Announcing Our Forthcoming Book on Pietism and Higher Education!

It’s probably too early to start shopping for Christmas 2014, but if you like to plan ahead… I’m happy to announce that I’m editing a book tentatively titled Whole and Holy Persons: A Pietist Approach to Christian Higher Education, hopefully coming out next fall from InterVarsity Press.

Bethel University: Community Life Center and Benson Great Hall
The Community Life Center and Benson Great Hall at Bethel University

As longtime readers know, this topic has been my primary area of research for a while now. At one point I had it in mind to write a kind of Pietist answer to Arthur Holmes’ venerable The Idea of a Christian College. But I’m glad that I instead thought to throw open that project to a community of scholars connected to Bethel University (whose leaders and faculty, I’ve previously argued, have long found a “usable past” in Pietism), and play the role of convener and facilitator for a small group discussion (a conventicle or ecclesiola, perhaps?) that would approach the topic from a variety of perspectives.

Thanks to a grant from the Lilly Fellows Program and support from our deans at Bethel (in particular, Deb Harless, Barrett Fisher, and Deb Sullivan-Trainor), I was able to coordinate a workshop this past June that brought together fifteen current and former Bethel faculty and staff. After reading a variety of primary and secondary sources in the histories of Pietism and of Bethel, we spent two days discussing how Pietism might continue to shape teaching, research, community, outreach, institutional identity, etc. at a Christian college like Bethel. Most participants then began work on writing projects that would join others as part of the edited collection that IVP has agreed to publish.

I’ll provide a historical introduction and then a conclusion that reconsiders the future of our “Pietist approach” in light of some trends in higher education. In between we’ll have contributions from leading scholars in thirteen disciplines, including theologians Roger Olson and Christian Collins Winn, anthropologist Jenell Paris, physicist Dick Peterson, and philosophers Ray VanArragon and David Williams. Gordon College provost Janel Curry has graciously agreed to write a foreword, reflecting on her own experience as a student at Bethel.

Indeed, everyone involved in writing the book has some connection to Bethel. It’s meant to give readers a chance to listen in on a conversation, in the hope that one school’s particular experience has something new to say about some more universal questions and concerns. I’d particularly love to see the book find an audience on the campuses of colleges and universities that have largely forgotten their Pietist roots, but I believe that anyone committed to Christian higher education will find it a distinctive, helpful contribution to the literature on that field. As I wrote in my proposal to IVP:

I’m passionate about this project in no small part because I can so easily imagine myself in its audience at various points in my career. As a graduate student uncertain about the relationship between Athens and Jerusalem, I would have welcomed guidance from more seasoned Christian scholars whose commitment to higher education and warmhearted, broadly evangelical faith reinforced rather than fought each other. As a Christian college professor grateful for the insights of the Reformed model of faith-learning integration but sometimes left cold by its emphasis on “worldview formation,” I would enjoy learning from an approach to education shaped by a Christian tradition that values heart and hands at least as much as head. And as a scholar of Pietism, I would welcome a book that addresses two areas still largely neglected by that burgeoning field of research: Pietist contributions to education, and the Pietist experience in North America (where, according to Roger Olson, Pietism has long been the “grassroots form of religion”).

InterVarsity Press logoI’m especially happy to have IVP as a publisher. Its commitment to “aim for integration of the whole person—our hearts tutored by truth, our minds shaped by godly affections, our bodies and souls surrendered with joy to God’s good purposes” accords well with the “whole and holy persons” ideal that will pervade much of the book, and I’ve long admired its “broadly evangelical” ethos. I’m especially grateful to David Congdon for shepherding this proposal.

In addition to David, the folks at Lilly, and our deans, there are many others who will find their names in the acknowledgments when the book is published. But here let me mention one more by name: Jim Spickelmier, the former Bethel campus pastor and longtime advocate for its Baptist Pietist heritage whose life we celebrated yesterday at Calvary Baptist Church (and in a post at this blog). As it happened, the last I time I communicated with Jim was about three weeks before his death — when I got to tell him the good news about IVP. I don’t think he’d mind my quoting part of his e-mail response, which was full of his typical enthusiasm, not in the least bit dampened by his failing health: “We need the old articulations like [Carl] Lundquist‘s ‘the Strength of Our Heritage’, but right now we really need young scholars framing this issue for our time and for our current faculties and administrators. Thanks for letting me know what is going on. I am excited to see the finished project.”

If you’d like to get a preview of the book… We’ve arranged for a series of talks in which contributors will outline their chapters. All talks will be at 10:20am Central time in the Bethel University Library; if you can’t attend, you should be able to find video at the Bethel Digital Library within a few weeks.

Tu 10/8

Marion Larson (English) and Sara Shady (Philosophy), “Loving My (Religious) Other”

Th 10/10

Chris Gehrz (History), “Pietism from the High Sierra to the Somme: Holistic Education in the Ecclesiola of Off-Campus Study”

Tu 10/29

Kathy Nevins (Psychology), “Calling for Pietistic Community: Pia Desideria in the Classroom”

Tu 11/5

Ray VanArragon (Philosophy), “Intellectual Virtue and the Adventurous Christ Follower”

Th 11/7

Phyllis Alsdurf (Journalism), “The Quest for an Evangelical University: Carl F. H. Henry and Carl H. Lundquist”

Tu 11/12

Samuel Zalanga (Sociology), “Pietism and the Transformation of Individuals and Societies: Opportunities and Challenges in Christian Higher Education”

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