"Eyes of Faith" is the title of a series of supplemental textbooks written primarily by professors in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The related project at Abilene Christian University involved faculty members in several departments who (1) read and reviewed the book in their discipline from the "Eyes of Faith" series, (2) conducted a faculty discussion session in their department, (3) compiled examples of connecting Christian values with course content, and (4) presented their reviews/examples to faculty at college meetings.
These reviews and examples provide faculty with stimulus material for integrating Christian values and course content when they revise courses and update syllabuses.
Biology through the Eyes of Faith (1989) is part of a series produced by the Christian College Coalition. This particular volume was written by Richard Wright, a Professor of Biology at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. Dr. Wright holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has lectured and published widely, particularly in the areas of science/faith interactions and ecology.
In this volume Wright develops the Biblical message of creation and applies it to concepts of dominion and stewardship. There are effectively four main "revolutions," as Wright calls them, considered in the book. But before addressing these four, Wright attempts to develop the concept of world view, at first in general and then as it applies to science. He spends a chapter or two on how science works, a chapter on how God relates to the world, and then relates the two. Part of this discussion is a struggle with the nature of scripture and is one of the high points in the book for me.
Turning to the "revolutions," Wright deals first with the creation/evolution controversy head on. He separates, appropriately, the "creation" information from the "evolution" information and argues that the "real issue is Creator versus no Creator, not creation versus evolution." He proposes alternative theistic approaches and suggests a strongly conciliatory tone amongst believers on this topic. One of his best points which recurs is that some Christians' dogmatic stance on this issue represents a significant stumbling block to those non-believers who might give the Christianity a hearing, but do not do so because, to them, Christianity is so closely identified with a narrow view of creation/evolution. He is not bashful about identifying the non-Christian philosophic baggage often tied to evolution, but suggests that we carefully separate the biology from the philosophy.
In the second "revolution" he addresses biomedical topics. Here he wonders about our definition of "health" and considers respect for persons, beneficence, and justice as they relate to health care. Infertility problems and abortion are thoughtfully considered with, to me, a clearly Christian spirit. An important context for Wright is our human role of stewards and what manipulations that allows.
The "genetic revolution" is similar to the preceding one, but here Wright tries to inform and evaluate particularly with reference to biotechnology and the risks and benefits involved.
Wright's final consideration is the "environmental revolution" and he carefully discusses human population growth, resources, pollution, and biological depletion. This is a grim story, in Wright's opinion, and needs a clear context of serving as God's stewards.
This book is targeted at undergraduate Christian biology or science majors and is very effective in that role. It not a large book (paperback almost 300 pages) and some professionals in bioethics or medical ethics probably would find it light reading, but my experience has been that undergraduate students do not find it to be light, and, in fact, are significantly stretched by it. I believe it is an important addition in aiding students to integrate their academic training with their faith.
Connecting Christian Values in Course Content
Reflections on Biology 497---Seminar in Biology
James R. Nichols
March 31, 1997
Within the Biology Department we have been confident concerning the academic preparation of our majors, as well as non-majors who take courses with us. We have been less confident, however, at how effectively we have been aiding the students in growth in integrating their science information with their Christian stances. Recognizing that the next generation of scientist/Christians is in college right now and that part of them are at ACU, we in the department have pondered the best approach to this need. As expected, some of this integration occurs in each class we teach, but it was never the real focus or goal of a dedicated amount of time.
We had on the books a one-hour "biology seminar" course required of all our senior majors, but the content of that course had been a hodge-podge over the years. We decided to dedicate that one-hour slot to a weekly reading/discussion course which provided a forum for consideration of science/faith interactions. We made that decision about seven years ago and the description following considers the development of that course.
The Seminar in Biology course meets for one 50-minute period each week for a 15 week semester. Maximum enrollment in each section is 12-14, a design to facilitate discussion. Most semesters this means that we must have at leas t two sections of the course occurring simultaneously. On the first class meeting a week by week reading list is distributed so that every student is reading the same material in preparation for a given Friday (the current class day used) class meeting. The class meetings are virtually 100% discussion sessions with a student from the class assigned ahead of time to be the "facilitator" of the class period. We carefully explain (and model on the first reading assignment) that the student leader of the d ay is not a lecturer but is, instead, a discussion-prompter.
During each class meeting students are given a set of five-six open-ended questions pertaining to the next given reading section. The questions are prepared by the student who will be the "leader" on the day of that discussion. The questions are responded to in writing (at least one paragraph per question) and the student leader then uses these questions as discussion prompters for his or her week. Each student is the leader for at least one week and must read ahead and prepa re questions. For example, if I were a student in the class and we were discussing chapter seven today and next week I am to be the leader for chapter eight, today I will hand out questions on chapter eight. Students will respond to these questio ns in writing by next week and therefore be "primed" for discussion of chapter eight next week.
The faculty person responsible for the course collects the written responses each week and returns them the following week after recording their completion. Because the questions are open-ended, no real attempt is made to "grade" the responses. Evaluation of the students in terms of grade is lenient with the assumption of conscientious responding to the questions each week plus the student's preparation of questions and leading the discussion on his or her week(s).
Over the semesters the reading assignments have come from several sources including:
1. Biology Through the Eyes of Faith - Richard T. Wright - Harper and Row. This book has been used every semester and is the closest thing to a "core" text for the course. This book is read gradually in its entirety an d has been exceedingly stimulating, helpful, and informative material for this course and this discussion format.
2. Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy - American Scientific Affiliation. This material, although we are not using it currently, added a didactic flavor for those students directed toward professional education since the booklet was originally prepared for secondary teachers.
3. "A Question of Integrity" - William Benetta - California Science Teachers Journal, spring 1987. This is a vigorous rebuttal to item #2 and was helpful in seeing an opposing interpretation of evidence.
4. "The Ecology of Grief" - Phyllis Windle - Bioscience, May 1992 and
5. "Of Fields and Faith" - Phyllis Windle - in Science and Christian Faith: the Connection- Daniel W. Martin, Editor - Presbyterian Publishing House. These two articles by Dr. Windle (who is both a Ph.D. professional ecologist and a hospital chaplain) are stimulating items from an interdisciplinary approach.
6. Several photocopied items varied from semester to semester dealing mostly with population problems, medical ethics, and genetic ethics.
By reading this material together and then having guided discussions, the goal (mechanically) is for the students to uncover most of the points of the course themselves. As they read, respond to questions in writing, and then have group discussions, the students clearly are involved in cooperative learning. I as a faculty member in the group am somewhat of a resource person but mostly just another member of the group.
During the course of the semester the readings and discussions take us through several significant considerations:
1. World View. This is one of the major concerns of the course, that students understand the concept of world view. We want students to understand that everybody has a history (teachers, preachers, text-boo k authors, research article authors, entertainers, themselves) and that personal history sets a framework in which each person operates. We promote a Christian world view and explain that any world view shapes responses, including professional responses. Since these students are nearly professional biologists or scientists, we would like to strengthen their Christian world view and aid them in decision pathways based on that world view.
2. How science works. Despite the fact that these students are fairly sophisticated scientifically, the course considers the role of hypothesis, data collection and interpretation. Despite the claims, science is not value-neutral; there are shaping principles but they are not always exposed.
3. Some history of science/religion relationships.
4. Evolution/creation considerations. This involves consideration of alternative approaches to Genesis and distinctions between evolution as biology and evolution as philosophy (and the interplay of world view here). This also involves some wrestling with what scripture is and how it communicates to us.
5. Biomedical/genetic concerns. This concerns the abilities and constraints of science. Remember, these are senior students and, though naive in some ways, many of them are very good scientifically. Many a re just months away from graduate or professional school programs and they are increasingly knowledgeable of and sensitive to molecular biology and medical and environmental topics and to some of the hard decisions they are about to face as professionals. They are very enthusiastic about some focused discussions on these topics.
6. Stewardship and environmental ethics. Again, the students are very active in their concern for hammering out some reasonable and informed Christian stances.
We have used this format and this material for seven years now. Despite making some adjustments from semester to semester, overall we have been very pleased with the course. We do end-of-the-semester anonymous student evaluati ons and they have been almost uniformly appreciative of the content and format. Students seem to appreciate the casual atmosphere of the class and feel no one is "on the spot" but everyone has a responsibility to contribute. Many, many students express surprise at the diversity of opinions expressed by student friends they thought felt exactly like they did (but, in fact, did not). These examples of diversity coming from peers seem to stimulate reconsideration of some of their positions as well as conf irming some of their positions. We faculty members involved seem to have been effective in avoiding "arguments" and keeping the tone positive and encouraging. We perceive positive effects on student morale because they are supplied with an organized, un derstandable discussion with their friends on topics in which they are interested--a winning arrangement.
Criticisms we get most often are that the course is too short and that the topics get "stuck" sometimes (the student facilitator and/or faculty member must keep it moving). Interestingly, there are a few complaints that the fac ulty member present fails to give "definite" answers to problems. That, of course is not a legitimate complaint at all, but simply an expression of the dawning realization by the student that he or she is going to have to make professional/spiritual decis ions on some tough issues. Lots of people would like to be given once-for-all-time answers but as adults we know there are not very many answers like that.
We have tried to create a one-hour casual but focused format in which students gradually read and respond to material prompting them to integrate information:
- to integrate the sciences. We have found that students do not effectively integrate the natural sciences. They take a chemistry course, a physics course, and a biology course and do not do well at seeing the overlap. Several of the topics in this semester force consideration of that overlap.
- to integrate science and non-science. The course promotes that many problems need consideration not only of science but of economics, sociology, political science, and other academic disciplines.
- to integrate science and their Christian faith. The course is designed to aid students in clarifying their own Christian world view and then to fit their academic and professional preparation into that world view. We believe this is important because - - - the next generation of scientist/Christians is in college right now, and some of them are at ACU.
What is the role of a Christian business person in a world where unethical practices and political scandal appear to be commonplace? Is it really possible for Christians to be active in business and maintain their integrity? Will putting Christ first in my life preclude the possibility of being a successful business person? In Business Through The Eyes of Faith, the authors address these and several other difficult issues facing Christian business people today. The result is an interesting collection of discussions that incorporate examples from today's business world, related Biblical lessons, and compelling study questions. These discussions help the reader focus on the relationship between Christianity and business with an emphasis on management from a Biblical perspective. The Christian view of justice, service, and stewardship, within a business context, are just a few of the topics addressed by this thought provoking book.
Chewning, Eby, and Roels, focus on four major topics: 1) Business from a Christian Perspective, 2) Work, 3) Leadership, and 4) Opportunities for Christian Service in Business. Each of these topics is considered over the course of several chapters. Each discussion begins with an example from contemporary business to motivate and stimulate thought about the primary topics that are considered in that chapter. These introductory vignettes cover a wide range of issues. One tells of the computer company in Virginia whose primary goal, as stated in their charter, is to honor God. Another contrasts two extremely different management styles: one that assumes the worst of employees and another that assumes the best, then leads the reader to evaluate his or her beliefs about human nature. These examples effectively draw the readers into the discussion, thereby encouraging development and reinforcement of their own beliefs about the subject.
Following the opening vignette each chapter introduces, develops, and summarizes some of the main issues associated with the topic at hand. The Christian perspective on these issues is uncovered using scripture. Christ is used constantly throughout the text as the perfect example of how to relate to others. The letters of Paul and others are used to illustrate how to deal with others in a straight-forward and "business-like" manner without sacrificing honesty and integrity. Hypothetical and actual stories are used to further motivate thinking in each area. Finally, a summary of the ideas presented in the chapter is used to synthesize the main issues, drawing conclusions when possible, motivating further thought when necessary.
Chewning, Eby, and Roels close each chapter with a section entitled Questions for Reflection. These questions relate back to the main issues of the chapter and are presented in three sections. The first section asks additional questions related to the introductory vignette. "Is one [of the previously mentioned management styles] more Christian than the other?" The second section provides more generalized questions along with Bible verses that may be helpful in developing answers. "We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6). How does this affect the way we relate to people in business?" The third focuses on contemporary issues, allowing the reader to apply the principles of the chapter to their own life within a current business setting. "Christians often work closely with people who are not Christians. How does this affect how they might work with people?" The questions encourage deeper consideration of the issues and are structured so as to be useful and meaningful to each individual reader. Additionally, the case-like format of the chapters allow them to be used in a class or seminar setting where the Questions for Reflection may be used to stimulate discussion.
The strongest attribute of the book may be that it challenges the reader. The examples, although sometimes dated, present difficult questions that are not always easily solved. The authors deliberately avoid obvious yes or no questions that do not teach anything new or force individual growth. Their efforts are concentrated on moving the reader to a point where they must ask themselves what they believe the solution to this problem is. This approach allows the reader to "practice" making the type of tough decisions that face Christian business people each day, instead of just reading about them. This process helps tune the mind to stop and look at business decisions from a Christian perspective. Whether making a serious decision about who will receive a promotion and who will not, or simply smiling and saying an encouraging word to the people we work with each day, Colossians 3:23-24 calls us to do all things as though we are working for the Lord. Dedicating time to think and pray about the types of questions presented in Business Through The Eyes Of Faith is of value to any business person who seeks to stand out for the Lord in his or her work.
Joy Fair was kind enough to share some prepared comments with the rest of the COBA faculty at our seminar on April 16. Here is a list of the main topics she discussed.
Additionally, she has provided a group of cases and articles that she uses to motivate discussion on faith and business issues. Those cases and articles are included in the following pages.
We were also thankful that Don Jackson presented some ideas which he feels are critical to the integration of faith and business. A summary of the main points of his presentation are also presented below.
This is a copy of the offer letter that we send to student assistants in the COBA Dean's Office. I wrote it and we began using it a couple of years ago. We send it out whenever we are hiring a new student assistant.
COBA: Student Responses
(Stu Acct & Fin Society) - 2/27/97
Question # 4:How can we create a sense of community between faculty and students on this issue? How can professors and students share the responsibility of integrating faith and business in our classrooms?
by Darryl Tippens, Department of English
Gallagher, Susan V. and Roger Lundin. Literature Through the Eyes of Faith. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.
What no person has a right to is to delude others into the belief that faith is something of no significance, or that is an easy matter, whereas it is the greatest and most difficult of all things.- S¯ren Kierkegaard
Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. ["Whatever is received can only be received in the manner of the recipient."- a medieval hermeneutical principle
"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are. 'To the pure, all things are pure;'. . . the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defiled." - John Milton
There is much in Literature Through the Eyes of Faith that I admire. It poses and answers a number of crucial questions about how to approach literary texts today - this side of the postmodern revolution in interpretati on theory. The book discusses such topics as: the importance of metaphor, the problem of multiple and contradictory interpretations, and how to deal with material that affronts Christian values or beliefs. In all these areas, Gallagher and Lundin are f air, generous, and balanced - without being strident or sectarian. It is a book full of excellent insights, relying on the work of many contemporary theorists. In fact, what I appreciate about the work generally is its ability to engage contemporary the ories and theorists without being too nervous, defensive, or dismissive. The book is learned and well documented with a full bibliography; yet it is written, for the most part, on a level undergraduates could understand.
Chapter 3, one of the most interesting, concerns the power and function of narrative. Following Alasdair MacIntyre (34), Robert Bellah (34) and Wendell Berry (35-36), the book argues that a whole, healthy life requires that we see our lives in terms of a narrative. Here, it seems to me that we need some extensive conversation, for in contemporary America (especially for young Christians who have grown up on TV and life at the mall) people are caught between the mutually excl usive claims of competing narratives. Secular culture has already beqeathed to our students a rather clear plot before we ever meet them. Either they are consumers or, in words of eminent physicist Steven Weinberg, they are meaningless items in a pointl ess cosmos: "It is very hard to realize that this all [the earth] is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless" (29). The other narrative - that we are sons and d aughters of God, created in his image, and destined to return to him - may be forgotten or erased by the dominant narrative of popular culture. If so, then our stories, whether theological or classically literary, may sound odd, hollow, or irrelevant.
Perhaps most important, the book offers a theology of reading and studying literature. For Gallagher and Lundin, texts are written and read precisely because human beings are creative and thoughtful like our Creator:
. . . in this book we will promote the study of literature by emphasizing that God in Creation made all things good and that in the Incarnation he gave us his Son to make right what we have made wrong. Though literature can provide us with re laxation and with images of the world as it might ideally be, it is neither an escape from reality nor a saving transformation of it. Instead, it enables us to respond to the order, beauty, and grace of God and his world and to the disorder that our sin has brought into that world. (p. xxiv)
Why do people write and read texts? Why should Christians care about the study of literature? According to Nicholas Wolterstorff: "Man is to continue God's work of bringing forth order, cosmos" (45).
As much as I like the book, and agree with its thesis, I think it misses a regrettable dimension in trying to lead students to texts. In its exclusive focus on what texts do, the authors fail to make clear that what tex ts do is very much related to three extra-textual factors: (1) first, whointroduces these students to the texts; (2) secondly, how the texts are introduced, that is, under what conditions; (2) whothe readers are, that is, wh o receive these texts. In other words, in Literature Through the Eyes of the Faith there is little notice of the contexts of reception, little understanding of what Louise Rosenblatt calls the "transactions" of literature, the social dimens ions of understanding texts.
Gallagher and Lundin, most of the time sound like neo-Arnoldians who argue that great texts (Milton, Eliot, Melville, etc.) "increase our understanding of God's world, ourselves, and our neighbors" (49). Literature is good be cause it exposes ignorance and selfishness, teaches heightened sensitivity and sympathy (51), expands our factual knowledge, and provide "vicarious experience" (51).
But I wonder: Is this necessarily so? More to the point, do our students, colleagues, and constituencies see it this way? Can't readers of literature, in fact, be as pagan, selfish, or insensitive as non-readers ? Does literature automatically civilize readers? Are all members of the MLA really so humane and virtuous? Does everyone who reads Charles Dickens or Harriet Beecher Stowe champion the causes of the underclasses? Would the world automatically be a be tter place if everyone read more literature? I don't think so, and neither, finally, do Gallagher and Lundin.
Poetry is not a proper substitute for religion as Matthew Arnold believed (58). Gallagher and Lundin finally steer a middle course between the deconstructive types who believe literature has nothing to do with the external wor ld ("mere language games") and the Arnoldian view of literature as ersatz religion. Literature is not powerful enough or truthful enough to change people on its own. We only become better through Christ's redeeming grace and through the power of the Hol y Spirit (59), they maintain. Here is where I wish Gallagher and Lundin had given us more help.
In some of the best material in the book, Gallagher and Lundin plunge into the question of how readers read. In these passages, I think they do fine work. Having learned from Gadamer and the phenomenological school, the write rs reject purely literary-aesthetic responses to texts. We must say no to the Romantic view of art as distinct from all other human products. The Romantic, Kantian, view of art-as-such is pervasive even today, I believe. It suggests that art is above, and even indifferent to, life. "Fine" art is to be distinguished from "useful" art.
To the Christian seeking to understand literature it is interesting to note that modern ideas about art arose as the cultural influence of Christianity began to decline. (72)
I believe this elitist, aestheticist position has had an adverse effect on our profession, and on the constituencies who are expected to fund our work and supply students. These constituencies, already heavily tinged with pragmatism, find in our elitest manifestoes further justification for abandoning the literary arts. Quite frankly, many people do not understand why our work is important, unless it is to teach better spelling, grammar, and punctuation. According to a recent survey of 1,300 U.S. high school students, respondents were asked to rate courses according to the courses' perceived importance - American literature courses were at the bottom of the scale, while courses in computers were rated at the top.1
I believe that college English teachers who believe that literature is the vehicle of important values can correct this myopic understanding of the English curriculum. Our department is uniquely situated to teach the skills of communication, but also methods of analysis, and methods of weighing competing values that are greatly needed in our culture. I also suggest that this does not happen automatically, just by opening up Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hemingway or Hawthorne. We m ust weave a context for reading these texts. Everything depends upon how we read. That means understanding how our students are able, or not able, to read. We begin by finding the questions that matter most to our students; we must allow the living questions, so that we can then show how these texts address these living questions. If we provide answers first, before we have allowed the questions to emerge naturally and freely from our students' worlds, our teaching will be viewed at best as irrele vant, at worst as oppressive. Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. ["Whatever is received can only be received in the manner of the recipient."
In other words, we must think long and hard about the whole issue of presuppositions, conceptual frameworks, world views, horizons of interpretation. It's not enough to know the texts. We must know better the world in which o ur students are living, and we must help them to build bridges between these two worlds. (See William Willimon, "Reaching and Teaching the Abandoned Generation.") We need to think more clearly about our own interpretive methods (97-98).
Gallagher and Lundin lead us to the edge of these important issues. While mentioning a number of interpretive methods, these writers clearly belong to a traditional, ethical school of criticism. They are not far removed from Kenneth Burke who sees literature as "Equipment for Living" or Wayne Booth who sees literature as ethically charged or Nicholas Wolterstorff who sees works of art as "instruments and objects of action" (xxv): "A piece of writing is a tool for action," th ey say (xxv). Specifically, they are instrumentalists: All works of art "provide various ways to participate in God's world" (xxvi). But, again, their focus is texts, not world, or audience, or pedagogy. We must forge our own way in these matters.
I conclude by suggesting that we need to think, not only about texts, but about us and our students. I believe that our task is dual: we must practice in a most carefully balanced way reception and advocacy.
By "reception" I mean such things as careful listening, welcoming. I think it means understanding the world from which our students come such as described by William Willimon. Texts are not absolute or monolithic - they can o nly be received according to the manner of the recipient. Therefore, I must welcome my students to reflect on their own stories, their own narratives. I must invite them to become more self-reflexive and reflect upon their own stories - to see if theirs is a true narrative or a broken or toxic one.
I must admit that my "answers" may not help, unless I know what my students' questions are first. And if I think they are asking the wrong questions, then part of my duty is to lead them to consider alternative questions. I'm very good at talking. I must become better at holy listening. Our classrooms must become sites of hospitality where students feel welcomed, however much they fall below our ideals and expectations.
To reception must be added "advocacy." Advocacy in the classroom is freighted with danger. It easily descends into dogmatism, pontification, and oppression. It can leap to closure before there is honest engagement, inquiry, and dialogue. However, there is a higher and better kind of advocacy that is also charitable, respectful, and courteous towards other opinions, ideas, and beliefs. For example, we can create space where doubts are raised. We live in a highly skeptical age and our students naturally partake of this atmosphere. Questioning, irony, the sardonic quip are to be expected. The "hermeneutics of suspicion" reigns in our field today. But the teacher who is secure in his or her faith, need not counter suspicio us skepticism with loud appeals to creeds or the Bible. Instead, we can ask our students to practice the hermeneutics of suspicion against itself. Authentic and honest interrogation leads one to be skeptical of skepticism itself. We must invite our stu dents to doubt their doubts.
Albert Haley offers a wonderful example of this process in his little short story "Canoe," the story of Peter Hazlitt, a thoroughly secular man, whose total faith is in American materialism. But, in the story, Hazlitt's world falls apart. His secular creed does not sustain him. He comes to doubt his own narrow, secular creed. What happens when you stop believing in secularism? What happens when your nihilism no longer satisfies? When you no longer can believe in "nothing, " are you perhaps ready to believe in Something?
I appreciate Gallagher and Lundin's book. It is well worth reading, most of all because it shows how very important literature is today; but they also, through their omissions remind me that the text is never enough. Texts sp eak more loudly when the wills, consciences, and personal narratives of readers and teachers are brought together in a rich setting of dialogue, inside and outside of the classroom.
Summary of Applications
Members of the ACU Department have given considerable thought to the ways in which our Christian faith impinges upon our curriculum, our teaching style, our objectives, and so forth. Because our faith is rooted and grounded in words, because Christianity is a hermeneutical religion (to use Paul Ricoeur's term), the study of language and literature can have enormous impact upon faith development. Because we teach texts-the reading and writing of texts, the interpretatio n, analysis, and application of texts-we are never far from issues of faith.
Furthermore, given the particular design of the English Department at ACU, we have special opportunities to assist students in their spiritual growth. First, our department has contact with every student in the university. Se cond, we are often privileged to meet and know these students through relatively small classes. Third, through personal writing assignments (such as journal entries and personal response statements), English teachers are permitted a uniquely personal vie w of their students' lives. For all these reasons we feel a burden to be spiritual mentors and guides where possible.
Our teachers follow a number of practices to encourage the connection of faith and learning in our discipline. Among them:
1. Selections of readings. As teachers of literature, we select works that are not only considered excellent, but also we choose works that test and develop spiritual inquiry. ENGL 112 (Literature and Composition) wil l, next fall, have at its disposal a spiritually-oriented anthology specifically developed by members of the department. Even in courses that appear to be secular in content, our teachers are able to point out the hidden or implicit spiritual and moral c ontent of the texts.
2. Reading strategies. Not only do we select readings with care, but we work hard to teach discernmentin reading. We want our students to recognize and uncover the values and beliefs implied in texts. One tea cher, for example, shows her students how to find the moral (and even spiritual) wisdom implicit in many children's literature narratives. Another instructor carefully balances readings so that works that challenge Christian belief are matched with readi ngs that support Christian understandings. For example, a poem questioning marriage is balanced by a story affirming the goodness of marriage, or Huxley's essay on agnosticism is balanced by Newman's Apologia. Some teachers talk extensively about "world views" as they are expressed in texts. Other teachers clarify the distinction between reading and truly "embracing" an idea. Some teachers show students how to "read against the text," how to expose a text's secular bias, so as to disarm the neg ative elements in a work.
3. Writing assignments. Several members of the department require papers in which students are required to respond personally to readings in order to get students to articulate and clarify their values and beliefs.
4. Mentoring relationships. Many of our faculty cultivate mentoring relationships through several avenues-informal, fireside chats; travel together to meetings; extended conversations over coffee, lunch, etc.; shared w ork on projects like "The Black Tulip" or Shinnery Review.
5. Discussions of the profession. As English studies undergo major transformations, some teachers are openly encouraging their students to think through the issues of the profession which often have moral and spiritual implications. By introducing students to these issues now, incrementally, teachers hope students will be equipped with a faith strong enough to face a sometimes spiritually alienated profession.
6. Course objectives. Nearly all the syllabuses in our courses include objectives that relate to our Christian faith. The mission statement for the literary journal Shinnery Review specifically discusses the ne ed for the journal to serve and honor the Christian purposes of the institution while respecting the points of view of non-Christian students.
7. Curriculum. The department has developed one course specifically to introduce students to classic works of literature on spiritual themes (ENGL 471 Literature and Belief).
Harold Best, author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith, brings to his writing a solid academic background and a deep Christian commitment. Professor Best is Dean of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College, a performer, a p ublished scholar, and a lover of a great diversity of musics from around the world. His Lutheran background was rich in family tradition and his writing makes known his dedication, faith, and deep thinking about the relationship of his faith to his art.< br>
Within the text he shows a great commitment to musical pluralism, an insistence on excellence, a humble Christian spirit which accepts great diversity, and an ability to establish a sense of unity between his life of faith and h is professional life as a musician.
At the outset Best begins to lay a foundation for the points he wishes to stress in later chapters. Primarily he justifies a musical pluralism on the pluralism and diversity we see in God's creation. God pronounced his creatio n good--the very small and simplest creatures as well as those created with a larger brush stroke on life's canvas. He points out that we, too, should accept a musical stylistic pluralism from the smallest and simplest folk tune to the large symphony cre ated with a large brush stroke on music's canvas. Best attempts to define what music is by stressing that music is morally neutral and by reminding us that truth is not beauty (artistic creation) and beauty is not truth. Truth can override aesthetic bea uty, but aesthetic lapses cannot cancel out truth. Best then asks the question: "if inferior art will still carry truth, why strive for excellence." He makes the point that we should honor God by working as God does--by making all things good (certainly to the limits of our finite abilities).
Best also addresses a subject with which we often have trouble. Is there music that is truly Christian music and music that is anti-Christian. Of course texts may be, but Best makes the point again that music is morally neutra l. Music is, however, very contextual, so that as we become more familiar with music in a particular environment it takes on more and more connection with that environment. Why do we find comfort just humming Amazing Grace--because of context, not becau se the notes or rhythms themselves have particular moral or spiritual value.
And what of diversity? Best states that we should cherish diversity because God does. God not only imagines and creates with great diversity, but God called "good" everything in creation. As musicians we should practice such an acceptance.
Best ponders "If God sees all things as good, why then should we evaluate music at all?" The answer is simple and straight-forward--humans are incurable evaluators. We evaluate any time we have choices. Best encourages us to make quality judgments within same musical categories--not between categories. This is hard for the musician who just knows that a Mozart Symphony is far superior to the current rap song, pop top 20 song, or even an old Beatle's tune.
Best devotes a large segment of the text in dealing with excellence and value judgments. This is a particularly interesting section since he comes from a point of view developed out of his own musical pluralism. He attempts to describe what excellence is and is not and makes numerous practical statements to back up his more general concepts. Within his discussion Best acknowledges that God can use something mediocre to bring about a powerful result. But, as musicians, it is good for us to remember that "Holy shoddy is still shoddy."
Another particularly interesting chapter of the book deals with the nature of worship, faith, grace and music making. His primary points come from a world-view which maintains that God, the one and only creator, is alone worthy of worship. (as musicians we sometimes almost worship the music we make). Whatever we do---we do as worshipers. Best summarizes by saying that "Christian musicians, while delivered from the fixation that there is an exclusively Christian music, know o f the larger graciousness of all good music. They know of the obligation they have to make music as an agent of God's grace. Music is freely made, by faith as an act of worship."
Partly, I think, because of the great popularity of Contemporary Christian Music, Best spends a great deal of effort outlining the negatives and positives of this newest popular rage--particularly among Christian youth. It is e xcellent and thought-provoking reading for Contemporary Christian artists, would-be artists, Christian young people, and parents.
Best obviously comes out of a different religious tradition than the Church of Christ. His section on music and the worshiping church will probably offend some and enlighten others. One point he does make that all of us would agree upon is that "Singing is not an option---it is a commandment." Of course, he also makes an equally forceful statement that playing instruments as worship is a commandment as well.
Best closes with two important tasks for the Christian who makes music:
Applications in the Music Department
The following statements reflect ways in which Music Department members are currently making application of faith within the music discipline: