Integrating faith and academia: hiring at a Christian college

In Campus Edge, we’ve focused lately on how to relate one’s faith with one’s academic work. A recent article by Ken Schenk about who Christian colleges hire illustrates different ways and assumptions regarding how faith might influences one’s work and teaching.

Schenk highlights that one’s Christian’s faith “can impact a professor in several different areas: the piety of the professor, the ethics of the professor, and the ideas of the professor.” (see article for clarification and examples of these).

How is this worked out in practice (and not always good practice)?

  • “Some Christian institutions might assume that truth is truth wherever it’s taught. So we just hire someone who self-identifies as a Christian and let them do their stuff without any further ado. Research excellence becomes the unifying factor.
  • There is the assumption that being a Christian college is primarily about having some set of beliefs. If a person signs off on a particular creed, they’re good to go. Depending on how generic those beliefs are, there may be very little to form identity here.
  • There is the assumption that the Bible in some way is the basis of unity or identity. Clearly that approach has left us with 20,000 different churches. It’s not going to provide a unified identity unless there are other hidden assumptions on what the Bible means.
  • One variation on the three above is the assumption that evangelical values be the basis of unity. Generic evangelical identity has solidified into a somewhat standard form of values that are assumed to be biblical.”

Schenk goes on to present how Wesleyan churches have focused more on pertinence (relevance), self-awareness, “good news”, hospitality and get-it-done culture. His thoughts are worth pondering, especially for those hoping to work within a Christian/faith context, so I encourage you to check out the full article.