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Integrating Faith and Learning

A History of Faith and Learning at Wheaton College

Introduction at Inaugural Lecture by Faith and Learning Director, Dr. Timothy Larsen, commemorating the 50-year anniversary of Wheaton's faculty faith and learning program.  

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The Faith and Learning program at Wheaton College began as a summer-intensive for faculty members.  We are marking its 50th anniversary this year because the first cohort met in 1969.  Dr. Leland Ryken was a member of that original cohort of faculty members.  He does not exactly belt out, “those were the best days of my life”, but Dr. Ryken does declare unequivocally that the Faith and Learning seminar was the foundation of everything he has gone on to accomplish as a teacher-scholar.  Dr. Ryken recently completed his 57th book, and his scholarly production line shows no signs of slowing down.

Dr. Arthur Holmes, the founder of Wheaton’s philosophy department,  became Director of the Faith and Learning program in 1974.  In the following year appeared his classic book, The Idea of a Christian College and, the year after that another manifesto volume for the integration of faith and learning, All Truth is God’s Truth.  One way that Dr. Holmes’s significant contribution in this area is remembered, honored, and extended here at Wheaton is through the Arthur F. Holmes Chair of Faith and Learning, a position that is currently held by Dr. Tracy McKenzie in the History Department. Other legendary Wheaton professors have also served as Director of the program, including Alan Jacobs and Roger Lundin.

One of the most important figures in this story is unquestionably Dr. Stan Jones who, as soon as he was appointed Wheaton’s first provost, made it a key priority of his to deepen and strengthen the Faith and Learning Program.  In 1997, he initiated the much-expanded current model of a weekly seminar that meets throughout an entire academic year.   Dr. Jones himself made noteworthy contributions to the integration of faith and learning in his own discipline of psychology, including through the volume, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal.

There are other aspects of the Faith and Learning program besides the seminar for junior faculty members.  All faculty members, however long they have served at Wheaton, have the possibility of participating in advanced seminars, and now supplemental seminars as well.  A particularly famous advanced seminar was the one led by Mark Noll on Christology and scholarship.  It became the basis of his book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.  

The Faith and Learning program also occasionally sponsors or co-sponsors public lectures and conferences.  A notable example of this was a series of lectures that Roger Lundin organized.  The lecturers ranged from Jeremy Begbie to Eleonore Stump.  Their papers were published in a volume that Dr. Lundin edited, Christ Across the Disciplines: Past, Present, Future.  Last year the Faith and Learning program helped to sponsor Marilynne Robinson’s visit to our campus.

Wheaton College is to be commended for not just giving lip service to the integration of faith and learning, but establishing a well-funded program to help make it a reality.  The reward has been that schools all over the world look to Wheaton for best practice and leadership in this area.

The feature of the program that we are particularly celebrating this evening is the Faith and Learning paper or project that junior faculty members complete.  Over the years, a wide range of these have been published as articles in peer-review journals, including the Christian Scholar’s ReviewScience and Engineering Ethics, the Princeton Theological ReviewLiterature and TheologyFides et Historia, the Journal of ReligionChristianity and Literature, the Journal of Political Ecology, and the Journal of Psychology and Christianity

This inaugural lectureship that we are celebrating tonight is a major, exciting new addition to the offerings of the Faith and Learning program that comes through the initiative and leadership of Provost Margaret Diddams.