Wayland faculty discuss distinctive of integrating faith and learning

.The integration of faith and learning has always been a point of pride at Wayland Baptist University, a shortened mission statement that sums up the goal of Christian higher education.

But moving that statement from theory to practice is sometimes harder than it seems. On Thursday, as part of the annual Faculty/Staff Professional Development, Wayland faculty discussed that very issue while gearing up for the 2001-02 school year, which kicked off August 22.

Dr. Michael Beaty, professor of philosophy at Baylor University, opened the topic with a short lecture. To set background, Beaty began with a few assumptions about faculty and then stated the qualities of the ideal teacher at Wayland and any other Christian university.

"The ideal teacher is a mere Christian in C.S. Lewis' sense; would understand that all of us are pilgrims on a journey; is an active participant in a Christian community, that is a local church;, would be marked by gratitude to be able to use his or her gifts; would possess a high degree of competence in his or her discipline but still have a desire to learn; and would love to work with students and love his or her work," Beaty said in addressing the faculty. "The ideal teacher at Wayland loves the place and the people they find themselves around and does everything as a witness to Christ and not for any glory for themselves."

Beaty said some faculty members find integrating faith and learning difficult because their subject matter does not lend itself to the integration or they simply are not sure how to approach the issue. But he remained firm that it must be done, if not individually then at least as a communal body.

"If you leave (faith) out, it leaves us without a distinctive from any other college or university," Beaty explained. "But sometimes, he primary mode (in integration) is that you love your work, you love your God and students cannot leave your class without knowing that."

After defining both faith and learning and explaining the philosophical view of how faith indeed blends naturally with learning, Beaty participated in a panel discussion with three other faculty members about the issue.

Dr. Carol Green, dean of the Clovis, N.M. campus and assistant professor of history, began the discussion with comments about her own experience.

"We have a great luxury to be able to (mention God). We sometimes pray in our classrooms if the opportunity arises. We also try to incorporate an emphasis on values and ethics in each discipline we teach," Green said. "If you have a spirit of openness with what God wants you to do in a class, the He can even use (diversions) to reinforce Christianity."

Dr. Joel Boyd, a new assistant professor of chemistry in Plainview, had a different viewpoint.

"It's not a question of whether (integration) can be done, but that it must be done," he said. "I don't think you can teach any discipline without reflecting your own world views. The way you believe and feel comes out in what you say."

Dr. Peter Bowen, associate professor of psychology, led off the questions by asking Beaty what potential traps lay in integrating faith and learning.

"One trap is not being fair to alternative views. It becomes obvious to the students and your efforts are counterproductive," Beaty replied. "That suggests that you don't believe that Christianity can stand on its own two feet."

Beaty added that another danger was for professors to appear pious and awkward instead of genuine. Faith should bear out in all aspects of our lives, he said, not just when teaching a group of students. That fine line, then, should be walked carefully.

"We have an important task here: Our goal is for students to have a sophisticated faith and a faithful intellect," he said. "It is part of our task to create dissonance, and sometimes that's a good thing."