The Life of the Mind
As a Wheaton College (IL) student I was fully cognizant of the pursuit of faith and learning and of the mission to do so for Christ and His kingdom. However, I relinquished the noble tasks that I associated with the “life of the mind” such as intertwining scholarship and Christianity to those Bible scholars and philosophers whose disciplines seemed to afford them more leeway in wrestling with deep theological and epistemological questions.
It wasn’t until I was a doctoral student at the University of South Florida that my own sense of purpose and calling to the life of the mind truly came into focus. I felt honored that Jim Stock full professor in the USF marketing department, invited me to attend the God and the Academy Conference sponsored by Faculty Commons in the summer of 2000. I attended in part out of the natural curiosity that permeates the enquiring mind of a researcher, and in part because I had done graduate work in Atlanta and was eager to visit.
I don’t remember all the speakers or the topics. However three main takeaways stay with me to this day.
First, the life of the mind begins with our heart communication with the Lord.
I was impressed not just by all the lovely and brilliant minds at the conference (it’s delightful to see brothers and sisters shine for Christ!), but more so by the humble hearts with which they engaged the audience.
It was a necessary encouragement and a powerful example of Philippians 2:3 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” This has paved the way for the posture of servitude I now aim to take towards my own students.
Second, be an excellent scholar.
Ravi Zacharias and others made it clear that we must be excellent scholars to both gain credibility in our disciplines and to honor the Lord.
As a result, Colossians 3:23 took on greater significance: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” It’s not a function of which discipline I pursue, just that I do so as unto the Lord.
I more clearly understand that the life of the mind is not relegated to only apologetic pursuits. I have found this extremely liberating. It has given a dual purpose to my scholarship and teaching. Excellence opens the door to pour into the lives of the students and colleagues that come into my classroom and office year after year.
Third, I am reminded that I am not alone.
We are called to community and it surely does seem we function best that way. I love passages in Revelation that talk about how the Lord Jesus has redeemed us to God “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” I am from Jamaica and appreciated the diversity. Being with hundreds of other Christian faculty, I found, is like a little taste of heaven.
Over the years, Christian faculty conferences have provided notes, practical tools, and invaluable friendships that reassure me of God’s trustworthy long-term purposes.
If you have graduate students or junior faculty that you’ve befriended, considering inviting them to attend a Christian faculty conference with you. I’ve never regretting accepting mine.
© 2008 Andrea Scott Used by permission of Faculty Commons