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Integrating Faith and Learning

About this Guide: Overview and Reflections

Integrating Faith and Learning: A Guide to the History and Literature

Gregory Morrison

Associate Professor of Library Science

February, 2015


I dedicate his faith and learning project to my dear friend, brother, and life-long mentor, Christopher Mitchell, who on July 10, 2014 joined that great cloud of witnesses to God’s great love and mercy in Jesus Christ. Indeed, but for Chris, I wouldn’t be writing this faith and learning paper nor likely would I have even heard of Wheaton College. Chris was my main inspiration to return to college to complete my bachelor’s degree at Wheaton in 1984. He exemplified always for me three things: A love of learning, a love for people, and a desire for God. May his memory be eternal.

I also want to dedicate this project to my faculty colleagues, past, present and future, in hopes that it honors the memory of those who are no longer with us, and will be helpful to those who seek a fuller understanding of the history and practice of faith-learning integration, whether for the purpose of writing their own FL paper or to inform their efforts to integrate as scholars and teachers.


My original vision for this project was to create a prolegomenon to the research and practice of integrating faith and learning (IFL), a vision inspired in part by Jaroslav Pelikan’s discussion of the “bibliographic essay” in Idea of a University: a Reexamination (1992). A bibliographic essay is a survey of the scholarly literature on a topic. A well done essay of this sort, he writes, is “a necessary prolegomenon to research,” and becomes “an important chapter in intellectual history.” That sounded great to me and a most appropriate format for my faith and learning project. Only I did not accomplish the task due mainly to two things, namely, trying to pack too many things into this project, and underestimating the challenge of writing such an essay. I have some idea now what Pelikan meant when he remarked that the bibliographic essay, “prepared with the right blend of thoroughness and imagination, [...] is not for the faint of heart.” (116) This was my one major disappointment in an otherwise greatly rewarding research project. I have not given up altogether, however. I aim to muster my courage for another attempt in the near future, having done a significant amount of the preparatory work for it by collecting and annotating most of the IFL literature included in the bibliography section of the guide.  

What I did accomplish is comprised of four sections (represented by tabs on the online guide), the first three of which took shape around foundational, mainly historical, questions I had about IFL and Christian faith and learning in general. The four sections are:

  • Wheaton's Four Architects of Integration

  • Integration of Faith and Learning in Historical Context (essay)

  • Faith and Learning in Christian History: Recommended Reads

  • Annotated bibliographies of works related to integrating faith and learning

‚ÄčWheaton's Four Architects of Integration represents some of my findings as I examined the rise of IFL at Wheaton College and the history of its faith and learning program. My principal sources for this section include Michael Hamilton’s extensive (and intriquing) research on the broader history of faith and learning at Wheaton and my own examination of IFL-related documents in the College archives. Hamilton’s essay, “Fear and Courage: Faith and Learning at Wheaton College,” was especially helpful to me. I would later learn that this essay was commissioned by our own Provost, Stan Jones, and that Hamilton wrote it with faculty participants of the faith and learning seminar in mind. I had new faculty in mind as well when writing up this section of the project, and consider it a supplement to Hamilton’s work. In this particular essay, Hamilton describes the “Integration Model” in detail and he highlights Arthur Holmes’s role in making IFL “normative” at Wheaton. My archival research, in contrast, focused more on the persons and events leading up to the launch of the first faith and learning seminar in 1969. 

The Four Architects include Carl Henry, Frank Gaebelein, Hudson Armerding and Arthur Holmes. Henry emerges as evangelicalism’s chief educational visionary and a conduit of Reformed thinking on higher education. Gaebelein was the first to articulate an educational philosophy based on the idea of integration, which is the subject of his book, Pattern of God’s Truth (1954). Armerding caught Gaebelein’s integrationist vision and, within the first five years of his presidency, funded (externally) the first “Seminar on the Integration of Faith and Learning” in 1969. He also tapped Gaebelein to lead it, which he did for the first four years. Arthur Holmes, more than anyone, popularized IFL throughout evangelical higher education through publishing and lecturing for nearly three decades, beginning with the publication of Idea of a Christian College in 1975. There are several minor figures in the IFL story, and no one more fascinating than Oliver Buswell, who, though a staunch fundamentalist, made several key decisions that paved the way for Wheaton’s move towards IFL. He hired, for example, another minor figure, Gordon Clark, a Reformed philosopher, who (according to Hamilton) “launched the intellectual careers of the first generation of true scholars to come out of fundamentalism” including Carl Henry. Henry’s vision of education, in turn, was the greatest single influence on the direction of Holmes’s own thinking.

My own research in the archives was perhaps the most interesting and rewarding part of the project, but I succeeded in reporting only a small portion of my findings in the Guide. I have the material to write up a history of the first decade or so of the faith and learning seminar and hope to add it to the Guide in the future. Here let me just add that, while schools like Biola and Baylor have since taken the lead in the evangelical IFL project (or movement), Wheaton College was the clear leader and disseminator of the IFL philosophy in evangelical higher education through the 70s and 80s, starting with the summer faith and learning seminars. Finally, I was impressed by the central role that philosophers and philosophy played in the unfolding IFL story. The turning point at Wheaton was the restoration of the discipline of philosophy as its own department in 1965 after 25 years of quarantine within the Bible Department under Wheaton's fourth president, V. Raymond Edman. Reading Henry and Holmes, and more recent evangelical/Reformed authors like Oliver Crisp (Fuller Seminary), gave me a deeper appreciation for and understanding of how philosophic inquiry is “propaedeutic to other tasks,” (Holmes) including the task of theology. In the end, Crisp argues, theology and philosophy need each other to flourish. This relationship continues as it has from the start, wherein the Gospel critiques and “illuminates philosophy,” while “the majesty of philosophy can provide conceptual tools to develop something that theology wishes to say,” writes Crisp in Christianity and the Disciplines (2012, p. 1).  Clearly, that can be seen in the work of the Cappadocian Fathers, as Werner Jaeger so ably demonstrates in Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. More specifically, as it relates to IFL, philosophy must continue in its role as “a science of sciences,” (Pelikan quoting Newman, 1992, p.35) enabling us to comprehend the bearing of one science on another, and, in Newman’s words, the “due appreciation of them all, one with another.” (Idea, I.iii.4)

The essay section, IFL in Historical Context, focuses on the historical sources of the integrationist philosophy of education. How and when did evangelicals come to relate faith and learning in terms of integration? Were they the first to do so? The language of integration among evangelicals does pre-date Gaebelein’s seminal work on IFL in 1954, for example, in the writings of Carl Henry and Raymond Edman in the mid-1940s. Somewhat to my surprise, I could find only one work, a dissertation, that shared my interest in the questions above. In All truth is God's truth: The life and ideas of Frank E. Gaebelein (2008), Alfred Beck suggests that all streams of IFL thought lead back to John Henry Newman and his Idea of a University, published exactly one-hundred years before Gaebelein’s Pattern of God’s Truth. Both men are responding to philosophical and cultural shifts that began with the Protestant Reformation, and which became institutionalized in terms of higher education in the early 19th century with the founding of the first modern university in Berlin, which T.A. Howard skillfully documents in his book, Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (2006).

To properly understand and evaluate the history and meaning of IFL, I felt it necessary also to have a grasp on how Christians throughout church history have conceptualized the relationship between Christian faith and learning. This is behind the section “Faith and Learning in Christian History.” Allowing myself to read more broadly in this way may have contributed to my not getting to the IFL bibliographic essay, but I wouldn’t do it any differently were I to start again. Reading closely several texts including Pelikan’s Idea of a University: A Reexamination, Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, Leclercq’s Love of Learning and the Desire for God, and Harbinson’s Christian Scholar in the Age of the Reformation, was a self-designed faith and learning seminar in the tradition of Holmes’s “foundations approach” to integration, or an exercise in “critical memory,” to use a phrase from Pelikan, to take what I have “as heritage now as task,” and make it my own.


The Bibliographies

Creating bibliographies has a long history in academic librarianship. Before the launch of the Worldwide Web in the early 1990s and advent of online databases, the research community relied principally on research librarians to conduct a thorough search of the bibliographic record on a person or topic. This saved scholars a lot of time and may also have saved them the embarrassment of missing important works from their own scan of the literature. One such research librarian, writing just before the WWW took off, went so far as to argue that  burdening faculty and students with the task of “navigating the bibliographic apparatus” takes away from "their primary learning activity." I am somewhat sympathetic with this view in spite of it being unpractical. Compiling the bibliographies for this project drew on my most developed research skills, and for that I enjoyed this particular challenge.

There are currently 213 titles in the master bibliography. Approximately one-third of these deal explicitly with some aspect of IFL. The remaining titles relate to Christian faith and higher learning in some way I felt was important for context or helped illuminate the concept of integration. Most of these fit into one of following subgroups, which is part of a bibliographic taxonomy I developed during my research stay in Cambridge, England.


  • FLhistory (includes some historical review of the faith-learning relationship, often not addressing integration explicitly)

  • FLscholar (dealing specifically with the role and work of the Christian scholar)

  • FLwheaton (research looking specifically at faith and learning at Wheaton College)

  • FLwheatonauthors (integrative works by Wheaton faculty or works that discuss IFL or issues of faith and learning)

  • FLcritique (analysis and critique of existing IFL praxis and theory)

  • FLphilosophy (works describing/defining one or more Christian philosophies of faith and learning)

  • FLpraxis (works suggesting new or modified strategies or models for successful FL-integration or studying existing FL activities/implementation at all educational levels)

General reflections on FL, IFL, and my work as a librarian at Wheaton

To end with, I want to reflect briefly on my experience completing this project as it relates to the process and also to share some takeaways from some of the authors I read. As for the process, I am deeply grateful for having gone through it and very humbled by what I discovered about myself. First of all, I encountered like never before the ascesis required to do deep intellectual work. Especially when it came to writing, I was confronted with my poor intellectual habits, and compounded by all the wonderful distractions of modern life. I experienced periods of anguish, bordering at times on despair, in the struggle to organize my ideas, to stick to my “roadmap,” and to express my thoughts on the page. By the grace of God and the encouragement and feedback from colleagues, I found the courage and discipline to push through. Let me express here my gratitude to my readers, Jim Wilhoit and Michael Graves, for their sincere interest, encouragement and excellent guidance throughout the process. I want also to express heartfelt thanks to Stan Jones and Lisa Richmond for making my research retreat in Cambridge possible. The professional payoff for having worked through this extended project has been rich and immediate in regard to my work with students. Prior to this, I saw my work limited primarily to the front end of research, that is, the information seeking aspect of the research. Now I feel more confident and competent to guide students through the whole research process, and it has given me a deeper awareness of and sympathy for the challenges they face to develop good intellectual and spiritual habits. I see keeping engaged intellectually in this way as foundational for us librarians in becoming the “teaching library” that has been at the heart of the library’s vision since 2011.

I was very excited to find this vision of librarians as teachers (and not just “keepers of the shop”) supported by one of the greatest Christian scholars of recent times, Jaroslav Pelikan, who, in The Idea of a University: A Reexamination, argues that the central mission of the university library is “the business of teaching.” Pelikan’s vision of the library’s role is predicated on his belief that “the deeper function of undergraduate teaching [is to] induct the young into the mysterious and ongoing process by which [scholarship] will go on happening.” For this deeper function of teaching to take place, he points to the need for “serious attention” to “the collegiality between library and faculty.” The librarians have been giving this serious attention for some time, and continue to do so. Among the main findings of the library’s 2014 survey of teaching faculty was an increase in “professors’ engagement with library faculty in research instruction,” giving us good indication that our effort is paying off. More specific to the research librarian’s work, according to Pelikan, is to “provide context, balance, and correction,” and I began thereafter to view my faith and learning project as an occasion to practice just that, to present IFL in historical context and to represent the voices of criticism and support regarding the IFL approach to Christian higher education.  

If I go on much longer I’ll have written a second faith and learning paper, but I want to register some quick thoughts on a few other works that have significantly shaped my understanding of the relationship between faith and learning, starting once more with Pelikan and his 1965 book, The Christian Intellectual.  He concludes the book with a section entitled “The Renewal of Tradition,” which I found to be a profound statement concerning the goal and process of Christian higher learning, an integrationist philosophy that doesn’t use the language of IFL but rather rests on the idea of “authentic tradition.” This authentic renewal of tradition, he writes, “is the only way to find an intelligible connection between Christian thought and both ‘natural philosophy’ and the ‘humanities.’” I’m assuming he would readily extend this principle to all academic disciplines. He goes on to state that “authentic tradition is the function of critical memory and creative imagination. It is an organism getting out of itself in order to see itself. Only that man [sic] is truly educated who has learned this art.”(128) To what “tradition” is Pelikan referring? “All that was noble and Christian in the Catholic substance of the tradition--including those noble things that had been taken up into the tradition [....] Homer in one hand and the epistles of Paul in the other.”(129) This all brings immediately to my mind the overarching philosophy behind our new “Christ at the Core” general education curriculum.

Yet another fruitful line of reflection on faith and learning came from reading several books including Jean LeClercq’s Love of Learning and the Desire for God. I considered naming my project after the book for the way it expressed to me what IFL should ultimately be about. LeClercq’s work focuses on “monastic theology” of the early Middle Ages, and the first thing that struck me was the centrality of the Bible, specifically in the “interior schools” of this period. LeClercq demonstrates how monastic culture reconciled the realms of "letters" and the spiritual life, which sounds like integrating faith and learning of the first order to me. The monks applied the art of “grammatica” with the intent to bathe their memory and imagination in the Bible, to be “saturated” by Scripture, and finally to be transformed by desire for God. Werner Jaeger describes the educational philosophy of Gregory of Nyssa in similar terms in his book Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. At the center of Gregory's Christian paideia is the Bible, which replaces the corpus of Greek literature as the object of learning, the form that molds a person. "Christ is the form," Jaeger writes, "and he must take shape" in us. To the extent that we have been molded by the Bible, i.e. by Christ, we fulfill the first and essential requirement for successfully integrating faith and learning. Gaebelein also underscores the vital place of Scripture in Pattern of God’s Truth, arguing that the study of and meditation on the Bible is what prepares us to integrate faith and learning. Christian teachers, he writes, must be "individuals whose primary spiritual and intellectual residence is in the Bible." (49)  

In Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, Jaeger brought to my attention that the expansion of the Christian faith across the Greco-Roman world in the early centuries came as a result, one could say, of a mission-focused IFL. I need to review the literature again, but have yet to find any discussion of IFL in this context. Indeed, others have noted that the literature on IFL until recently has mainly focused on faith-learning integration centered around research and scholarship, i.e. on faculty faith and learning. This is a potential “topic for further research” notice to myself to look into missions as a framing concept in our thinking about IFL.

All of this got me thinking, finally, about levels of faith-learning integration. What the three authors above are describing could be viewed as primary integration, where God is the Integrator, and we the integrated. Francis Schaeffer speaks in similar terms in True Spirituality (1972). God is the "one integration point that is enough,” he writes, and “nothing else will integrate the whole me, because that is what I was made for: to love God with my whole heart, soul, and mind." (126) This is Mary at Jesus’s feet, the one thing that is needful in the Christian life (Luke 10:41). But in order for Christian scholars to do well at integrating faith and learning within their disciplines (tertiary integration), additional equipping is helpful and necessary. This is, of course, precisely what the College’s faith and learning program has aimed to provide its faculty since it began in 1969. This secondary integration Arthur Holmes described as the “foundations approach” to integration, which emphasized “the contours of a Biblical world-view stressing the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of man, the unity of truth in relationship to general and special revelation, Christian ethics, and a theology of history.”

By the time Holmes wrote Building the Christian Academy, (2001) he broadened the foundations of his educational philosophy (compared to Idea of a Christian College) to include not just the more intellectual grounding that characterized the “foundations approach,” but also the concepts of “contemplative (or doxological) learning” and “care of the soul,” i.e. spiritual and moral formation. This took me back to Leclercq’s description of the separate contemplative “interior” schools of monasteries and the liberal arts curriculum of the “exterior” schools of the 9th century. Holmes seems to be bringing the aspirations of each together into his idea of the Christian academy, and I see in this an example of Pelikan’s “renewal of tradition” through critical memory and creative imagination. Pelikan also liked to quote Goethe’s Faust to express this idea of authentic tradition: “What you have as heritage take now as task, and thus you will make it your own.” Institutionally, Wheaton College claims as its heritage, the “reformers and the evangelical movement of recent years.” However, I perceive Wheaton, more than ever before in its history, embracing “as its own” more of the Christian heritage than just that. Just two examples to illustrate this that come to mind are the recently founded Center for Early Christian Studies and the revival of interest in the ancient spiritual disciplines, and not just as an object of academic inquiry but to apply this practical wisdom in our own spiritual journeys.  As an Orthodox Christian, naturally, I find this greater openness to the broader Christian tradition very encouraging and affirming, and a trend that I hope continues.