Searching for Jerusalem: A New Review of Our Pietist Vision Book

Cover of The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher EducationOne of the pleasures of being (almost) done with grading is that I can start to catch up on reading. A summer book list will come another day, but this week, I want to mention two articles in the Easter issue of The Cresset, starting with a review essay that makes kind mention of our book, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons.

In “Searching for Jerusalem,” Jennifer Miller reviews the winner and two finalists of the 2015 Lilly Fellows Program Book Award and finds again that “Christian scholars are not only equally comfortable with the intellectual debates of Athens and the spiritual devotion of Jerusalem, but they are also able to take what they know and believe and use it to engage the students in their classrooms.”

First, let me say that I’m honored to again have our work rub shoulders with that of Karen Eifler and Thomas Landy, book prize winners for editing Becoming Beholders: Cultivating Sacramental Imagination and Actions in College Classrooms, and the late Roger Lundin, who passed away just over a month after Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief was named a finalist.

Kathy Nevins
Coincidentally, tomorrow morning I’ll be joining Kathy and Christian in presenting at the opening session of Bethel’s annual faith-learning workshop for faculty preparing to apply for tenure, yet another example of how Christian colleges seek to bridge the gap between Athens and Jerusalem

In the section of the larger essay devoted to our book, Miller pays particular attention to the chapters written by theologian Christian Collins Winn, whose reflection on civil discourse “stands out as particularly relevant, especially given the contentious nature of the 2016 election season and the increasing diversity seen on many college campuses,” and psychologist Kathy Nevins, whose “examination of how Philip Jacob Spener’s seventeenth-century Pia Desideria can be used in the twenty-first century classroom similarly points to the need for both humility and openness to others’ ideas in ‘creat[ing] and sustain[ing] a transformative learning community.'” They’re two of my favorite chapters, by two of my favorite colleagues.

But I’m even happier to see yet another reviewer emphasize a theme that runs through the entire collection:

…it is more than just the content of the collection that engages the Pietist tradition; as Gehrz describes in the introduction, the goal of the authors was “to present an approach to Christian higher education that is Pietist not just in content but in tone” (30), including a more pronounced use of the academic “I,” frequent meditation on Scripture, and a spirit of humility throughout the work, an approach that provides a refreshing blend of both theory and practice.

This blend is especially important to Miller, for whom the combination of “theoretical vision and… individual practice” undergirds Christian scholarship at schools like her alma mater, Valparaiso University, host of the LFP and Cresset.

Thanks to Jennifer Miller for her generous, thoughtful review (read it in its entirety here), to the editors of The Cresset for publishing it, and to the Lilly Fellows Program for honoring and encouraging work like these three books as part of its commitment “to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of higher learning in the twenty-first century.”


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