That noise you heard Friday morning emanating from somewhere in the Upper Midwest was the sound of me exhaling in relief after sending our InterVarsity Press editor the first draft of The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons. There’s still a long way to go until the book comes out (December?), but it was certainly exciting to see the project come together in one manuscript for the first time.
To whet your appetite, here’s the table of contents, with a sample quotation from each chapter:
Preface (Jan Curry)
…intellectual constructs and correct doctrine, no matter how accurate and transformational to our thinking, don’t transform our hearts or replace our need for a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that must be nurtured in order to sustain us in difficult and challenging times. So in the midst of benefiting from the rigor of the Reformed tradition, I have been drawn back toward the relational emphasis of my pietistic heritage.
“Does Pietism Provide a ‘Usable Past’ for Christian Colleges and Universities?” (me)
When I first began to research Pietist models of higher education, I had the notion that I’d one day write a Pietist version of Arthur Holmes’ Idea of a Christian College. But it quickly became clear to me that such a work, if it were to reflect the ethos that inspired it, should not come in the form of a sermon, but a conversation. If we are casting a “Pietist vision” for higher education, it does not belong to one person, but to a community whose members worship, pray, study, serve, rejoice, and lament together — people who have a common purpose, even if they’re rarely of one mind.
Teaching, Scholarship and Community in the Pietist University
1. “Pietism and Faith-Learning Integration in the Evangelical University” (David Williams)
I am going to argue that two aspects of Pietism’s usable past are useful in addressing the two problems outlined above. I will show that Pietism’s emphasis on “New Birth” (Wiedergeburt) can provide the basis for thinking about a distinctively pietistic conception of faith-learning integration, and that the conventicle model so essential to Pietism provides a way of overcoming the bifurcation between Student Affairs and academics.
2. “Calling for Pietistic Community: Pia Desideria in the Classroom” (Kathy Nevins)
[Spener’s] essay was a clarion call to renew educational and ecclesial communities — so as to renew persons, the church and the world. From these pages comes sage advice and principles to guide the creation of pietistic learning communities. Three of these themes will be explored here: the common priesthood (or “priesthood of all believers”); Jesus’ command to love God and neighbors; and the virtues of humility and openness to correction, both central to Pietism’s irenic spirit.
3. “Love and Learning: A Model for Pietist Scholarship in the Disciplines” (Jenell Paris)
A Pietist perspective focuses more on the generous, clever and impactful areas of overlap between Christianity and the disciplines, and less on philosophical antagonisms. While rigorous in methodology and theory, Pietist approaches tend to be less systematic in terms of analyzing the intersections between Christian “control beliefs” and disciplinary presuppositions.
4. “The Quest for an Evangelical University: The Educational Visions of Carl F. H. Henry and Carl H. Lundquist” (Phyllis Alsdurf)
[Carl Lundquist’s] concern for the spiritual disciplines was balanced with his advocacy for education and the responsibility of Christians to be involved in society. Lundquist argued that the spiritual and academic were not “dichotomous” but that they should exist “in vital two-way interaction in which each enriches the other.”
5. “Reconceiving the Christ-Centered College: Convertive Piety and Life Together” (Roger Olson)
…there exists a distinctive Pietist ethos that shapes some Christian colleges, seminaries and other Christian educational communities. Because the ethos is Christ-centered, it is also person-centered. To use an early Pietist phrase, it sees the purpose of existence as “for God’s glory and the neighbor’s good.” Therefore, the purpose of education is to glorify God and form persons in God’s image — that is, to heal and make whole God’s image in them.
Changed People Changing the World: Pietists and Their Neighbors’ Good
6. “The Common Priesthood Seeking the Common Good” (Dale Durie)
The failure to see purpose in our work and change in our world should not, however, lead us to throw up our hands. It should push us to dig deeper and to look closer at what inspired this movement [of Pietism] and its mantra. The vision of “God’s glory and neighbor’s good” stems from the Pietist commitment to two crucially important principles: the common priesthood and the common good. And maybe if we are captured by this theology we might recast this vision in such a way that it again launches movements of change in our own time.
7. “Pietism and the Practice of Civil Discourse” (Christian Collins Winn)
…the “irenic spirit of Pietism” is really more of a challenge than a possession. It asks us: Are we committed to God’s peace, God’s shalom? We all know only too well, and some of us perhaps more than others, that the practice of good faith, humility, and genuine neighbor-love is hard work, at which we fail daily and in which we are often afflicted by the failures of others. What hope does is to call us to begin again at the beginning. To turn around, and to start over once more — to practice good faith, humility and love — in the hope that God’s peace may break into our common life now.
Learning to build and navigate relationships with persons of different faith traditions should never entail abandoning our own religious commitments. Instead the strength of those commitments should prompt us to seek and sustain constructive relationships with all people we encounter. We believe we can prepare students for this sort of cultural engagement promoting Spener’s desire for an active view of faith, a central commitment to love of neighbor, and an irenic spirit.
Responses: Views from the Natural and Health Sciences
9. “Pietistic Values in Science and Science Education” (Dick Peterson)
The quest for enabling a student’s transcendent calling and personal identity is not unique to Christian institutions of pietistic heritage, yet for those of us under that umbrella this goal rises naturally in importance and should stimulate our best efforts as research mentors and teachers.
10. “A Pietist Approach to Nursing Education in a Christian University” (Nancy Olen)
“God’s glory and neighbor’s good,” the famous motto of the eighteenth-century German Pietist leader August Hermann Francke, resonates with the long history of nursing. Historically, most nurses understood their practice as a call from God to serve Him and to serve society. The aim was to serve all, but especially the vulnerable, the widows, orphans, prisoners and the poor. These nurses were motivated by obedience to God, by altruism and empathy for those who suffered.
Problems and Proposals: Putting the Pietist Vision into Practice
11. “Intellectual Virtue and the Adventurous Christ Follower” (Ray VanArragon)
…adventurous Pietists — out in the world, deeply engaged with non-Christians, spurred to action by Christian experience and love — may fall prey to the intellectual vices of lacking sufficient concern for truth or being excessively open-minded. The result can be a passive or active abandonment of some of the central claims of Christian faith. In both cases, these tendencies are intellectually vicious at least in part because they lead those who have them to fall short of the intellectual goal of truth.
12. “The Pietist Ethos and Organizational Coherency” (Joel Ward)
If indeed the pietistic motive does not divorce the student from reason and promotes learning of a special type, what are the attributes sui generis of pietistic education?
This question must be addressed if pietistic institutions of higher education intend to offer a distinct and important experience within the larger milieu of evangelical Christian liberal arts colleges and universities.
13. “Curating the Usable Past for a Vital Future: An Anabaptist Vision for Pietism” (Kent Gerber)
Staying rooted in their mission can be a challenge for evangelicals, who tend to neglect the insights of the past and privilege the immediate and popular over long-term strategies. By exploring a model that arises from another experiential Protestant tradition — one sharing similar concern for biblical authority, ethics, the possibility of holy living and expressions of peace and love — Pietists might cast their own vision.
14. “Neoliberal Challenges to the Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education” (Samuel Zalanga)
In the market society of today, we face the phenomenon of the increased “colonization” of more spheres of human life, endeavors, enterprise and relations by deep market rationality which is the organizing principle and the normative worldview in a market society. This colonization of human endeavors by the market has serious consequences and implications for higher education in general, but particularly for Christian higher education in the Pietist tradition.
“‘Their Mission is Innovation’: The Pietist University in the Twenty-First Century” (me)
“See, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5) heralds the most disruptive innovation in history, as God brings into being not just a new heaven, but a new earth. For his good reasons, God chooses to accomplish that renewal of the world through renewed persons gathered together as a renewed church. May Pietist colleges and universities — finding new life in their usable pasts — continue to take up their share of that mission, in hope and with joy.