Friday, July 5, 2019

Theological concepts and academic disciplines

At the African Scholars track of the IFES World Assembly, we are discussing Christian perspectives on academic disciplines.

A helpful article is by Elizabeth Hall, Structuring the Scholarly Imagination.
A video of a lecture is here

I will give a shorter of my seminar, Moving towards a Christian perspective on your academic discipline. Slides and a questionnaire are available here.
There is also a French translation of the questionnaire.

It builds around four key theological concepts: creation, fall, redemption, renewal.

IFES seminar on biblical theology and the sciences

I am giving a seminar on this topic at the IFES World Assembly in Johannesburg.
My slides are here.

Here are some of the recommended resources


Science and Genesis, featuring John Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, and others.

introductory books

Let there be science

Exploring Science and Belief by Michael Poole

Why study?

advanced books

Psychology through eyes of faith

Sociology through eyes of faith

Gods that Fail by Vinoth Ramachandra

courses and study guides

Test of Faith


Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

Christians in science


Resources in French

Saturday, June 29, 2019

IFES seminar on mental health in universities

I am giving a seminar on mental health in universities at the IFES World Assembly in Johannesburg.
My co-presenter is Ibukun Adekoya, a Ph.D. student in Counseling Psychology at McGill University.
Later I will post our slides.
Here are some of the recommended resources


Why Africa needs to start focusing on the neglected issue of mental health
Article in the conversation, by Crick Lund.

Turning the church's attention to mental health
Lausanne movement

Mental health: a guide for Faith Leaders,
American Psychiatric Association

Introductory books

Troubled Minds, Amy Simpson

Grace for the afflicted, Matthew Stanford

Lost Connections, Johan Hari

Advanced books

Psychology through the eyes of faith,
David Myers and Malcolm Jeeves

Global mental health and the church

Christian counseling: an African Indigenous Perspective.


Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries 

Grace alliance

Trauma Healing Institute of the American Bible Society

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The core values of medieval universities

In writing my article Towards a Christian vision for the modern secular university, I was helped by a nice paper by Professor David Ford of Cambridge. “Faith and Universities in a Religious and Secular World.”  Ford recounts how Walter Ruegg, the editor of the definitive four-volume A History of the University in Europe noted that the medieval university was defined by seven core values.

1. God is creator of an ordered world that is accessible to human reason;    
 2. human imperfection; this impelled intellectual criticism and collegial cooperation.
 3. humanity is made in the image of God; this laid the foundation for academic freedom.
 4. the appropriateness of public argument and discussion to the absoluteness of scientific truth;  
 5. scientific and scholarly knowledge as a public good transcending any economic advantage it might bring;  
 6. the cumulative and self-correcting process of the growth of knowledge  
7. the equality and solidarity of those committed to the pursuit of knowledge
Three things I find striking. First, how these values are deeply rooted in Christian theology. Second, that these values are the basis for good universities today, even if they are completely secular.
Finally, these values are being steadily eroded in universities today, particularly 5.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

When truth, justice, and mercy meet

I really enjoyed the novel, The Day of the Lie, by William Brodrick. The central character is Father Anselm, who is a monk and lawyer. He becomes involved in a case in post-communist Poland, which struggles to find justice and healing after forty years of a police state which was riddled with informers, surveillance, torture, and murder of political prisoners. There are many unexpected twists and turns in the story. Who informed on who? Why? Who was a double agent? But it is really much more than a crime/political thriller. Brodrick is particularly gifted at capturing the nuance of dialogues, inner thoughts, conflicted feelings, and the complexity of relationships. Moreover, the novel wrestles with significant issues of justice, mercy, and redemption, particularly in the context of a society that needs to recover from decades of injustice. These issues are germane to many countries today set in post-conflict, whether Rwanda, South Africa, or Iraq.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Mental health in a fallen creation

The Garden of Eden in Genesis 1-2 represents God's ideal. There is harmony between God and humanity, between male and female, and between humans and nature. There is no struggle for survival. There is no shame. Everything in the creation is good.

Yet this is not the world we live in.
People are alienated from God: they lose identity, purpose, and hope.
Men and women are in conflict.
Work is hard and stressful. It is usually a struggle for survival.
Humanity is alienated from nature.
People are ashamed.
Violence (physical, sexual, and verbal) is prevalent. Violence easily escalates and is passed on to the next generation.
The mind is corrupted. People believe lies, including about themselves.
Disease and death are present.

This is the world introduced in Genesis 3: the fallen creation. Adam and Eve believe a lie: they can be like God: be rulers and know everything. They rebel and experience the consequences: the world described above, a world of alienation.

Mental illness is part of the fallen creation. Depression is characterised by a lack of hope.

The Bible does not present a simplistic or reductionist view of what a human is. The description in terms of ``mind, body, heart, and soul'' is not dualist or even quadralist! Rather the Bible presents a holistic Hebrew perspective that being human and being whole is multi-faceted. Hence, mental health requires an integrated approach. The causes are complex. The solutions are complex. There are spiritual, biochemical, social, and psychological dimensions to be addressed. These dimensions often interact with one another, either constructively or destructively. Healing and prevention may require a blend of prayer, counseling, drugs, exercise, diet, supportive relationships, community building, and lifestyle changes.

The mandate for Christians is to bind up the broken hearted, heal the sick, and set the prisoners free.

Friday, March 29, 2019

What is a university for?

On Saturday I am giving a talk in Sydney on this question at the annual Write conference organised by the Simeon Network of Christian academics. The talk is based on a paper that will appear in June in the journal IFES Word and World.

Two papers that are helpful were written by Professor David Ford of Cambridge.
They are here and  here.