Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Integration of Faith and Learning?

As a senior, the English department of OC demands I write a cohesive essay on the topic of "The Integration of Faith and Learning," and express my feelings on the two ideas, and how they do or do not function together. This is the revised draft of my response:

As a Christian, it is impossible, and perhaps misleading, to write an essay on the “integration” of Faith and Learning. To use the word integrate, or “coming together,” would reveal that we’re talking about two things that we consider separate, that only for a time are “coming together” during our education, when, in fact, as Christians, what we’re talking about are two things that are completely blended together from the beginning of Creation.Hebrews 4:12 states, “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” If we, as Christians, do believe what the scriptures say about the living, breathing, word of God, then how could we possibly be able to separate the ideas of “Faith” and “Learning”? To denote any sort of separation would reveal doubt on our part to understand that we, as communicating, sentient beings, are made in the same communicating, sentient image of God. Even if read metaphorically, the beginning of Creation, in the book of Genesis, relates a God who “spoke” the world into existence: “And God said, ‘let there be light’” (Genesis 1:3). Likewise, God asks us to communicate to Him through language, perhaps correlating one of the aspects of His image, in which we are created, to be that power, or mastery, of language itself. The idea of an integrated Faith and Learning emphasizes the importance of language as God-given in our world of communication, and our world as a “text.”

We live in a world of symbols, and signs, and each radiates a different meaning. Post-structuralists such as Barthes, and his work on cultural sign-systems, and Louis Marin’s examination of space as a “text” in his Utopics, truly underline the importance of the written word, not just within the pages of a book, but as a living, breathing entity that extends beyond syntax and grammar to include semantics on much larger-scale levels. Our contemporary world is coming to grips with what most consider “cultural studies,” in which the text, as we know it, has exploded outward to include a closer study of how large groups of people relate within the context of a given text, such as the schools of Gender Studies, or Queer Theory. If there is room for these groups of people to have their interpretations, or views, of different texts, or “texts,” than why not Christians? The scripture from Hebrews, quoted above, also denotes the idea of a “living” text. The Word is alive, and not merely being left on the pages of the book itself. If Paul can write to the Hebrews and reveal this extremely postmodern idea, relating to things many contemporary linguists and literary theorists have related to within contemporary texts, how could we possibly see the idea of “text” any differently, than working hand in hand with our Faith, or with the power of God through words?

Faith and Learning, as a cohesive unit, have helped me grow tremendously to understand the world around me. The education I’ve received at Oklahoma Christian University has allowed me to see the different inspirations of God through different texts, and has helped me see each text as “alive.” The philosophies of other authors have helped me view the world from several different angles, and I’ve appreciated the guidance of the faculty in pointing out the different points of view of the world we live in, and how to harness those views to enhance our own. Exploring texts such as the Baghavad-Gita, or the Chuang Chou, in World Literature, has certainly enhanced my appreciation for the world at large which God has created, and the different cross-references I find in each culture’s religious texts gives me a broader understanding of the different ways God has possibly manifested Himself to other cultures, and urged me to ask questions of myself and develop my own beliefs, and my own faith. Each text I’ve read, through my education, has become its own living, inspired entity. The philosophies of authors such as William Wordsworth, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, also have truly enhanced my understanding of a cohesive “Faith and Learning,” with their understandings of a motivating force known mysteriously as a “Universal,” and “over-soul,” or as Coleridge puts it, an “Incomprehensible.”

The scripture from Hebrews 4:12 emphasizes the Word of God as “living,” and I think it’s important to realize through education that we can come to see all words as “living” texts, and also, as Christians, see our Faith as a type of literary theory to break down and understand these “texts” in the context of our spirituality. God has revealed himself with words, has given us a gift “in His image” to use words to communicate with Him, and with each other, and given us the opportunity to explore our world through words themselves. Faith and Learning are truly inseparable.

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