Global Scholars exists so that Missional Christian Academics are adequately equipped to have a redemptive influence among their students, colleagues, universities, and disciplines, at a reasonable cost.
Exegesis of Terms:
To be missional is to understand one’s academic work as Kingdom work. It is to understand one has a calling, or “vocation” (“vocatio” in Latin), meaning something to which the Lord has called one for His purposes. It is an understanding that one’s life is to be characterized by the “Missio Dei”—that all work is part of God’s mission. It is an understanding that all of one’s gifts (natural and spiritual) and opportunities (including obtaining an advanced degree and a university post) are to be stewarded well in His service. It eschews the “sacred-secular” dichotomy, seeing God’s call, hand and redemptive work in not only evangelism and discipleship but also in research, in teaching, in committee work and administrative positions. In all these ways one can bring the true, the good, and the beautiful, to full bloom in the university context.
The Bible presents “missionality” in a variety of ways. The Cultural Mandate of Genesis 2:15 calls upon those created in God’s image to cultivate God’s good Creation to make it even better. In Psalm 96:3, the psalmist calls upon God’s covenant people to declare His glory to all the nations. Jesus’ commands his followers, in Matthew 5:13-16, to be “salt and light” wherever they are. In the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands his followers to go to the whole world and teach all that he taught them.
Many scholars have written on this theme. Some of the better treatments are:
- John Calvin, “Vocation” in Institutes of the Christian ReligionX.VI
- John Cotton, “Sermons on Calling,” in The Way Of Life, or God’s Way And Course, In Bringing the Soul Into, Keeping It In, And Carrying It On, In The Way Of Life And Peace
- Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch
- To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davidson Hunter
- Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure by Leland Ryken
- Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
- Fabric of This World: Inquiries into Calling, Career Choice, and the Design of Human Work by Lee Hardy
- The Callings: The Gospel in the World by Paul Helm
- A Kind of Life Imposed on Man: Vocation and Social Order from Tyndale to Locke by Paul Marshall
- “A Treatise of the Vocations or Callings of Men” by William Perkins in Ian Breward, ed., The Work of William Perkins, and Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theory of Work by Miroslav Volf.
To be Christian entails cognitive, volitional, and emotional dimensions. Cognitively is one who affirms the essential historic Christian faith, what C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” This means believing the core doctrines of the faith, contained in such formulations as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. For Global Scholars purposes we have chosen to adopt the World Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith as the essential codification of these core doctrinal beliefs required of those who wish to affiliate with our ministry. We believe it addresses all the core issues one must affirm, and not doing so is a reason to question whether one is a true follower of Christ. However, it does not require assent to doctrines on which true believers worldwide or through time have differed. We are commanded to “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), “study to show yourself approved, handling accurately the Word of God” (II Tim. 2:15) and ultimately to follow the greatest commandment of loving God with our minds (Luke 10:27) and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2)
Second, the volitional dimension of faith entails a person chooses every day to live out, or “incarnate” these beliefs in thought, word, and deed. He or she is seeking to grow daily in Christlikeness, practicing spiritual disciplines and increasingly evidencing the fruit of the Spirit of which Galatians 5:22 speaks. The greatest commandment of Luke 10:27 speaks to this as well, as does Colossians 2:6: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus our Lord, continue to live your lives in him.”
Third, is an emotional, affective, or existential aspect to the life of a true believer. He experiences God in ineffable ways. This may not be a regular occurrence, as God works in different ways in each of our lives, but for all true believers there is some sense of God’s presence and direction –“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom. 8:16)
Finally, this is all lived out in a community of faith. As the triune God is a community of persons, he created us as communal beings as well, needing one another for health and flourishing. “Do not neglect to assemble together…but encourage one another…” (Heb. 10:25) and we sharpen one another “as iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17)
Many have been written on this. For starters we suggest I Believe: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed by Alister McGrath.
To be an academic is to be called to the learned life. It is to love the pursuit, acquisition, and dissemination of knowledge, and give one’s life to this endeavor. Therefore an academic is committed to the noblest aims of the academy: discovering and promoting the Good, True and Beautiful, leading to human flourishing and the common good.
Functionally this entails the academic is employed in an academic post. In this post, he or she engages in three important duties: teaching, research, and service (though different roles and academic contexts require different emphases at various times). However, academics are not always employed by universities. Some serve in Institutes, “think tanks,” and within industry. What makes each of them academics is his or her vocation of pursuing, discovering and disseminating knowledge. Furthermore, while this usually requires a terminal degree, this is not always the case. In some cultural and research contexts, those with Master’s degrees are functioning as academics.
Scripture affirms the academic call in various places. For instance, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to investigate a matter…” (Proverbs 25:2), “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight.” (Proverbs 18:17), “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Cor. 10:5) Paul modeled this in his commitment to teach for two years in the School of Tyrannus (a proto-university in Ephesus) while on a “missionary” journey (Acts 19:9-10). This work is to be done “as unto the Lord” (Col. 3:23-24).
Important books addressing the academic call, especially for believers, include:
- Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite by D. Michael Lindsay
- The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? by Harry Blamires
- Fit Bodies, Fat Minds by Os Guinness, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J.P. Moreland
- The Two Tasks by Charles Malik
- The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship by George M. Marsden
- The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, both by Mark Noll
- The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship. The Stob Lectures of Calvin College and Seminary, 1989–90 by Alvin Plantinga
- Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America by Mark Schwehn
- “A Call to Integration and the Christian Worldview Integration Series,” by J.P. Moreland and Francis Beckwith, in the series Preface to Doing Philosophy as a Christian, Christian Worldview Integration Series by Garrett J. DeWeese
- “Faith as Confession” by Karl Barth, in Dogmatics in Outline, trans. G. T. Thompson
- Discipleship of the Mind and Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling both by James W. Sire
- The Intellectual Life by A. G. Sertillanges
- The Life of the Mind: A Christian Perspective by Clifford Williams.
This is a modification of “equipped” (below). This modification denotes two realities. First, being equipped is an ongoing process. One is never fully equipped—there is always more to learn and ways to improve. Therefore it would be an unrealistic goal to seek full equipping. Rather what is sought by Global Scholars is adequate equipping for the present moment and the task at hand.
Second, being equipped is multi-faceted, pertaining to every aspect of a person’s life. Global Scholars is not able to equip in each of these ways. For instance, universities equip academically in ways we cannot. Churches equip spiritually in ways we cannot as a “para-church” ministry. Rather, what is sought by Global Scholars is equipping to the extent we are able to do so.
For more we suggest Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
To be equipped is to be “provided with necessities…prepared to accomplish something.” Global Scholars seeks to provide “missional Christian academics” (as described above, hereafter “MCAs”) what is necessary for them to have the type of redemptive influence envisaged by Global Scholars. Our equipping will include training, materials, networking and mentoring. These are the same needs we have observed in various contexts over the past 30 years. See the Global Scholars’ Means and Ends schematic for more of the details of how we will equip. Our objective is that MCAs will have the resources and develop the theological and conceptual frameworks, the skills and the relationships that best prepare them to accomplish the goal of redemptive influence. (See Proverbs 6:6-8, II Timothy 2:15, and I Corinthians 9:24.)
To influence is to have a tangible effect on something. We desire that, as a result of our work, influence will be felt and a difference will be made.
However, our desire is to have a specific type of effect—one that is redemptive. To “redeem” is to buy back. It is to restore something to its original and proper condition. It is to reclaim and recreate. It is to influence something that is not as it should be in such a way as to renew it. Theologically it is to work in such a way as to compensate for the effects of the Fall—restore all that was lost, fallen, and broken. Ultimately it is God who redeems all things and erases the effect of the Fall. However, He calls us into this work with Him, to partner in His great drama of redemption. Hence, we are able and even called to seek such a redemptive influence.
Since everything in creation was affected by the Fall, and since God desires to redeem all things, the redemptive influence in which He calls us to participate extends to every aspect of creation. It includes seeing individual souls redeemed. However, it also includes seeing everything else that exists redeemed: ideas, relationships, institutions, the physical world, and so on. It understands the gospel to not only be about individual salvation but seeing all that was created and called “Good” but has now fallen being again made whole, the expressions of the Good, True and Beautiful as God initially designed them to be. Thus redemptive influence results in Shalom, human flourishing, and the common good.
Such a redemptive influence will have three necessary and co-sufficient characteristics. (1) It will be intentional (done with intent, not passive in a way the activity is not known to the MCA). (2) It will be quality (not superficial or done poorly). (3) It will be done with missional intent (done with the intent to have a redemptive influence). Though difficult to fully quantify, it is similar to a “heap”–hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Three examples will suffice:
- If influence is evangelistic, it is that which helps a person move one step closer to coming to faith (for instance, from being a staunch atheist to being open to the possibility of God’s existence).
- In the context of ideas, influence is that which makes a true idea seem a little more plausible, or a false idea questioned a bit more.
- In the context of the university, redemptive influence is that which makes the place a little more just or humane.
Biblical passages undergirding this understanding include Genesis 1 and 2, Jer. 29:4-8, Matt. 5:45 and Rev. 21:1.
Books exploring these ideas include Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davidson Hunter.
“Students” includes everyone pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies at tertiary institutions worldwide. It is important to have a redemptive influence among students because they are in the stage of life in which they are making foundational decisions about how they will live, what they will believe and how they will live and lead the rest of their lives (their beliefs, character, development, and behavior). They are especially open to the ideas of their professors, and so a Christian professor can have a profound influence in their lives. Furthermore, a university education positions one for leadership in all sectors of a nation. Therefore by having a redemptive influence among students, one is having a much wider and longer-term influence on a nation. Christian professors can have a redemptive influence among their students by sharing the gospel with them and discipling believing students. They can also do so by:
- communicating that students are “ends” not “means”
- learning their names, treating all fairly
- inviting students into their homes
- modeling excellence
- modeling loving God with the mind, servanthood and other Global Scholars values
- grading fairly
- taking the time to carefully read and comment on their assignments
- drawing them out in classroom discussions
- seeking their flourishing generally
Biblical passages elucidating this understanding include Prov. 22:6, II Tim. 2:2, Acts 19:9-10 and Matt 28:18-20.
This includes other academics one associates with professionally: post-docs, researchers, instructors, professors and academic staff/leadership. In addition to evangelism and discipleship, a redemptive influence includes seeking their personal and professional shalom. This may include helping edit papers for publication, co-publishing (and even listing a colleague as the lead researcher), mentoring younger scholars, accepting challenging committee assignments, regularly teaching introductory courses so other colleagues will have more time to develop personal and professional health, being peacemakers, and modeling the Global Scholars’ Values.
Relevant biblical passages inlcude II Tim. 2:2, Matt 28:18-20, Jer. 29:4-8, Matt. 5:16. For more we recommend Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed in Life by Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton.
Universities are institutions providing tertiary education, also known as institutions of higher education. Universities, like everything else in creation, are good yet fallen. They are good in as far as they are influential cultural artifacts capable of promoting human flourishing and the common good. In fact, in some ways, the university is uniquely or especially able to promote these ends, given their influence in many nations. However, universities are fallen. They do not always promote the Good, True and Beautiful and foster human flourishing and the common good.
Therefore part of the call of the MCA is to work toward their redemption. In teaching, research and service the MCA must find ways to correct errors and promote truth, to assuage evil and instantiate that which is good, and to replace that which is ugly with that embodying beauty. This may include upholding fair promotion policies, fighting nepotism, standing up for junior colleagues, addressing systemic injustice and developing structures that promote equality, excellence, fairness, clarity of expectations, curriculum development, professional development, “town and gown” issues impacting the broader community, procuring research funding for others’ or one’s department, and inculcating the Global Scholars Values.
Again this is grounded in the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 2:15 to cultivate God’s good Creation, Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:13-16 to be “salt and light” wherever we are, and the Commission of Matt. 28:18-20 to go to the whole world and teach all Jesus taught.
Academic disciples are the 23 general fields of study identified by the U.S. Department of Education and recognized globally, and many sub-disciplinary fields of study, pursued by academics, both via individual research and communal endeavors (joint research, paper presentations at professional conferences, etc.). The disciplines exist to advance knowledge of their subject matter through the research and teaching of scholars with specialization in the field. As such, academic disciplines are a cultural good, as they help organize knowledge of all reality. Others can then access and use this knowledge to promote human flourishing and the common good. However, academic disciplines are also fallen. They do not always promote knowledge (what is Good, True and Beautiful), and thus do not foster human flourishing and the common good. They, too, stand in need of redemption. This is part of the calling of a MCA. His or her task is to pursue research projects, publish and teach in ways that promote truth and correct error, replaces the evil with the good, and promotes the beautiful over the ugly. The MCA does this in a spirit of epistemic humility and servanthood. This may also include reintroducing forgotten ideas (for instance, aesthetic excellence), participating in the leadership of one’s professional academic society, and serving as a public intellectual. See again II Cor 10:5. Much has been written on this topic. We suggest:
- The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief by George Marsden
- Truth To Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, by Lesslie Newbigin
- The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman
- The Decline of the Secular University and Religious Ideas for Secular Universities both by C. John Sommerville
- Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
- A Christian Critique of the University by Charles Malik.
For an analysis of how nineteenth- and twentieth-century German theology failed to effectively integrate with other disciplines see Nature Lost by Frederick Gregory.
Concerning the desired “content” of a Christian mind—developing a “Christian worldview”—much has been written as well. Notable works include:
- Contours of a Worldview and The Making of a Christian Mind: A Christian World View and the Academic Enterprise, both by Arthur Holmes
- The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalogue and Naming The Elephant: Worldview as Concept, both by James W. Sire
- The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View by Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton.
Costs to equip MCAs in these ways fall into three categories: Programming, Operations, and Fundraising. These costs being reasonable means they are not exorbitant—they make sense. Charity Navigator (the leading financial oversight agency for non-profit organizations) defines what reasonable programing costs are: at least 75% is spent on programming. The board defines what reasonable fundraising costs are: no more than 15% of the budget is spent on fundraising. Finally, those seeking our services should believe they are provided at a reasonable cost.