Friday, January 06, 2006

Integrating Faith and Learning?

In his article "Fifty Years Later," philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff takes issue with the commonly touted idea that the task of Christian scholarship is to "integrate" faith and learning and offers what he thinks is a more appropriate metaphor (HT: Prosthesis):
We in the colleges of the Reformed tradition have often used the language of "integration" to describe the project - not as often as people in the other Christian colleges, but nonetheless often. The project, we have said, is to integrate faith and learning. I have come to think that the metaphor of integration is a poor choice of metaphor. It suggests that the scholar is presented with two things, faith and learning; and that these two must some-how be tied together. The two-story metaphor has been discarded; no longer do we think in terms of placing faith on top of learning. Still, the assumption of duality remains. The idea now is that we tie them together somehow - find the right baling twine and the right place to attach it.
I submit that the project of Christian learning, rightly understood, rejects the assumption of duality that underlies the metaphor of integration. Here is an example of the point: the dominant ideology behind philosophy of art of the past two centuries is that art is an exception to the fallenness of our society; art has redemptive significance. How am I to integrate that ideology with my Christian faith? It can't be done. I have to reject it, not integrate it; and having rejected it, I have to rethink philosophy of art and aesthetics so that it becomes faithful to my Christian conviction. What emerges, if I am successful, is not an integration of two separate things but just one thing: a philosophy of art faithful to Christian conviction. I have never found what seemed to me the absolutely right metaphor. However, better than the integration metaphor is the metaphor of seeing through the eyes of faith. When you look at something, you look at it with your eyes; you don't look at it and then also at your eyes.
I think Wolterstorff is right and am particularly interested in the application of his thinking to the realm of counseling psychology though he doesn't address it in the article. The model of counseling most prevalent in evangelical circles assumes the integration metaphor while biblical counseling, on the other hand, seems to be governed more by the metaphor Wolterstorff suggests. An example of this is the title of David Powlison's book, Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture.

1 comment:

Kerry Doyal said...

Keith - good thots. I appreciated these words & write as a member of the TIU Tenure Comm. where we deal with this issues (at college level mostly) regularily.