Connections Review #6, Winter 2013

We are developing a new format for this courier which better fits the software we are presently using.  For back issues you can connect to the archive by clicking on Connections Review (or above) and it will alow you to see an index of past issues.  To connect to the immediately preceding issue, click on "CR #5 Summer 2012" ABOVE & BELOW in the title line.

Now to this latest edition…

Connections Review

The Semi-Annual ACI Courier 

For Academic Connections,

Issue #6 Winter 2013

     Inside this issue we begin by taking a moment on this Reverend Martin Luther King day for a meditation.  We will also include a last installment (at least for now), making the case for forming and sustaining Christian faculty communities on secular campuses and below that on Page 2, access to links we think you'll find stimulating.  Categories for those links include: legal issues, life of the mind, spiritual formation, trends and conferences.  Be sure not to miss this section, there are some very stimulating topics including things like, "The Lessons of Grace in Teaching" and "The Divine Conspiracy" to name two.

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     Please note: inclusion of links do not imply ACI endorsement (unless specifically mentioned), they are meant as food for thought.  Neither are they meant to imply that those cited would endorse us or what we are doing as a ministry.


Acts 10:34  ¶       Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism

Acts 10:35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."

     Few things can be more discouraging than to find out you’ve been passed over for hiring or promotion based on bias.  Race and gender are two such factors that are often cited in academe especially in these sorts of discussions.  But we Christians care not only what our peers think, but also and primarily what does God think about such things?

The culture in which Peter uttered these words recorded in Acts was highly biased in practically every way we think of today.  To understate things a bit, women in secular Roman culture (remember Peter was in Caesarea at this time) were simply not equal to men.  Among the greatest of Greek philosophers of the ancient world, Plato himself thought some people were born to be slaves and that society ought to be organized in light of that.

And we remember that one of the counter-intuitive pieces of evidence for the historicity of the passion story is that Christ’s first resurrection appearances were to women—folks whose testimony was not highly regarded in the Hebrew culture of the times—that sort of detail would hardly be included in a contrived story.  The social etiquette of the times would have constructed the telling quite differently if it strove for credibility alone.

In short, biased attitudes are a problem.  They are made worse when those biases get instutionalized into the structures of society.

And it is evident from the context of this passage that Peter himself was slow on the uptake about the extent of God’s gracious initiative in Jesus.  Peter was among Jesus’ “top three” closest disciples.  He was a person who spent three years with the Lord in intimate relationship yet did not really get this piece of the puzzle until this point in his life.  Remember Peter said, “…I NOW realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism…” (emphasis mine).

On this Martin Luther King day where we remember his contribution to the cause of racial justice in our country, such an event may be a good time for us to reflect on this truth: God is not a God of partiality and as children of God we, too, should demonstrate this virtue.                                      

Forming and Sustaining Christian Faculty Communities:

     In past issues of Connections Review we’ve been talking about the value of forming and sustaining Christian faculty communities.  Experience tells us they can be formed and sustained for decades, though there are plenty of roadblocks, hazards and pitfalls to launching and maintaining them.  Let’s continue that conversation.

I have argued that even though everybody in the academic world is busy—really busy—and it takes time to invest in starting and sustaining Christian communities, there’s a price to pay for its neglect.  One suggested cost to Christians in academe is that without a peer group of Christians with whom to associate we are more likely to be shaped by the sociological influences of the university than any other peer group.  That influence typically neither carries a brief for the progress of the gospel nor possesses a positive agenda for the Kingdom of God.  Surely the ideas of the university influence our thinking, and it seems naïve to think that all of the ideas of the university are either supportive or even neutral with regard to the Christian faith.  This is true even though there are some ideas in academe that are quite consistent with Christian faith or might have flowed from Christian convictions but found their origins in secular thought.

But which ideas are worthy of our allegiance and which belong in the dustbin of ideologies?  And what are we to think of the tacit academic narrative—the metanarrative—that “explains” our situation in the world and folds all the other narratives into itself?  What are we to think of the contemporary zeitgeist?  Wouldn’t there be value in discussings these sorts of things in a give and take relationship with Christian intellectual peers?

As I’ve argued elsewhere, this is just one reason Christian faculty ought to take each other seriously and consider the value of getting together on a regular basis, forming a Christian community on campus.

We have also discussed the 800 pound gorilla in the room which hinders our flourishing: our political and certain peripheral doctrinal beliefs which can effectively produce suspicion and  unneeded divisions among us.

I want to conclude this breviary by saying something about the value of synergy and teamwork.  When I was in grade school and high school I tended to get involved in sports that were individualistic.  I was on the tumbling team in grammar school and the track team in high school.  There were team aspects to both, but not like you find in football or basketball. In the former two the emphasis is typically more on individual and the team's success is secondary.  Typically in the latter two there is more emphasis on the team success and the subordination of the individual success to the team's.

Even the standard psychological tests show my personality profile is of an individualist who likes to belong to (or work on) a team.   I’m just wired that way.

There are a lot of professors I know who are even more tilted toward the individualist side of things.  These folks feel that they alone wrote their dissertation and the countless books and articles that are demanded of them.  They feel if you cannot function and be productive in the world of academic personal achievement, you are typically winnowed out.  There’s a selection pressure for those sorts of virtues in the academic world.

What I want to say is that there is a great deal of value to "leaning into" areas in our lives where there are deficits.  I’m not talking about changing basic personality factors…I believe in majoring in the majors and minoring in the minors; what I’m extolling are the virtues of self-awareness and wholeness. 

Maybe some of us need a Christian community or some kind of counter-cultural or complementary community more than we think.  Our tendencies may make us outliers in a band of outliers to the larger culture and that can stunt wholeness and sometimes we’re the last to know it.

Getting together with other Christians can sometimes be like a couple of porcupines sleeping together on a cold night.  The cold draws them closer, but the things that protect them get in the way.  In a somewhat similar manner there’s a symphony of movement that accompanies our drawing closer and moving away and then drawing together again that comes with belonging to any community. 

We Christians don’t escape that reality and sometimes it can make things worse.  But the consequences of neglect are very high and the fruit of patient orchestration and navigation are good, wholesome and last for eternity.

Page 2

     In case you missed it, links of possible interest for discussion with your colleagues.  What do these trends mean and how will they affect you and the progress of His Kingdom?

Legal Issues:

Life of the Mind (and Heart):

Spiritual Formation:

Other Trends:

1)  The dominance of the academic super powers.  The more things change, the more they stay the same....

Inside Higher Education:

2) Trends in the politics of professors…from Inside Higher Education:

3)  The Year in Review 2012--Pew Research Center - top findings (TRENDS) of the year that told us a bigger story about the trends shaping our world:

4)  Profs have the least stressful job?  :


Conferences of Possible Interest

Society of Christian Philosophers

Midwest Region

Mountain-Pacific Region

Intervarsity Faculty Ministry Midwest Faculty Conference (Cedar Campus, MI).  

We close by congratulating one of our own associates, Dr. Sharon Anderson, who has been promoted to Senior Fellow with Academic Connections:

Best Regards,

James A. Cook

Editor, Connections Review

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