from the capital of the United States, practice and formation approaches to the intersection of faith and learning are not the same as the integration and worldview approaches described earlier.

Whereas CCCU schools have long been bastions of integration and worldview approaches (locations #1 and #2), church-related colleges and universities have been key institutional sites for the growth of practice and formation approaches (location #3).61 In the mid-twentieth century, many church-related institutions seemed to believe that they had to choose between retaining their Christian distinctiveness and attaining secular academic respectability. The landmark Danforth Study “indicated that by the middle of the 1960s the prospect of secularization had become the central focus for advocates of the church-related college.”62 The course toward secularization in many church-related institutions seemed irreversible as they eliminated many of their key markers such as “mandatory chapel services, clergy presidents, major financial support from sponsoring churches, chaplains with faculty appointment, and the capstone course in ‘moral philosophy.’”63

In recent years, however, analysts have turned the tables by arguing that

rather than seeing religious colleges as backward institutions trying to catch up—as was common during the heyday of progressive scientific humanism—it may make more sense to see religious colleges as having preserved something valuable that has been largely lost elsewhere.64

The secularity of secular universities may be their major weakness.65 Within this counter-narrative then, “the imperious hegemony of liberal, scientistic, objectivist, progressive secularism turns out to have been not the end of educational history, but only an episode,” so that the start of the twenty-first century is in fact “an era where more and better self-consciously Christian learning is taking place than at any previous period in American higher education since the seventeenth century.”66

According to one survey of the literature, over the past forty years less than 5% of the articles published in Christian scholarly journals address how faith intersects with teaching and learning, rather than how faith intersects with disciplinary research and scholarship.67 Practice and formation approaches are, in part, a response to the way that, “theoretical discourse on church-related higher education, as instructive as it has been, has overshadowed its practical pedagogical implications in the literature.”68 So, within those church-related colleges and universities that have embraced the distinctively Christian nature of their mission there has been an increasing interest in how faith and learning intersect concretely for students in the classroom.

Academicians working within this paradigm aim intentionally at the formation of particular sorts of students. Some say Christian colleges and universities unabashedly “should teach students to understand themselves first and foremost as Christians,” with all other self-identities (national, ethnic, professional) understood as less fundamental.69 Others assert that, “the graduate whom we seek to produce must be one who practices justice” so that a crucial question Christian educators must ask themselves is “how can we cultivate in students the disposition to work and pray for shalom, savoring its presence and mourning its absence?”70 One answer is self-evident: “to develop in students the disposition to act justly and to struggle for justice, it helps for us and our institutions to teach justly, to live justly, and to struggle for justice. It helps to be models.”71 Beyond the power of role modeling, proponents of this approach also pursue student formation via a wide variety of classroom practices and course-related activities.

An economics professor at a Catholic institution has his students engage in a computer-simulated attempt to balance the federal budget, with an accompanying paper in which they are “encouraged to discuss explicitly if and how matters of personal religious faith guide their decisions.”72 A Calvinist psychology professor has her students write a comparative analysis of the competing visions of life found in two startlingly different novels from the late 1940s: B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist Walden Two and C. S. Lewis’ Christian That Hideous Strength.73 A political science professor at a Nazarene college takes his students to meet refugees from a war-torn nation, such as Sudan (including Darfur), before having students explore how rebuilding programs can be means of God’s grace and having students investigate programs that might promote reconciliation and healing.74 A sociologist at a Presbyterian college has the students work with a group in the community to define a research project, gather data, and produce a pro-bono report of their research findings.75 These examples, all taken from the social sciences, are illustrative of approaches which seek not just to educate the mind but also to transform students’ character and disposition through engagement in particular practices.

The natural sciences, professions, arts, humanities, and theology provide further illustrations of pedagogical practices and course activities steeped in the Christian faith. A Quaker physicist has her students research scientists’ religious and cultural backgrounds to show how biographical factors often influence how people interpret scientific findings.76 An ecology professor at a Presbyterian college requires students to write an “essay on three current environmental issues you are interested in, but your name is Jesus Christ.”77 At a Lutheran university a theater group prays and celebrates communion together, while also engaging in specific drama exercises designed to cultivate generosity in actors and actresses by shifting their focus away from self to others.78 In one philosophy class at a Reformed college, students must practice not talking about themselves for a week as they study the vice of vainglory,79 while another philosophy class at the same school observes the liturgical calendar and practices midday prayer as alternatives that resist other culturally-dominant sorts of time-keeping.80 An ethics professor at a Baptist college has students fast prior to a classroom discussion on poverty.81 A Catholic theologian has students serve 20 hours in the community (county nursing facilities, under-resourced schools, and social agencies serving the poor) before convening with other students in a base learning community to process and reflect on their work.82

Proponents of location #3 assert that when students engage in these practices they do not merely do something, but something is done to them because practices have a formative power, particularly because Christian practices can function as places “where a habitation of the Spirit is able to occur.”83 The argument of this approach is that practices constitute “structures that when indwelt bring their own forms of learning and growth that may not be accessible outside of that indwelling.”84 The point of all these practices is to shape students into virtuous persons—whether more cooperative learners who support each other,85 musicians who play to the glory of God,86 persons who read Scripture both critically and confessionally,87 humble learners who are cognizant of their limited perspectives,88 humans who are motivated to know more by the virtue of studiousness rather than the vice of curiosity,89 people with re-ordered loves who desire God’s kingdom,90 or reflective thinkers who are committed to serving others.91

It is often noted that Christians from the Anabaptist and Catholic traditions place a special emphasis on faith, learning, and living.92 Head, heart, and hands must all be involved. Christian practices do not merely teach individuals to think in certain ways but also to live faithfully as a collective people who bear witness to the kingdom of God, in part by resisting nationalistic ideologies and instead engaging in local and global peace-building, reconciliation, and service to others.93 As one university president put it, “Catholicity is a lived reality, not just a learned subject.”94 Or, for a simple contrast, “if the Reformed model is fundamentally cerebral and transforms living by thinking, the Mennonite model transforms thinking by living.”95 Common themes here include “the importance of community, a commitment to lived discipleship, the centrality of reconciliation, an incarnational epistemology, and concern for society’s most vulnerable members.”96 Ideally within practice and formation approaches, especially in the Anabaptist and Catholic traditions, practical discipleship and communal ethics are intertwined with collegiate studies that are collaborative, interdisciplinary, and focused on our connection to all fellow humans.

Several analysts have documented, and in some cases lamented, the fact that many secular colleges and universities have abdicated any constructive role in students’ moral formation.97 Those inhabiting the third approach on our updated map, however, argue that church-related colleges and universities have unique opportunities, perhaps even a raison d’être, to engage in particular pedagogical practices that form students who image God more fully. Church-related universities may hold the greatest promise for true intellectual community.98

Whereas integrative approaches often focus on relating the content of the Christian faith to the content of the discipline being studied, and worldview approaches often focus on thinking about the subject matter from a Christian perspective, practice and formation approaches often focus on forming faithful disciples through particular classroom activities and assignments. As we leave this third location on the map, we are reminded that practice and formation approaches to Christian teaching and learning represent a comparatively small but growing population (akin to Austin, Texas) of those intentionally exploring the intersection of faith and learning.


Many proponents of integration and worldview approaches dialogue primarily within the believing community, whether it is with Christian faculty in journals such as Christian Scholar’s Review or with students who attend the broadly evangelical colleges and universities at which they teach. Many proponents of practice and formation approaches focus their efforts on shaping the students at their church-related colleges and universities, including the spiritual formation of those students. At all three of these locations most of the talk about integration, worldview, and formative practices is an intra-family discussion within Christian higher education.

By contrast, other Christian academicians find themselves teaching students and writing to scholars at secular universities who come from a wide range of religious backgrounds. In these settings, Christian scholars still draw on aspects of the three approaches delineated on our map, but given the dialogue partners, “sensitivity to the biases, beliefs, and values of our audience are critical in deciding how we ought to communicate.”99 At the same time Christian scholars in secular settings find ample motivation from the desire to avoid intellectual ghettoization within a Christian subculture100 and the knowledge that “scholarship has the potential to reach a much larger audience and greatly increase the impact that you can make for the kingdom.”101

The rich texture of approaches employed by different Christian scholars in different settings cannot be captured exhaustively by any map, including the one offered here. All maps are exercises in approximation, mostly two- or three-dimensional representations of complex realities. As they reflect on their lived experience, some Christian scholars will resonate with words attributed to Herman Melville: “it’s not down in any map; true places never are.” The imprecision of maps notwithstanding, whether of the old paper variety or newer electronic versions, they still provide helpful guidance to travelers, especially to those who are new to an area. In this spirit, the present essay serves as an updated map to help readers grasp several distinct but overlapping ways that faith and learning intersect today for students and for professors, in the classroom and in the academy, in the curriculum and in lived experience.


All of the locations described in this essay have their attractions. At their best, integration and worldview approaches can help both scholars and students “think Christianly” about issues that otherwise might be analyzed from purely secular perspectives, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. When done well, practice and formation approaches invite students to engage in activities which can assist them in becoming the people God created them to be, shaping not just their minds but the whole of their lives. When empowered by the Spirit, in accordance with scholars’ diverse vocational callings, each of the locations on our map has something valuable to contribute. While the three approaches “occupy different places,” by God’s grace each can serve as a signpost that points people toward a common “destination,” the kingdom of God.102

Cite this article
Stephen Moroney, “Where Faith and Learning Intersect: Re-Mapping the Contemporary Terrain”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 43:2 , 139-155


  1. William Hasker, “Faith-Learning Integration: An Overview,” Christian Scholar’s Review 21 (1992): 234.
  2. Ibid., abstract.
  3. Ibid., 239-243. See Ronald R. Nelson, “Faith-Discipline Integration: Compatibilist, Reconstructionalist and Transformationalist Strategies,” in The Reality of Christian Learning: Strategies for Faith-Discipline Integration, eds. Harold Heie and David L Wolfe (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian University Press, 1987), 317-339.
  4. Stephen Beers and Jane Beers, “Integration of Faith and Learning,” in The Soul of a Christian University: A Field Guide for Educators, ed. Stephen T. Beers (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2008), 51-73.
  5. See Ken Badley, “The Faith/Learning Integration Movement in Christian Higher Education: Slogan or Substance?” Journal of Research on Christian Education 3 (1994): 13-33 and Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), especially 151-169.
  6. The phrase “integration of faith and learning” may be traced to Frank Gaebelein in the 1950s, later popularized by Arthur Holmes in the 1970s (Badley, “The Faith/Learning Integration Movement,” 16-17). Badley observes that “Faith can mean ‘life of faith’ or ‘body of doctrine.’ Learning can mean ‘process of learning’ or ‘body of knowledge.’ Integration of faith and learning could imply any four combinations of these elements” (28). Badley further differentiates between fusion integration, incorporation integration, correlation integration, dialogical integration, and perspectival integration (24-25). Semantic and conceptual disagreements notwithstanding, Badley concludes later that “the phrase has a sort of core meaning roughly related to making or seeing connections between Christian faith and scholarship or education.” See Ken Badley, “Clarifying ‘Faith-Learning Integration’: Essentially Contested Concepts and the Concept-Conception Distinction,” Journal of Education & Christian Belief 13 (2009): 12.
  7. Robert A. Harris, The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2004), 4. On the relationship between the title and subtitle of this book, see the comments concerning location #2 on our map below.
  8. Duane Litfin, Conceiving the Christian College (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 195. See also 168, 173, and 203.
  9. Beers and Beers, “Integration of Faith and Learning,” 55. This formulation blends elements from location #1 and location #2 on our map, as highlighted in comments on location #2 below.
  10. Harris, The Integration of Faith and Learning, 24.
  11. Harry L. Poe, Christianity in the Academy: Teaching at the Intersections of Faith and Learning (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004).
  12. David G. Myers and Malcolm A. Jeeves, Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); Ronald A. Wells, History Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989); Richard T. Wright, Biology Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989); Susan V. Gallagher and Roger Lundin, Literature Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989); Richard C. Chewning, John W. Eby, and Shirley J. Roels, Business Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990); David A. Fraser and Tony Campolo, Sociology Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992); Harold M. Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993); James Bradley and Russell Howell, Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2011).
  13. Paul D. Spears and Steven R. Loomis, Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009); Tim Muehlhoff and Todd V. Lewis, Authentic Communication: Christian Speech Engaging Culture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010); John H. Coe and Todd W. Hall, Psychology in the Spirit: Contours of a Transformational Psychology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010); Francis J. Beckwith, Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010); David Lyle Jeffrey and Gregory Maillet, Christianity and Literature: Philosophical Foundations and Critical Practice (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011); Garrett J. DeWeese, Doing Philosophy as a Christian (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011); Kenman L. Wong and Scott B. Rae, Business for the Common Good: a Christian Vision for the Marketplace (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011). As a “Christian Worldview Integration Series,” these books draw on aspects of location #2 from our current map, but they are even more strongly grounded in location #1 (abundantly evident in the series preface penned by series editors Francis J. Beckwith and J. P. Moreland), and hence are included here in our map.
  14. David S. Dockery, Renewing Minds: Serving Church and Society through Christian Higher Education (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2007), 114. See also 111, 115.
  15. Samuel Joeckel and Thomas Chesnes, eds., The Christian College Phenomenon: Inside America’s Fastest Growing Institutions of Higher Learning (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2012), 357, FSQ 21. Interestingly, the more years faculty had taught at their college/university, the more likely they were to answer “commitment to Christian higher education” and the less likely they were to answer “opportunity for me to integrate faith and learning” though the aggregate total between the two was fairly steady (71, Table 9).
  16. Ibid., 356, FSQ 18. Not surprisingly, the longer faculty taught at their college/university, the more likely they were to “strongly agree” with this item (71, Table 7).
  17. Ibid., 357, FSQ 19. Similarly 86% report that “my approach to my discipline is shaped by my religious beliefs” (362, FSQ 42).
  18. Ibid., 382, SSQ 17.
  19. Ibid., 382, SSQ 15.
  20. David L. Weeks and Donald G. Isaak, “A Coda on Faith, Learning, and Scholarly Rigor,” in Ibid., 62.
  21. See Badley, “The Faith/Learning Integration Movement in Christian Higher Education,” 27-28 and George M. Marsden, “Moving Up the Slippery Slope,” in Ibid., 336.
  22. Jacobsen and Jacobsen, Christian Scholarship and Christian Faith, 23.
  23. Ibid., 154.
  24. bid., 26. See also the related suggestion that the Christian Church has at least six spiritual traditions (not just the evangelical tradition, let alone the Calvinist stream within evangelicalism) and that each of these traditions has valuable insights for our lives as academics (93).
  25. Ibid., 27.
  26. Crystal L. Downing, “Imbricating Faith and Learning: The Architectonics of Christian Scholarship,” in Ibid., 40.
  27. Ibid., 47.
  28. Ibid., 47. Here Jacobsen and Jacobsen cite Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1-3.
  29. Ibid., 48, 58.
  30. Litfin, Conceiving the Christian College, 196-202.
  31. Ibid., 138. Litfin believes that “the impulse to a Christ-centered integration is anchored in premises so basic to Christian thought that it transcends such sectarian differences” (140), italics in the original.
  32. Ibid., 147.
  33. Perry L. Glanzer, “Why We Should Discard ‘the Integration of Faith and Learning’: Rearticulating the Mission of the Christian Scholar,” Journal of Education & Christian Belief 12 (2008): 41-51. Glanzer’s initial proposed alternative was the “creation and redemption of scholarship” (43). Later Glanzer and Todd Ream proposed a nuanced alternative of the “redemptive development of humans and human creations.” See Perry L. Glanzer and Todd C. Ream, Christianity and Moral Identity in Higher Education (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 183.
  34. See also Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer, Christian Faith and Scholarship: An Exploration of Contemporary Developments (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007), 68.
  36. On this close but distinct relationship, see earlier observations in footnotes 7, 9, and 13.
  37. David K. Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).
  38. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994). Lectures originally given in 1898.
  39. Roy A. Clouser, The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories, Revised Edition (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).
  40. Ream and Glanzer, Christian Faith and Scholarship, 52.
  41. Mark P. Cosgrove, Foundations of Christian Thought: Faith, Learning, and the Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2006).
  42. Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).
  43. Gene Edward Veith, Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World, Revised Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003).
  44. Cosgrove, Foundations of Christian Thought, 26 and passim.
  45. David S. Dockery and Gregory Alan Thornbury, eds., Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundations of Christian Higher Education (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 10-11.
  46. Ibid., 12 and passim.
  47. Dockery, Renewing Minds, 51, 62. See also, David S. Dockery, ed., Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2012).
  48. J. Mark Bertrand, (Re)Thinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in this World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 14-15.
  49. Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories that Shape Our Lives (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).
  50. Ibid., 13, 24.
  51. James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 24.
  52. Ibid., 25.
  53. Ibid., passim.
  54. Ibid., 32.
  55. For example, see Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999).
  56. James Davison Hunter, To Change the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), especially 18-31.
  57. Ibid., 41-43.
  58. James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 122-124.
  59. Bertrand, (Re)Thinking Worldview, 13-14. For a recent attempt to address these concerns, though still with a focus on developing minds to think Christianly about specific academic disciplines, see Deane E. D. Downey and Stanley E. Porter, eds., Christian Worldview and the Academic Disciplines: Crossing the Academy (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2009).
  60. Michael W. Goheen and Craig G. Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008). The emphasis on incarnational humanism can also be found in Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmerman, The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008).
  61. As noted throughout this essay, many scholars draw on what they believe to be helpful aspects of several approaches, so these observations about CCCU- and church-related colleges are broad generalizations which admit of numerous exceptions. See William C. Ringenberg, The Christian College: A History of Protestant Higher Education in America, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 2006).
  62. Stephen R. Haynes, “A Review of Research on Church-Related Higher Education,” in Professing in the Postmodern Academy: Faculty and the Future of Church-Related Colleges, ed. Stephen R. Haynes (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2002), 15. See also the historical account in Arlin C. Migliazzo, “Introduction: An Odyssey of the Mind and Spirit” in Teaching as an Act of Faith: Theory and Practice in Church-Related Higher Education, ed. Arlin C. Migliazzo (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), xxviii-xxxi.
  63. Stephen R. Haynes, “Preface,” in Professing in the Postmodern Academy, xv.
  64. George M. Marsden, “Beyond Progressive Scientific Humanism,” in The Future of Religious Colleges, ed. Paul J. Dovre (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 40.
  65. John C. Sommerville, The Decline of the Secular University (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). See also John C. Sommerville, Religious Ideas for Secular Universities (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009).
  66. Mark A. Noll, “The Future of the Religious College: Looking Ahead by Looking Back,” in The Future of Religious Colleges, ed. Paul J. Dovre (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 85, 87.
  67. David I. Smith and James K. A. Smith, “Introduction: Practices, Faith, and Pedagogy,” in Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning, eds. David I. Smith and James K. A. Smith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011), 3.
  68. Migliazzo, “Introduction,” in Teaching as an Act of Faith, xxxviii.
  69. Glanzer and Ream, Christianity and Moral Identity in Higher Education, 196.
  70. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 24, 144. Italics in the original.
  71. Ibid., 150.
  72. Charles K. Wilber, “Teaching Economics While Keeping the Faith,” in Teaching as an Act of Faith, 18.
  73. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, “Scuttling the Schizophrenic Student Mind: On Teaching the Unity of Faith and Learning in Psychology,” in Ibid., 31.
  74. Ron Kirkemo, “At the Lecturn Between Jerusalem and Sarajevo: A Christian Approach to Teaching Political Science,” in Ibid., 59-62.
  75. Robert A. Clark, “Sociology and Faith: Inviting Students into the Conversation,” in Ibid., 91.
  76. Lois Kieffaber, “Christian Theism: Alive and Well in the Physics and Astronomy Classroom,” in Ibid., 125.
  77. Lee Anne Chaney, “A Careful Convergence: Integrating Biology and Faith in the Church-Related College,” in Ibid., 149.
  78. John Steven Paul, “’I Love to Tell the Story:’ Teaching Theater at a Church-Related College,” in Ibid., 174-181.
  79. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, “Pedagogical Rhythms: Practices and Reflections on Practice,” in Teaching and Christian Practices, 32-34.
  80. James K. A. Smith, “Keeping Time in the Social Sciences: An Experiment with Fixed Hour Prayer and the Liturgical Calendar,” in Ibid., 145-149.
  81. Bradford S. Hadaway, “Preparing the Way for Justice: Strategic Dispositional Formation through the Spiritual Disciplines,” in Spirituality, Justice, and Pedagogy, eds. David I. Smith, John Shortt, and John Sullivan (Nottingham, England: The Stapleford Centre, 2006), 143-165.
  82. Dominic P. Scibilia, “A Pedagogy of Eucharistic Accompaniment,” in Professing in the Postmodern Academy, 195-214.
  83. Craig Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices, 2nd edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2005), 64.
  84. David I. Smith, “Recruiting Students’ Imaginations: Prospects and Pitfalls of Practices,” in Teaching and Christian Practices, 218. Italics in the original.
  85. Julie A. P. Walton and Matthew Walters, “Eat This Class: Breaking Bread in the Undergraduate Classroom,” in Ibid., 80-101.
  86. Charlotte Y. Kroeker, “Music Pedagogy and the Christian Faith: A Twenty-Year Journey of Discovery,” in Teaching as an Act of Faith, 210-230.
  87. Julia M. O’Brien, “‘Academic’ vs. ‘Confessional’ Study of the Bible in the Postmodern Classroom: A Class Response to Philip Davies and David Clines,” in Professing in the Postmodern Academy, 169-182.
  88. Stephen K. Moroney, Matthew P. Phelps, and Scott T. Waalkes, “Cultivating Humility,” in The Schooled Heart: Moral Formation in American Higher Education, eds. Michael D. Beaty and Douglas V. Henry (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007), 171-190.
  89. Paul J. Griffiths, The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite (Winnipeg, Manitoba: CMU Press, 2006). See also Paul J. Griffiths, Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2009) and Paul J. Griffiths, “From Curiosity to Studiousness: Catechizing the Appetite for Learning,” in Teaching and Christian Practices, 102-122.
  90. Glenn E. Sanders, “How Christian Practices Help to Engage Students Morally and Spiritually: Testimony from a Western Civilization Course,” in Teaching and Christian Practices, 157-176.
  91. Elizabeth Murray Morelli, “An Ignatian Approach to Teaching Philosophy,” in Teaching as an Act of Faith, 233-352.
  92. David L. Weaver-Zercher, Minding the Church: Scholarship in the Anabaptist Tradition: Essays in Honor of E. Morris Sider (Telford, PA: Pandora Press, 2002); George Dennis O’Brien, The Idea of a Catholic University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Mark W. Roche, The Intellectual Appeal of Catholicism and the Idea of a Catholic University (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003).
  93. David L. Weaver-Zercher, “A Modest (Though not Particularly Humble) Claim for Scholarship in the Anabaptist Tradition,” in Scholarship and Christian Faith, 103-117.
  94. Melanie M. Morey and John J. Piderit, Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 181.
  95. Richard T. Hughes, The Vocation of the Christian Scholar: How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 55.
  96. David L. Weaver-Zercher, “Preface,” Minding the Church, 14.
  97. Harry Lewis, Excellence without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education (New York: Public Affairs, 2006); Sommerville, The Decline of the Secular University; Glanzer and Ream, Christianity and Moral Identity in Higher Education. As a counter-point to these more pessimistic analyses, one reviewer of this essay observed that on many secular campuses there are thriving instances of positive student formation through service learning. Here we are reminded that Christians need not always be distinctive but rather must always be faithful, while happily celebrating manifestations of “common grace” in all who bear the image of God.
  98. Douglas V. Henry and Michael D. Beaty, eds., Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).
  99. Paul M. Gould, “The Two Tasks Introduced: The Fully Integrated Life of the Christian Scholar,” in The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar, eds. William Lane Craig and Paul M. Gould (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 52.
  100. C. Stephan Evans, “The Calling of the Christian Scholar-Teacher,” in Faithful Learning and the Christian Scholarly Vocation, eds. Douglas V. Henry and Bob R. Agee (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 36.
  101. Walter L. Bradley, “On Being a Christian Professor in the Secular Academy,” in The Two Tasks of the Christian Scholar, 121.
  102. Thanks to Malone University for a summer grant supporting the research for this essay. Thanks also to David Entwistle, Steve Jensen, Sue Moroney, Matt Phelps, Scott Waalkes, and an anonymous CSR reviewer for remarkably prompt and helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Stephen Moroney

Malone University
Stephen Moroney is Professor of Theology at Malone University.