How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind

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Can Christian Faith sustain the life of the mind? To many academics this question seems absurd. In their judgment, religion is fundamentally dogmatic, whereas the life of the mind requires openness, creativity, and imagination. This assumption about the nature of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has contributed significantly over the past century to the divorce between faith and learning at countless colleges and universities in the United States.

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Overview

Can Christian Faith sustain the life of the mind? To many academics this question seems absurd. In their judgment, religion is fundamentally dogmatic, whereas the life of the mind requires openness, creativity, and imagination. This assumption about the nature of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has contributed significantly over the past century to the divorce between faith and learning at countless colleges and universities in the United States.

In this powerful -- yet very personal -- reflection on faith and scholarship, Richard T. Hughes counters the widespread perception of Christians as steeped in narrowness and dogmatism, and provides a compelling argument that faith, properly pursued, in fact nourishes the openness and curiosity that make a life of the mind possible. Neither an assessment of contemporary church-related higher education nor a lamentation over the process of secularization, this book is instead a badly needed aid for academics in both private and public institutions who want to connect Christian faith with scholarship and teaching in meaningful and effective ways.

Defining the "life of the mind" in terms of disciplined search for truth, genuine conversation with diverse viewpoints, critical thinking and analysis, and intellectual creativity, Hughes shows that such life, far from being impeded by Christian faith, can actually be enhanced by it -- but only if Christians learn to think theologically and to break through the particularities of their own traditions.

Hughes first examines the way the deism of the Founding Fathers defines the values of the modern academy in the United States, and he asks how the Christian tradition might interact with these values in meaningful ways. He then looks at four different Christian traditions -- Catholic, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Lutheran -- and the different ways they sustain the life of the mind. When he turns to teaching, Hughes uses his own classroom work as an illustration of how a commitment to some of the great themes of Christian theology can undergird both the form and the content of the teaching task. Finally, in an especially poignant chapter, Hughes explores how good teaching and scholarship can be rooted in human suffering and tragedy.

After a spate of books and articles that merely mourn the decline of Christian intellectual life, here -- at last -- is a volume that offers a constructive assessment of how Christian faith can indeed sustain the life of the mind.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802849359
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword IX
Preface and Acknowledgments XVI
1. Introduction 1
2. The Religion of the Republic and the Life of the Mind 12
3. Christian Faith and the Life of the Mind 28
4. The Power of Christian Traditions 57
5. What Might It Mean to Teach from a Christian Perspective? 97
6. The Questions of Distinctiveness and Proclamation 134
Postscript: Tragedy, Christian Faith, and the Life of the Mind--Personal Reflections 150
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