This past Saturday, I was part of an online video-symposium hosted by the organization I work with on encouraging Christians who work in the university context to engage in “Dialogue Within the University”. The concept behind this title is that it is a tendency of Christians working in the university (not unlike other social groups) to talk only among ourselves on important issues, or to try to invite others to join our conversations. Meanwhile, there are often important conversations that occur in classrooms, campus lectures, student and faculty papers, student governments and faculty senates, and university centers on matters from sustainability, to issues of justice, to the ethical use of technological breakthroughs, to transparency about university finances. Often a Christian voice is absent from these conversations. Sometimes it may not be welcome, but more often, it is thought that Christians really have nothing to say about these things, being caught up in more “spiritual” matters. Sometimes we are, and sometimes, we are just fearful to take the first steps to engage with different points of views or do not know how to do so in a way that is both cogent and charitable.
Because I’m kind of known as “the book guy”, I was asked if I could compile a list of book recommendations. This is far from exhaustive but represent my thoughts of places to start in three key aspects that were talked about during the symposium: dialogue skills, the university world, and thinking Christianly. I’ve provided links to publishers as well to any reviews I’ve written.
Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008. Explores how cultures are made and shaped and explores ways Christians can engage with and create culture with pursuing “culture wars”.
Felton, Peter, H-Dirsen L. Bauman, Aaron Kheriaty, and Edward Taylor. Transformative Conversations: A Guide to Mentoring Communities Among Colleagues in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2013. Discusses how faculty can develop “formational mentoring communities” exploring questions of meaning, calling and values. Great conversational model. Reviewed here.
Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World. New York, Oxford University Press, 2010. Hunter challenges the rhetoric of “culture change”, shows the importance of cultural elites, and explores the role of “faithful presence”. Reviewed here.
Volf, Miroslav. A Public Faith. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2011. He argues that Christians can choose a third way of seeking the public good while remaining faithful to the core values of their faith. Reviewed here.
Delbanco, Andrew. College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. He explores the history, current state, and his own future hopes for the university, with nods to the contribution of Christians to discussing important questions in the university. Reviewed here.
Kronman, Anthony. Education’s End. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. A thought-provoking book by one who is dismissive of religious answers but wonders why colleges have given up on the big questions. Reviewed here.
Marsden, George M. The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Explores the history of Christian engagement in the American university and the forces behind the establishment of secularism as the university’s stance.
Newman, John Henry Cardinal. The Idea of a University. South Bend, University of Notre Dame Press, 1982. John Henry Newman’s classic work on the liberal Christian university–one of the first to articulate a vision of faith and scholarship together. Not easy going but a foundational book. Reviewed here.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas, Educating for Shalom. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004. A collection of essays that chronicles Wolterstorff’s developing thinking about the integration of faith, learning and practice in the higher education world. Reviewed here.
I find keeping up with articles published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and University World News (which gives me global coverage of university issues) helpful to staying aware of possible university conversations. I published a review post of higher education books here in June of 2014.
Milne, Bruce, Know the Truth. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. An outline of basic systematic theology with scriptures and discussion questions to make one think about what one believes. A predecessor to this book was critical in my early years of ministry in helping me think through the faith deeply for myself.
Neuhaus, Richard John. The Naked Public Square. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. A foundational book reflecting a Christian perspective for how we engaged the public arena. A landmark book by the longtime editor of First Things.
Noll, Mark A. Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. Noll demonstrates the importance of Christology to thinking Christianly about various academic disciplines. A fine example of a historian thinking theologically about doing history. Reviewed here.
Walsh, Brian, and J. Richard Middleton. The Transforming Vision. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984. The authors show how Christian worldview can be basic to thinking Christianly about various academic disciplines. The book includes a “bibliography you can’t live without.”
Wolters, Al. Creation Regained. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005. Traces the themes of creation, fall, and redemption, and how these may inform our efforts to think Christianly about anything else.
This is just a start. Some of you may have other resources you’d like to recommend. Please feel free to add them in the comments section of the blog!