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The Christian Intellectual Life

Much ink has been spilt over the question of what it might mean to be a Christian intellectual.  Often such books are either laments concerning the anti-intellectualism in the church or apologetic pleas to the church that intellectualism, or “the life of the mind” be viewed as a valid Christian practice.  Whatever the book or article, there is generally always some sort of perceived gap between the church and the academy. 

This, I would suggest is primarily, if not exclusively the fault of the academy.  The academy, at least in its modern incarnation (and this point is key) sequesters the intellectual life from the church, and then academic theologians are flabbergasted when the church ceases to be intellectual! 

I don’t think there is a “solution” to this problem other than to insist that the academy must undergo a massive change if it is to properly serve the church.  The nature of this change is not easily synthesizable.  However, I would suggest that some thoughts in this direction can be gleaned from monasticism.  It has been monastic orders throughout the ages who have found ways of integrating service, communal life, contemplative spirituality, and academic study into an integrated form of life which serves the church and the world.  If the academy is going to again become an ecclesially based reality, and thereby stimulate a vibrantly Christian intellectual life that is profoundly ecclesial, I think that it must become more monastic in shape and practice.  


  1. Bobby Grow wrote:

    I agree. This is a problem, Halden. The way forward is not easily charted. I suppose monasticism would be a helpful movement, but how, given the Evangelical context (i.e. Multnomah), would you suggest that we “monasticize” both the academy and the church?

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Well, I don’t think there’s one model for the church or the academy that should be statically followed. But, I do think that elements of the monastic tradition could really inform the way that faculty and students relate and where the live in relation to the campus, and the kinds of activities that are required of students, etc. It would take a lot of fleshing out.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  3. aaron g wrote:

    Ed Farley’s proposal in Theologia (reprinted, of course, by the nice folks and W&S!) seems to suggest something similar.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 9:15 pm | Permalink
  4. Collins wrote:

    I just finished Douglas John Hall’s theological autobiography, “Bound and Free,” in which he also laments the said Church-Academy split. He has some excellent suggestions on how the situation can be improved. Its worth looking at.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

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