I'm grateful to Robert for raising the question of how Christians can best influence higher education in the UK and elsewhere. I also much appreciate the way that his paper begins with a story, using Jesus as the example, since I'm increasingly struck by the narrative content of Scripture and the way that this raises questions as well as providing some answers.
My hopelessly brief summary of Robert's paper is as follows:
Higher education should impart knowledge and understanding, neither of which can be divorced from the values on which they rest. Christians need to develop their own understandings, Christian minds, based on godly values and should find ways to encourage one another in this. Inst X may be one way forward.
Given my own involvement with C·A·K it should be no surprise that I agree with such an argument. I do, though, wish to raise a few points as the paper sparked some ideas of my own. I hope these may contribute to some thought about Inst X, be it C·A·N or something else.
Last year I gave a brief lecture at the University, as one of a series organised by the Chaplaincy, on Christians and their academic work. My own work focuses on the construction and use of decision models in the public and private sectors. As a theme I took the idea that our knowledge is always incomplete, since this seems to me to be a thoroughly biblical notion. Hence I was pleased to see Robert following the same thread, since it leads me to make a couple of comments related to arrogance.
- The first is addressed to some secular scholars, who are dismissive of all aspects of the divine. The question we must ask them is, 'how do you know?'
- The second comment is addressed to Christians, since I've never been a fan of Christian schools, colleges and universities. Though there are many such institutions, especially in the USA, I am unaware of any significant contribution they have made to scholarship other than to theology. Is this because we think we know it all?
Since I work in a Management School, perhaps I could comment on Robert's suggestion that one area on which Inst X could concentrate is Business Management, by developing an MBA course based on Christian principles, arguing that maximising profits is harmful. I think the point about maximising profits would be accepted by most academics in business schools and also its underlying assumptions about human behaviour. Non·Christians such as Henry Mintzberg and the late Sumantra Ghoshal have made similar arguments, as have others such as Charles Handy. The door is already partially open and we need to push but we may need to make common cause with others.
Finally, I do think it important that we encourage ourselves, our students and our colleagues to think the unthinkable. Very few students think deeply about their work and the widespread adoption of modular courses makes it hard to encourage this deep thought, but we must try. We should also be aware that the intellectual world can be an uncomfortable place at times · hence, for example, there are times when Christian academics must think in ways that others in their churches will find disturbing. But we must constantly examine our many of own beliefs, since our knowledge is still partial, however sure we are and however much we know.
MIKE PIDD, Lancaster University