The more difficult question in my estimation is bringing the discussion of calling to bear on the academy at large. It is more difficult because the academy (perhaps academies is a more accurate term) serves many different publics. Phil’s focus seemed to rest on seminaries and Christian institutions, but it is important to remember that biblical studies, theology, and church history often find their way into the curricula of secular institutions like state colleges and universities. These institutions have very different commitments than Christian institutions and often serve more diverse publics. In these environments it would likely be more difficult to arrive at a sense of calling and commitment to the ministry of the Church. Any plan for a reformation of the academy would have to specify a particular audience and grouping of institutions. One way to think about this is by comparing some of the different scholarly societies in North America. Some serve very broad publics like the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. In these societies the diversity of worldviews and commitments make it virtually impossible to affirm a common sense of calling (other than perhaps some general commitments to intellectual integrity in scholarship and to searching for truth). Other societies serve more specific publics where common commitments and a corporate sense of calling are more easily agreed upon, e.g., Institute for Biblical Research, Catholic Theological Society of American, Evangelical Theological Society.
Any call for reformation of the academy must wrestle with this question of multiple institutions (Christian and secular) serving multiple publics (Christian and secular). It seems to me that a reformation in thinking could be pursed in Christian institutions. In secular institutions it would likely need to be at an individual level (Christian students and faculty renewing their commitment to the ministry of the Church in whatever capacity they are able to in their context). The diversity of religious life and thought in North America coupled with the common tension between church and state make any attempt at reforming the academy as a whole complex and contextual, but these are not reasons to avoid the importance of seeking the renewal of Christian institutions, theological education, and ministry. Perhaps one way to move forward is focusing attention on the cooperation between churches and seminaries/higher education institutions identifying themselves as Christian. Perhaps a joint dialogue between several representative bodies like the National Council of Churches, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities could produce some fruitful results. Perhaps a grassroots campaign on the part of several churches and parachurch organizations could help draw attention to the importance of calling and ministry for their clergy and Christian employees pursing theological education. Phil’s encouragement for individuals to seek a reformation in their own thinking in this area is another way to contribute to a broader renewal of Christian education. Prayer for renewal at all of these levels is another valuable practice that churches and individuals can embrace as they seek transformation of Christian education.
Posted by Jacob, who regularly blogs at Inter Christianos.