Image: my laptop – I've been spending a lot of time here lately...
academic life for Christ
Just over a week ago I submitted my doctoral thesis. One of the most enjoyable parts of the final few weeks of this process was writing the acknowledgements. Before sitting down to do this, I had thought to myself: "I'm not going to be one of those people who writes pages and pages of acknowledgements. It's self-indulgent and a bit too much like showing off. Surely a paragraph or two will be enough."
It's vacation season once more and everyone seems to be posting pictures of themselves lounging by the river, sipping G&Ts. No better time, then, to consider the role of rest in our work. Academia seems to offer lots of ‘time off’: Easter breaks, Christmas breaks, and summer breaks can dwarf the terms they punctuate. But we all know that breaks are not really breaks for researchers. When undergrads are away, academics rejoice: now we can really start getting some work done!
As academics, we don’t like looking foolish. We are trained to provide evidence for assertions, and refrain from making them if we can’t provide justification for what we think and believe. But as I have been working through 1 Corinthians over the past few months, I have been convicted and encouraged by Paul’s call to ‘foolishness’.
At my church, we have been going through Isaiah in this month's sermon series. When we got to chapter 42, I was struck by the call in verse 10 to ‘sing a new song’. This is a phrase I've come across again and again in the Bible (in fact, I've found and listed a handful of these occurrences below) but it was the first time I stopped and pondered: why a new song? Why not an old song? God’s plan for his people was established before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10). So what is it about the newness of the song that’s important?
It’s a rainy day outside and my mind has wandered to puddles. Puddles are commonplace (in England especially!) without much beauty or substance, but they can do one great thing: they can reflect what’s above them.
I’ve been pondering distinctiveness in academia lately, asking: how does being a Christian affect how I navigate the academy? This has been a convicting exercise but a very helpful one. Below, I’ve jotted down a few ways I think I can reflect God better in academia, and I hope my own thoughts might inspire similar personal reflections in others.
Richard Middleton on the human calling to image God and how this relates to our scholarly work.
It’s easy to be gloomy as an aspiring academic. Will I ever finish my thesis? Will I ever get a lectureship? And even if I do, will I end up spending my entire life chasing arbitrary citation statistics and student satisfaction ratings? Will my research and teaching make a real difference? Do I have anything to look forward to?
What is the mission of the church, and, by implication, of Christian believers? And how does that mission shape our everyday lives? These are the questions that Antony Billington and Mark Greene focus our attention on in the next chapter of their book ‘The whole of life for Christ’.