Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Vocation of the Christian Teacher

Jeanne Heffernan, "Integrating Heart, Mind, and Soul: The Vocation of the Christian Teacher," in Gladly Learn, Gladly Teach: Living Out One's Calling in the Twenty-First Century Academy, ed. John Marson Dunaway. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005), 112-124.

Heffernan thinks faith and learning are "natural companions." She argues against reductionism. The idea of reason alone or allowing only certain voices in the conversation. In addition, she gives ways on integrating faith and learning in one's teaching.

The author was brought up to believe in "the harmony between faith and the intellectual life" (112). She states that her parents "understood something about living an integrated life, a life in which intelligence and professional training found purpose and expression in discipleship." This is a good point made by her parents. Living out one's calling is a part of Christian discipleship. We are called to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is part of the Christian walk to honor God in all that we do. There is no split between the sacred and religious life. God is to have all of our life.

This background of learning has shaped the author's views on the relationship between faith and learning. Heffernan states, "I perceive it as a calling to learn and teach and write in light of the Gospel and to do so as part of a mysteriously living communion of Christian teachers and scholars that transcends time and space, united all by a dedication to the life of faith and learning" (113).

The author thinks the integration of faith and learning "is the essential task of every Christian educator" (114). She says this task is not easy. Especially, in the current time "when the culture and academy are inhospitable to it" (114). Despite the barriers, Christian educators "are still called to serve the Lord in this context, bringing the Good News" (114) to the academy.

Reductionism is a strong element of the modern world of the academy. Heffernan asserts, "The academy's most illustrious mapmakers are reductionists; their equipment is suited to studying small bits of earth, but they presume to measure the whole world with it" (114). A strong opponent of the reductionism represented by E. O. Wilson is Wendell Berry. Berry has written a strong case against reductionism in his book, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition. Heffernan writes, "What Wendell Berry and I both object to is the notion that everything tangible is reducible to and, as Wilson argues, determined by the laws of physics" (115). In addition, the author thins that this reductionism "is thoroughgoing; there is no room here for a non-material explanation of anything in our experience" (115). This is an indication of allowing only some voices to the conversation. Berry thinks it is "tyrannical." E. F. Schumacher calls this "a methodical aversion to the recognition of higher levels . . .  of significance" (115).

The author thinks this reductionism in the university is a new thing. She calls it a "radical fragmentation of knowledge" (116). H. J. Massingheim thinks "modern knowledge is departmentalized," but this has not always been true. Massingham states, "The essence of culture is initiation into wholeness" (116). This seems to work against the idea of the meaning of university. Heffernan thinks this is the reason we need liberal arts colleges and universities. We need "optimally communities of learners who complement one another's work in an effort to understand the whole" (116).

The author provides some tips for integrating faith and learning in the classroom. She states, "To integrate faith and learning in the classroom means that I must be a person of both faith and learning" (121). The assumption of this principle is that faith and learning are good companions. Heffernan notes, "The light of faith illuminates the intellect and the cultivated mind penetrates more deeply into faith" (121). The second tip is to "incorporate faith into the course material" (122). The author says she does this by "broadening the scopes of questions raised and the range of resources drawn upon in addressing the subject matter of the course" (122). The third activity is to pray for the students. This can be done both in the classroom and outside the classroom.

Heffernan has done a good job in showing how faith and learning are compatible. She has also showed the problem of reductionism. Her call for the integrating of faith and learning is a call Christian educators should heed.

No comments:

Post a Comment