What Hath Nature To Do With Grace? A Theological Vision For Higher Education -- By: Bruce Riley Ashford

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 07:1 (Summer 2016)
Article: What Hath Nature To Do With Grace? A Theological Vision For Higher Education
Author: Bruce Riley Ashford

What Hath Nature To Do With Grace?
A Theological Vision For Higher Education

Bruce Riley Ashford

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


This essay argues that Scripture is the norm for all of life, including the teaching and learning that take place in higher education. It begins by outlining five historical views of the way God’s saving works and word relate to higher education, revealing that many Christians deny that God’s special revelation should be a source or norm for non-theological or non-ministerial disciplines. It proceeds to argue in favor of the “grace renews nature” view, which posits that special revelation does in fact shed light on problems in every discipline of a university or seminary. Next, it summarizes the way in which the “grace renews nature” view goes against the plausibility structures established by modern scientism. Finally, it articulates some of the educational benefits of the “grace renews nature” view.

In an essay entitled, “The Intellectual Vocation,” R. R. Reno suggests that the intellectual crisis in the West has less to do with relativism, per se, than with the fragmentation or diminishment of the truth. This crisis is crystallized in the modern university. No longer does the West believe that the disciplines of the modern university can come together to teach us about life. In this situation, reason has not been denied as much as it has been demoralized.1

Similarly, Gerald Graff, in his book Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind, describes his experience as a college student in the mid-twentieth century. As he took courses in the various disciplines required as an undergraduate, he felt like he was being shuttled back and forth between incommensurate paradigms. He writes:

What was striking about my experience . . . was how little cognitive dissonance there actually was. Since the perspectives of the literature and sociology courses never came together to be compared and contrasted, they remained in separate mental compartments. . . . Clearly, it is crucial to begin providing students with a more connected view of the academic intellectual universe, one that lets them recognize

and enter the conversation that makes that universe cohere and relates it to the wider world.2

Indeed, modern higher education lacks a connected view of the academic intellectual universe.

It is presupposed in this essay that Christ himself is the unifying factor for highe...

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