By Darren Cronshawin, in the Australian eJournal of Theology
At university my options for studying Christianity were a couple of biblical studies electives attached to the classics department, or attending the Christian Union or parallel groups running alongside other clubs and societies. Theology as such was left to theological colleges, apparently so the university sector could avoid sectarianism. What I was really interested in, however, was not just studying straight theology but exploring the relevance of Christian faith for the topics we were unpacking in our history, sociology, economics and Asian Studies classes. This volume would have been helpful to disciple me in my approach to studying different disciplines and integrating studies with my Christian faith.
As a pastor and theological educator, I read Christianity and the Disciplines for ideas on how to help people in my church and classroom integrate their faith with their everyday world. As a pastor, a lot of my work focuses on matters of Bible and prayer, leadership and mission, pastoral care and church governance. But it is an important aspect of public theology to consider how thoughtful Christians might study and practice across the disciplines of different endeavours, rather than assuming Christianity only relates to the private/religious sphere. This is why the book is a useful reference for pastors, but will be of interest to Christian professionals and especially academics and teachers interested in the relevance of Christianity to their work.
The editors and writers are either academics in theology and religion, or Christian intellectuals spread across literature, history, psychology, philosophy, music, science, politics and law, all with an interest in their field’s relationship to theology. They reflect on their practices and how their work would be shaped according to their Christian convictions? And how would their discipline be ideally taught in a Christian university context?
There is a range of views of how theology relates to the different disciplines, but the universal theme is that conversation with theology is beneficial. It is fascinating how disciplines across the university grapple with making sense of the world and how they deal with (or ignore) faith. Sometimes theology informs the content of what is taught, and sometimes it simply helps put other disciplines in context and add meaning and metaphysical depth. Some writers are eager for teaching their discipline in a Christian school or faith-based university context; others see their perspectives as supplementing the best of ‘secular’ education. There is helpful discussion of teaching and education implications, especially the challenge to grapple with deeper matters, ethics and character formation as well as knowledge and skills. The best value of the book is the writers’ contagious love of their subjects and how we can learn from the breadth and recent developments in different fields. Theology and these different truth-seeking endeavours can potentially not merely tolerate but enhance one another.
The book finishes without a conclusion. I would have loved to read the editors summarising common themes and pointing in future directions for research and scholarship. But the eighteen chapters they have collected helpfully model diverse conversation between theology and other disciplines and invite ongoing dialogue.
Reviewer: Darren Cronshaw serves as Mission Catalyst – Researcher with the Baptist Union of Victoria and pastor of AuburnLife, and is an Honorary Research Associate of Whitley College (MCD University of Divinity) and Associate Professor in Missiology with Australian College of Ministries (SCD).
Christianity and the Disciplines is edited by
Mervyn Davies, Oliver D. Crisp, Gavin D'Costa and
Peter Hampson, and is available to buy here.