The SBJT Forum: How Does One Integrate Faith and Learning? -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:3 (Fall 1997)
Article: The SBJT Forum: How Does One Integrate Faith and Learning?
Author: Anonymous


The SBJT Forum:
How Does One Integrate Faith and Learning?

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the Forum’s format. C. Ben Mitchell, D. A. Carson, Craig Blaising, and Scott Hafemann have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the Forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: How does a Christian professor impact a secular university?

C. Ben Mitchell1 : Teaching philosophy and applied ethics in a largely secular context is fraught with serious challenges and stimulating opportunities. Undergraduate students arrive at state universities imbued with a very simplistic relativism. Taking a cue from Louis Pojman, on the first day of class I asked my undergrads at the University of Tennessee to answer the following question anonymously: “Are there any ethical absolutes—moral duties binding on all persons at all times—or are moral duties relative to a particular culture?” As one might suspect, about ninety-five percent of my students denied the existence of moral absolutes. The most interesting response I received was from a student who replied, “I don’t know. I mean, Hey! Dude, are you kiddin’ or what? Anyway, ask Ghandi or somebody. I have no religion and pretty much no absolute moral convictions. But, hey, those Catholics are pretty weird.”

In light of the prevailing relativism (or even ethical nihilism) of undergraduates, I spent most of my time in class challenging the notion that there are no moral absolutes and showing students how relativism bites itself. (Should we take the statement, “there are no moral absolutes” as an absolute?) Offering the Holocaust and female genital mutilation as challenges to simple relativism presented splendid opportunities to demonstrate that there are some things which are always wrong, regardless of cultural conditions.

Interestingly, I have found that seminary students are not immune to relativism, even of the simplistic variety encountered in the secular academy. Unlike the secular context, in the seminary setting we can appeal to an authoritative revelation to deconstruct ethical relativism. Nevertheless, the Zeitgeist of the age is so powerful it is often difficult to disabuse even seminarians of their naive relativism.

Working with colleagues in the secular context is equally challenging. The prevailing sentiment among secularists is that religious ethicis...

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