I am by vocation a professional theologian, at least by classical definitions. By more modern terms, I am more precisely a biblical scholar, which actually should be the only route to becoming a theologian. At any rate, my primary responsibilities at Community Christian College are to teach the Bible and Christian thought and worldview classes to college freshmen and sophomores. This is not all I do, however; I also teach art history and appreciation, speech, philosophy, physical education, and literature. There is a possibility that I will also teach sociology next quarter. Yes, not only am I able to enter the “Great Conversation,” but my very job demands it. My doctoral degree in literature, theology, and the arts allows me the freedom to teach beyond my theological expertise, depending upon my interest or depending upon my employer’s vacancies. Furthermore, this is the reason I have been providentially placed here—I needed them and they needed me.
Community Christian College is a small Christian community college (hence the very generic but perfectly descriptive name), whose primary mission is to educate those who may struggle in a four-year college environment if they were to go straight into Bachelor degree programs. Due to its small size, I am the only full time faculty member, with numerous other well qualified adjunct professors. At larger Christian universities, a theology and/or Bible and/or religion professor such as myself would be hired for a particular expertise in such subdisciplines as Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, Practical and Pastoral Theology, Christian Counseling, Hermeneutics, Homiletics, Biblical Languages, and so on. In my situation, I have to cross many of these boundaries; my colleagues in larger universities do not. I would have it no other way. I get to teach both Old and New Testaments, Christian Thought and Worldview, and use my other theological training to input wherever possible. I love being an interdisciplinarian. It has been surprising to me, as we search for some other Bible adjuncts for our other campuses, how easily we find New Testament professors and how rare it is to find Old Testament professors.
In a sense, the general discipline of theology is itself a “Great Conversation.” The study of theology and the Bible requires historical contextualization, literary theory, philosophy, anthropology, economics, science, sociology, psychology, and more. So, while I may not have the expertise that a scholar who specializes in the New Testament may have, I suppose that I flow more fluidly between the Testaments. I often surprise myself with the large number of New Testament references I include in my Old Testament class, and how many Old Testament connections I address in my New Testament class. I cannot help but think that the primary reason for this is that I teach both Testaments and have to be familiar with both. Truly, the Bible is a tapestry of God’s thoughts that are consistent and complementary if we understand them rightly.
One of the main objectives we have at Community Christian College is to maintain and thoroughly propagate a robust biblical and Christian worldview. To be honest, we have had our struggles in this area with many of our professors. When we find those who know how to integrate faith and discipline, we do our best to hold on to them with a grip of love and appreciation.
From my standpoint, I have never struggled with an issue of integration of faith and discipline. You are probably pointing your finger at me and saying, “That is easy for you to say as a theology professor because faith and discipline are practically the same.” That is true, but as I mentioned before, I also teach art, philosophy, literature, physical education, and sociology. So, what might be one of the many reasons that I have no difficulty in integration whereas others do? My answer is the same tune I have been singing thus far: It is because I am equipped in the whole council of God—both Testaments. I think biblically. Therefore, I think biblically about everything else. It is my primary language. I think, live, eat, drink, and breathe the Bible. I am not trying to present myself as some spiritual giant, because I am not. I am affirming that I am disciplined to get the Word of God flowing through my veins. I cannot help but to think biblically about art, literature, philosophy, and so on. Cut me and I want to bleed Bible.
Now to the point at hand: Those of us involved in classical educational circles are well aware of the inclusion of theology in the “Great Conversation,” but even the secular conversationalists in the Great Conversation will admit this. What I believe has to be different about us, as Christian conversationalists, in the Great Conversation is this: The Bible and theology have to be our first-order languages in this dialogue. Let us admit that not all constituents of the “Great Conversation” are equally valid; in fact, there are a lot of strange and ungodly ideas that find their place in this world of ideas. The only infallible standard that will guard and guide the heart and mind in the midst of humanism, paganism, Marxism, and other un-Christian ideas in this “Great Conversation” is the Holy Word of God. So by all means, our young Christian scholars ought to seek to become conversant in the world of ideas and become conversationalists in the “Great Conversation,” but not before they become thoroughly competent, conversant, and saturated with the Word of God. Then, and only then, will our young great conversationalists become great defenders of the faith and represent the ‘true Truth’ in this world of ideas. This is our winnable war, but we must be properly equipped with the only sword fashioned by our Divine Warrior and Supreme Commander of Hosts. To Him be the glory, for the battle belongs to the Lord. In short: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. In far less potent and polished words I say, “Read it and bleed it.”