Item description for The Integration Of Faith And Learning: The Integration Of Faith And Learning by Robert A. Harris...
Overview The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach'provides students with the philosophical context and practical tools necessary for making the connections between Christian knowledge and the knowledge they will acquire during their undergraduate and graduate years in higher educationThis book focuses on helping students understand how worldviews influence the interpretation of data and even what is judged to be knowledge itself. The worldviews of philosophical naturalism, postmodernism, and Christianity are compared and analyzed. Throughout the book, emphasis is placed on helping students develop the practical skills needed to evaluate knowledge claims and to integrate all knowledge into a unified whole through the touchstone of Christian truth.
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Robert A. Harris has been coaching pastors and other leaders since 2004. Mostly working with solo pastors and pastors of multiple staff churches, he helps them assess their church systems, strengthen leadership teams, and clarify personal and church goals."
Robert A. Harris has an academic affiliation as follows - Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, USA.
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Ignore This Book at Your Own Risk Dec 1, 2006
INTRODUCTION In 2004 Cascade Books (Eugene, OR) published The Integration of Faith and Learning A Worldview Approach (hereafter, Integration) by Robert A. Harris, Ph.D., a writer and educator who had taught courses in writing, literature, and critical thinking for more than 25 years at several colleges and universities in California. With Integration, Professor Harris demonstrates how "[t]he process of integrating [Christian] faith and learning allows faith to support and clarify learning, and at the same time allows learning to support and clarify faith" (29). Integration is intended to furnish Christian undergraduates attending secular institutions with "the background of ideas and the practical tools needed ... for integrating Christian knowledge with the knowledge you will gain during your years of [secular] higher education" (v). Harris believes it is imperative that Christian students be fully aware that much of the information being imparted to them at secular institutions has been filtered through ontologies and epistemologies in irremediable conflict with the traditional Christian worldview, information that is further distorted through a grab bag of various social and political pressures. Harris examines the origins and epistemologies of the two worldviews that dominate today's academy--naturalism and postmodernism--and compares and contrasts them with Bible-based Christianity. His goal is to present the Christian worldview as "the most complete, rational, and accurate representation of all reality" (v).
SUMMARY OF INTEGRATION Integration's 285 pages are divided into twelve chapters, and appended with a short list of the major web sites most useful for Christian apologetics.
Integration's opening three chapters discuss the nature of knowledge, defined by Professor Harris as "properly justified true belief" (9). These chapters examine how different theories about what constitutes knowledge, i.e., different epistemologies, must result in different and competing worldviews. Professor Harris explains how all new knowledge must be interpreted and integrated with existing knowledge, and how this process can create, change, strengthen, or weaken an individual's worldview. Harris urges students to develop their critical faculties, to examine knowledge claims skeptically, particularly those not based on Biblical truth. Harris insists "[e]ducation is not about memorization; it is about learning how to think" (12). On the following page he reminds of the Apostle Paul's parting admonition to the church at Thessalonica: "Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21 [amplified]).
Chapter four inspects the enormous impact social and political considerations have on a wide variety of knowledge claims commonly made at the academy, calling into serious question just how justified and true so many widely-held beliefs are. Harris reminds that "[s]cholars are human, and their beliefs and interests are often closely tied to personal political commitments, ideology, basic beliefs and other considerations" (73). He adds that in the real world, social pressures (e.g., research grants, promotion, tenure) are far more likely to steer the direction of research and account for the content of textbooks than any idealist's desire to acquire and publish unvarnished truth.
Chapter five discusses the ontological foundations of worldviews, and pays close attention to how one's theology affects so many other beliefs about reality. Harris observes "the choice of theism or atheism as a starting point is a metaphysical preference, an ontological choice not subject to proof" (83). Harris quotes philosophers like Alduous Huxley to demonstrate that selections of metaphysical preferences are not always based on strictly rational criteria: "We objected to the morality [of theism] because it interfered with our sexual freedom" (92).
Chapters 6-9 (pp. 97-220) discuss at some length the origins and main postulates of the two worldviews that dominate today's academy--scientific naturalism and postmodernism--and then compares and contrasts these philosophies with Biblically-based, Christian truth. Professor Harris succeeds in demonstrating that the Christian worldview's main competitors are ill-conceived, oversold and inconsistent, based upon un-testable metaphysical presuppositions, self-referentially absurd, unlivable, and offer truncated and/or incomprehensible views of reality.
The remaining three chapters discuss how to integrate disciplinary knowledge with Christian knowledge (as opposed to compartmentalizing each), and how to successfully evaluate truth claims emanating from dubious sources and proliferating in a decidedly anti-Christian environment.
In summary, "[b]uilding a Christian worldview that reflects Biblical authority and a proper understanding of academic subject matter (especially in light of the challenges presented by competing worldviews) has been the focus of this book" (279).
CRITIQUE OF INTEGRATION
In the same year Integration was published, biology professor Michael Zimmerman, the Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin (Oshkosh), initiated the "Clergy Letter Project." The 317 word "Clergy Letter" declares "[r]eligious truth is of a different order from scientific truth," and requests that "science [be allowed to] remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth." In February 2006 Dean Zimmerman boasted that over 10,000 Christian clergy had appended their signatures to this document. Knowingly or not, those clergy have also signed onto the proposition "[t]hat [philosophical] naturalism is science, whereas theism belongs to religion; naturalism is based on reason, whereas theism is based on faith; and naturalism provides knowledge, whereas theism provides only belief. Science, reason and knowledge easily trump religion, faith and belief." The self-referentially absurd proposition that there are different "orders" of truth is exactly the sort of not-so-subtle ideological attack Integration seeks to expose and repel:
Claiming that Christian faith is merely private, subjective, weakly grounded or even false belief renders it of little importance to the non-Christian world. By insisting that faith is a private, subjective matter, the attackers hope to marginalize Christianity into irrelevance, to push it to the outer regions of significance until it falls off the edge into an effective nonexistence. Rather than a body of coherent, propositional truths about the nature of mankind and the world, it is now just religious emotion, fine for those who like that sort of thing. (16-17)
That 10,000 Christian clergy would willingly affirm the proposition that scientific truth is of a different "order" than Christian truth (not even in the same family of truth, much less the same genus or species!) underscores Professor Harris' observation that the world is in desperate need of a
Christian intelligentsia. We need deeply learned and fully integrated Christian philosophers, intellectuals, scientists, historians, novelists, journalists, good thinkers of every kind. Ideas are fought with ideas. ... We need Christians who can outthink the secularists (the philosophical naturalists and the postmodernists). There are many gaping holes in their worldviews and in their methodologies, and we need Christians to drive a truck through those holes, honking the horn. (17-18)
Professor Harris believes that to compartmentalize Christian knowledge is to marginalize it (27). He insists "[t]he Christian faith and the Christian worldview not only stand their ground quite well in the intellectual arena, but they provide a better, more comprehensive, and more rational picture of reality than their competitors" (26). In short, Integration does for scientific naturalism and postmodernism what the Epistle to the Hebrews did for Judaism: it systematically dismembers revered truth propositions and exposes erroneous, ideological inferiors.
Integration demonstrates that the conflict between scientific truth and religious truth is illusory; in reality the conflict is a rhetorical struggle between atheism's and theism's preferred definitions of "science." Just as homosexual activists have recently succeeded in redefining marriage in many places, atheists long ago succeeded in redefining "science" as a research program that insists all phenomena can, at least in principle, be explained through natural processes. Any attempt to explain phenomena by invoking the possibility of a cause that transcends nature is by definition "unscientific"--and irrational to boot. Scientific materialists have long insisted that to invoke such "irrational" explanatory causes is to give up on "science" (as opposed to recognizing the inherent weakness of a scientifically un-testable philosophy). Harris observes "[i]f one can irrationalize the opposition, then one need not take the [theistic] opponent seriously" (114). But he insists "[t]he argument over who is or is not rational is really an ontological one, based on one's deepest metaphysical assumptions" (115). In other words, one's definition of rationality is entirely dependent upon one's beliefs about how rational the proposition "God exists in reality" is. Upon this ontological foundation rests one's epistemology and ultimately, one's entire worldview. And so Harris' critique of naturalism, which he exposes as a philosophy making an heroic attempt to conceal its ideological weaknesses under much more respectable, scientific garb, is largely successful. Indeed, Harris turns the tables on the materialists, suggesting it is they "who are the `fundamentalists' in the pejorative sense of the term, because they adhere to a metaphysical dogma in the teeth of contrary scientific evidence."
Harris' critique of postmodernism is equally methodical, and equally devastating. He describes the dominant philosophy among modern professors of the humanities as "anti-tradition, anti-foundational, anti-bourgeois, anti-universal, anti-individual, anti-metaphysical, anti-authority, anti-patriarchal, anti-high art, anti-Euro-centric, anti-Western. ... [and by logical extension] anti-Christian" (137). Harris admits that "many postmodern concepts are built on a kernel of truth" (e.g., "our culture influences our beliefs"), but contends that the kernel of truth "has been exaggerated beyond all reality, almost to the point of satire" (e.g., "our culture determines all our beliefs") (138). Among several self-referentially absurd postmodern propositions Harris refutes is the one that justifies textual deconstruction, an ill-conceived literary exercise that provides no meaningful way to evaluate the value of interpretations, or even theories of interpretations.
Harris summarizes postmodernism as
a subversive ideology [that] is presented in the guise of morality, so that in the names of fairness, justice, tolerance, respect and so forth, we have the most unfair, unjust, intolerant, and disrespectful speech codes, divisive racial politics, double standards, and the like. Further, since the ideology is viewed in moral terms, any disagreement with it or opposition to it is viewed as, in essence, immoral. There is no agreement to disagree, no respect for differing viewpoints. Those who oppose what amounts to the party line [e.g., Bible-believing Christians] are seen as racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant, insensitive, "unevolved," or morally tainted. And they must be either punished or reformed, or both. (148)
Harris succeeds in demonstrating how much more comprehensive and rational the Biblical worldview is compared with the truncated, impoverished, and/or logically absurd metaphysics attendant naturalism and postmodernism. He observes that unlike Christian theism, naturalism has an infinite regression problem fatal to its cosmology, and offers no convincing explanation as to why there should be such a "daunting and improbable list of mysterious coincidences or `lucky accidents' in the universe--whose only common denominator seemed to be that they were necessary for our emergence." Unlike Christian theism, naturalism and postmodernism have not been able to provide a plausible hypothesis that could account for "[t]he incredibly complex and delicately balanced nexus of initial conditions necessary for intelligent life [to emerge]." Unlike Christian theism, postmodernism's several anti-authoritarian social and political theories fall woefully short of successfully accounting for the fundamental depravity of human nature (cf. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Mk. 7:21-22). Unlike Christian theism, naturalism and postmodernism offer no objective standard for morality. And unlike Christian theism, no competing worldview offers any realistic hope of reversing humanity's steady, downward spiral toward self-annihilation.
In the process of trying to equip Christian students with the intellectual armor they will need to successfully fend off a determined ideological onslaught, Integration offers a compelling argument for why Christian theology deserves to be re-seated at the academy's Table of Big Ideas. Curiously though, Professor Harris himself seems to have missed the book's sharpest point: sending young, unsophisticated, Christian undergraduates off to a place where they will be discipled almost exclusively by Christ's enemies is a peculiar strategy. However, for those Christian undergraduates who have blundered onto the modern, anti-Christian campus, Integration is an invaluable survival tool. This commentator could not agree more strongly with book reviewer Steven L. Baker, an associate vice president for academic resources and the library director of Union University, who wrote that "Institutions of higher education committed to faith integration should consider making this book required reading for all undergraduates."
Bibliography Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books), 1994.
Glynn, Patrick. God The Evidence (Rocklin, Calif.: Prima Publishing), 1999.
Huxley, Alduous. Ends and Means (New York: Harper) 1937.
Johnson, Phillip E. Reason in the Balance (Downers Grove, Mich: InterVarsity Press), 1995. "The Intelligent Design Movement," in Signs of Intelligence,
Dembski, William A. & Kushiner, James M., eds. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, Inc.,) 2001.
A MUST READ for the Scholar and Beginning Student Alike Mar 7, 2005
This book was absolutely critical for me. I am a new seminary student and have been warned that many seminary students get out of balance by getting too much education for their own good and end up either falling away from the faith or becoming discouraged with their relationship with God. Is it knowledge or is it all about faith ? We are told to KNOW the truth BUT also are told that it is by Grace THRU FAITH ... what are we supposed to do ? This book put it all into perspective for me and clearly showed me that it is not just a balancing act ... it is all about properly handling the integration of the constant bombarment of facts and the ever increasing deepening faith in our Lord. Even though Dr. Harris has credentials that most students would dream to achieve one day, he clearly explains, in every day language, the process of integrating and layering facts and faith.
Thank you Dr. Harris for saving me from potentially a lot of unnecessary and painful issues that may have occured if I did not understand the paramount importance of temporing knowledge with the appropriate amount of faith, to assimulate the incoming new data such that this new knowledge claim glorifies and magnifies God, as well as builds my faith, belief and relationship with God.
Awesome read but if you get a chance to take this as a course with Dr. Harris, you will be truely blessed.
INTEGRATION, INTERPRETATION, OR IS IT SOMETHING ELSE? Sep 30, 2004
Dr. Bosch is a reseacher, apologist, and lecturer - a full-time university professor in Southern California, U.S.A.
"The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach" (IF&L) is engaging and thought-provoking. It causes one to ask: Is it about integration, interpretation, or is it something else? If it is a matter of integration, given all that has already been said in similar books about the subject - why has the integration of faith and learning not been more effective? On the other hand, if it is a matter of interpretation - what is the correct interpretation? These questions still remain unanswered.
IF&L says that it was written especially for the "Christian college student," offering a "background of ideas" and supposed "practical tools" said to be needed to integrate Christian knowledge with the knowledge gained through higher education (p. v). If that were the case, it would seem prudent to read IF&L prior to instead of while attending college.
Some parents and students (including adult learners), presume that integration of faith and learning automatically takes place in Christian colleges and universities, and therefore, this book is primarily to equip those attending non-Christian higher education institutions. However, that is not the case, given that the majority of the professors that teach in Christian colleges and universities have earned their highest [professional] degrees from non-Christian institutions - learning their disciplines largely from a non-Christian worldview, without any supplemental Biblical training. This makes integration of faith and learning a circular phenomenon, if not a contradiction, which in some cases it is (pp. 272, 273). Lamentably, Christian colleges/universities, in some cases, are offering nothing more than a so-called Christian cultural environment instead of an academic Christian culture.
Many books have addressed the faith and learning subject through the years, with new ones picking up where earlier ones left off and trying to build upon what has already been said. A fresh new look at the subject from a Biblical worldview seems to be missing. IF&L makes some weak assumptions that unfortunately undermine its strengths. It commits the same infraction that it alleges others to be doing, namely, making unqualified assumptions (e.g., "every time we learn something, we engage in the process of integrating knowledge," pp. 2, 271).
Making these types of starting presuppositions is ironic, not to mention damaging, given that the reason and the purpose of the book is to expound on the integration hypothesis and not use it as a fact. If integration is a natural and automaton phenomenon - why is there an integration gap in faith and learning? Contrary to what IF&L says, society is not focused/interested to ascertain "What is truth?" (pp. 6, 272). It is largely driven by a sensate motivation, where feelings prevail over the rational and logical.
The "connection" of faith and learning (i.e., faith and knowledge, faith and reason), has been of interest in U.S. Christian colleges/universities dating back to the 1800s. However, in today's Christian institutions it is more about the "disconnects" that seem to prevail instead of the declension taking place. There is a failure to recognize that the faith and learning gap reflects the compartmentalization of academic disciplines that fail to place their microscopic worldview into the macroscopic Biblical worldview context. Therefore, what is needed is for academicians/scholars who are Christian to go and teach in the academies their worldview in/through the macro Biblical context.
To practice the type of integration that IF&L suggests requires academicians, as well as students, to be proficient Bible scholars as well as experts of their [professional] discipline (pp. 5, 14-15, 241). Therefore, the likelihood of the integration model suggested being successful is poor at best. Contrary to IF&L's suggestion not to appeal to Scripture (p. 275) - the written source of Christian truth - what Christendom as a whole, as well as its academies in particular (seminaries, colleges/universities) need to identify are the right models from the Bible - the source of their faith and learning and apply them (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jas. 1:22).
IF&L also advocates that "interpretation" is the arena where much of the faith and learning work needs to take place. Unfortunately, here again, without any in-depth elaboration and treatment, interpretation becomes a working assumption, rather than a hypothesis that launches some weak arguments. This point of view needs to be greatly substantiated, especially given the publications (in and outside of Christianity) of the past decade or two about the interpretation of the Bible, which has introduced much unorthodox theology.
The integration model that IF&L portrays is general in composition with a shallow application prescription. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of IF&L as well as other books about the integration subject - they end up being more diagnostic than solution-oriented. From a Biblical worldview, the Great Commission prescribes to "go" and lecture (preach) and teach the uncompromising Gospel of Jesus Christ. The context implies that before being able to do so an equipping must first take place - otherwise, the going will be empty-handed and futile. Much of today's dysfunctional Christian faith and learning seems to be an outgrowth of declension, deviating from God's Word, rather than a matter of integration, interpretation, or scholarship.
Awesome book! Jul 18, 2004
Every Christian needs the knowledge contained in this book. It is priceless for those random-encounter evangelizing moments also. People just need to pick it up and read it a few times.
Excellent resource for group or individual study Jul 16, 2004
I wrote a blurb for the back of Bob's book, so I believe in it. It can serve as an introduction to the academic integration issue for anyone, but it is especially written for Christian college students at secular/state universities.
This would make a great book study for a Christian college group. Of course, not everyone would be into it, but for those students who are struggling with how it all fits together -- their Christian beliefs and their classwork -- this book would be a huge help, and would make for stronger, more effective disciples. It has study questions suitable for small group use, and I can imagine it engendering a lot of very beneficial discussions.