2009 Conference "Practical Steps in Shaping Our Disciplines"

Building upon the success of the 2008 conference Postmodernism: An Opportunity for Christian Scholarship and Practice C-A-N- the 2009 workshop event was held on 19th September 2009, York St John University.

The one day workshop event provided space for delegates to step back, take a look at their disciplines and reflect on how they can shape them in relation to the Christian Gospel.

One of the unique things about C-A-N- is its cross-disciplinary nature - so the day offered a unique opportunity to gain insights into a variety of discipline areas.

The following table contains feedback from delegates:  


Discipline Area

Things I like about my discipline

Things I dislike about my discipline

What has inspired me


The opportunity to see communication technologies improve the effectiveness of how the world can function

The chance to further spread the Good News through communication technologies

The commercial power in communications

The lack of application of communications to benefit the wider and growing world

The chance to see what gaps there are that can be filled.

Would be really good to have some discipline based exchanges – on-line or in groups to think further into this.

Possible discipline based sessions – general talks on the Christian Academic and what discipline changed in any way

Applied linguistics (psycholinguistics)

Affirmation of people as important and interesting

Recognition (increasingly) of individual differences – the way humans are all unique

Enjoyment of language and finding out how God has created people to be

Accepts atheism as an assumption; no sense of purpose in language or language as a divine endowment

Its bee really helpful to start thinking about these things, perhaps be more aware of them in the future

Need to look at things from a longer-term, richness perspective

My field as perhaps still quite modernist

Sin often ignored

Qualification held up as the only means of validating research


Engagement with big questions

Mature use of statistics to make inferences

Too many sub-disciplines, each with its own traditions etc

Too funding driven

Evaluating value of my discipline – how does it enrich humanity?


Interdisciplinarity: we approach the study of the remains of past culture with every available method

The study object was once alive and dynamic

A lot of story telling without a solid base in the evidence

Reductionism: human culture as a system, human individual as an abstract actor

Inspiring: restoring the balance

I found that the answers to questions too often consisted of a set of two contrasting views – in my case processualism / quantitative positivism / reductionism vs. postmodern / storytelling, post-processualism / qualitative, the second often being a reaction to the first. Both are lacking the aspect which is prominent in the other, so how do we bring the two together – outlining the limits of our storytelling plus integrating (reductionism) specialist strands of evidence.

Art History

Great subject – picture and sculpture

Insights into contemporary culture

Don’t feel I fit with the prevailing paradigms

Deepening nihilism of critical theories


English and drama

Wonderful to be able to read such interesting material

Enables me to teach some great students

Develops tools to critically asses the world

The bleakness of much modern work

The difficulty in knowing how to teach ‘anti-Christian’ works

Impressed by conversations over lunch and initially at tables.

The opportunities given me on existing chance to just chat with other academics who are seeking to walk with Christ. This is certainly the thing I have felt most encouraged by

English for academic purposes

Community of ‘colleagues’ across the country is very helpful and supportive

Still exists – please see what I dislike

Driven by the love of money (we must have more international fees or you’re out)

Subject under threat of dissolution from above, creating outsourced work instead, using agencies / businesses that treat English as a business

What seems like an unpleasant pressure can be turned in some way to an advantage rather than simply resisted

I can use debates with my students as a format for dealing with topics that my subject otherwise avoids (because too controversial)

Environment (Air pollution and its effect on agricultural pollution)

Air pollution is a big threat to food production. Help tot identify the problem and help the common people directly

Aid in policy making for better environmental quality

Idolising concepts like development, food security, climate change

Results based on policy making and politics



At best the law provides a structure by which we can love our neighbour

Legal teachers and practitioners can serve their students, clients and the wider community


Sense that law can be altered by the will of the majority

Meaningfulness / truth really need God – so ion the long run we cannot privatise God / leave Him out of the discussion

We often underestimate the importance of ‘power’


Long term relationships with customers

Values are beginning to be seen as a resource

Short term focus

-          Shareholders

-          Lack of ethics / accountability

Focus on trivial / passing fad / fashion

Linking a concern about short termism in marketing with a positivist emphasis on reductionism

Linking to my interest in relationships as building in the longer term which then leads to questions of a ‘whole’ a system an inter-connections

Need to focus on power and context and to address the inequalities / disparities from a Christian perspective

Mathematical Biology

Useful collaboration between mathematics and biology

Biology complexity makes it different to present results with certainty

Pay closer attention to existing work that emphasises the history of my discipline for ‘humility’ and insight

Incorporate the best of different or even opposing perspectives

Mathematical Physics

Excitement of discovering new things about the creation and sharing that moment with the creator

Beautiful maths to work with

Way the system is so funding driven and one needs to use buzz-words to get funding

Research being so narrow and specialised makes it hard to communicate with other researchers

I hadn’t really taken in just how much the funding + peer-review system drives what gets researched

It was also very helpful to think about underlying assumptions / philosophy.

Its certainly something I’d like to have the chance to look into further and especially in terms of this aspect of connecting discipleship and ordering life as I explore whether God is calling me to ordained ministry

Mechanical Engineering

To be able to help mankind with designs (progress)

Working with creation, brining it to fruit

Ability of engineering to kill and destroy

Economic view of engineering

Interaction between science and engineering

-          Science can be there for an added value of society

-          In science there can be conflicting approaches (not so in mechanical engineering)

-          Engineering does not operate in a vacuum, but a social context (Prof Schkukman would argue that engineering is a social science/

Medieval English

Learning form the past

Creating access to forgotten literature and thought

Universities that are run as businesses

Funding and profit driven research

Inspired by hearing about the experiences of others as the only believers in their departments.

Also, the similarity of thought and response across many varied disciplines. It’s a good chance to assess and critically think about the impact we’re having in our disciplines as both individual and groups of believers.


Inter-disciplinarity  of area. Richness / diversity

Interpretative potential – performance, exhibition, making accessible / available  to wider audiences / public / academic world

Resistance between disciplines

The role I have in bridging disciplines, filling a gap in research

Aiming for a more holistic perspective in historical / music studies

Opening up creation – to bring forward “God’s Intention” basis for research + performance + interpretation

Nuclear physics

Vastness, power of God’s creation


Understanding of what we as academics can bring from our Christian perspective

As we focus on Jesus as our Lord we don’t need to have the same pressures at work

Perhaps we can more easily take this out of both sides of opposing ideas. Can we think about the purpose of (what brings meaning to life) life. Perhaps take richness in life using as opposed to storing money (money is a means to an end)

Can out proposals link into this for funding?


Study of the life (soul) of the human person

Opportunity to link experiments (science) and experiences (“qualitative” / postmodern)

The whole life (of the Bible’s “upholding”) reduced to private consciousness or material brain activity

Misuse of numbers especially statistics

Fallacy that mind is in the head (consciousness / brain)

Important themes (not entirely novel) Long term benefits must control short-term (not just satisfaction) joy / pleasure and safety

Words are power (not just truth)

Putting anecdotes to wider use (and understanding) and individual experiences (personal construing) by public served by your discipline

Other comments
“Got some good perspectives of different disciplines – practical and applicable.”
“Thank you very much for the effort and thought you gave in preparing for the two sessions and for evident interest in our answers. You have clearly thought hard about many core issues.
“Really valuable discussion time and enjoyed the presentation."
"Really glad I came overall”
“Very good”
“A great time together. Met some good people”