Does Christianity inform issues related to chemistry? How does faith influence engineering?
For 50 years, the Faith and Learning Seminar has helped Wheaton College professors think through questions like these. This year, the Office of the Provost is celebrating five decades of this thought work with the inaugural Faith and Learning Seminar Lecture.
“Faculty who write papers for the Faith and Learning Seminar often create scholarly works that are published as books and in peer-reviewed journals,” said Wheaton College Provost Dr. Margaret Diddams. “Not only are these junior faculty honing their scholarly interests in the dialogue between Christian faith and learning, they are doing so at a level that invites others in the academy and the Church to learn from them.”
Back in 1969, Wheaton College President Dr. Hudson Armerding tapped Frank Gaebelein, the headmaster of a Long Island, New York Christian college-preparatory school, to lead the first Faith and Learning Seminar. According to Wheaton’s Dr. Timothy Larsen, who now directs the program, Gaebelein was the “intellectual architect” of what came to be a foundational element of Wheaton College’s philosophy of education.
But the program really took off when Provost Dr. Stanton Jones made a push to get it funded, according to Larsen, who added: “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also—and Wheaton believes in this.”
What started as a couple-week crash course in the summer in Gaebelein’s time evolved into a year-long program. Now all Wheaton College tenure-track professors, as well as non-tenure-track professors who want to opt-in, join the Seminar during their second year at the College. They read a new book each week and participate in weekly discussions, which helps prepare them to write a Faith and Learning paper on the subject of their choice, related to their discipline.
When asked about the aim of this project, Larsen said: “It’s meant to get them thinking Christianly about their disciplines; it’s meant to get them thinking about the importance of a biblical and theological education—and about our mission as a Christian liberal arts college.
The influence of Wheaton College’s Faith and Learning Seminar goes beyond the campus. Increasingly, professors are getting their Faith and Learning papers published in journals, and other schools are able to access Wheaton’s thought leadership.
“Wheaton leads in these conversations [of faith and learning], especially for evangelicals,” Larsen said. “What we’re doing is very rare, and a lot of other schools look to the things that are written in order to have some way to think about the issues going on in their own disciplines.”
This year, Associate Professor of History Dr. Karen Johnson will present her Faith and Learning paper, "Place Matters: The Vocation of Where We Live and How We Live There," in a lecture at the Billy Graham Center’s Barrows Auditorium on Tuesday, February 12 at 7 p.m.
To honor the work that goes into these papers and projects, one from each Seminar’s cohort will be selected for presentation at an annual lecture.
Ultimately, Larsen said: “We want faculty to be modeling thinking about these things in their own lives and also passing that onto students.”