Justin Taylor|2:05 pm CT

Christian Faith and Learning: Is “Integration” the Best Metaphor?

Nicolas Wolterstorff:

We . . . have often used the language of “integration” to describe the project. . . . The project, we have said, is to integrate faith and learning. I have come to think that the metaphor of integration is a poor choice of metaphor. It suggests that the scholar is presented with two things, faith and learning; and that these two must somehow be tied together. The two-story metaphor has been discarded; no longer do we think in terms of placing faith on top of learning. Still, the assumption of duality remains. The idea now is that we tie them together somehow—find the right baling twine and the right place to attach it.

I submit that the project of Christian learning, rightly understood, rejects the assumption of duality that underlies the metaphor of integration. Here is an example of the point: the dominant ideology behind philosophy of art of the past two centuries is that art is an exception to the fallenness of our society; art has redemptive significance. How am I to integrate that ideology with my Christian faith? It can’t be done. I have to reject it, not integrate it; and having rejected it, I have to rethink philosophy of art and aesthetics so that it becomes faithful to my Christian conviction. What emerges, if I am successful, is not an integration of two separate things but just one thing: a philosophy of art faithful to Christian conviction. I have never found what seemed to me the absolutely right metaphor. However, better than the integration metaphor is the metaphor of seeing through the eyes of faith. When you look at something, you look at it with your eyes; you don’t look at it and then also at your eyes.

—Nicolas Wolterstorff, “Fifty Years Later,” Pro Rege 34, no. 1 (September 2005): 28.

HT: Keith Plummer

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