Get on Board the MS University!
As a fresh student entering university, you might feel like a young sailor ready to board on his or her first expedition. An amazing adventure striving to reach yet undiscovered land, but with unknown outcome, as some ships get lost never to be found again and fail to complete their mission…
Should you rather back off? Or should You dare the risk?
The answer depends on your calling! God does not call the gifted, but he gifts the called.
So before you get on board, you might like to check a few pointers towards your calling that God has given you, like:
+ What do you really enjoy? What is your passion for which your heart has been burning?
+ What are you good at? What are your gifts which are also valued by your friends?
+ Are the doors open for you? What opportunities are at hand which you can choose?
If you think about these questions and realise that God has called you to engage in academic study, then make sure that you take up your study as a calling from the Lord.
This is the best motivation you can have. Yes, there might be other motives like increasing your status, getting a well-paid job, wanting to be the next Nobel laureate, or enjoying the freedom of student life instead of doing heavy manufacturing… We are human beings, so we won’t be free from these other motives. But you can drain the strength of these deluding motives best, if you invest all your energy in the best motive: serving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!
Once you have signed as a young sailor on the Motor Ship University, you should make sure to watch three principles:
- Stay true to your real commander
- Understand how the ship is working
- Fulfil your mission on the ship
The first principle seems obvious but is not as easy in the long run as you might think! If you have read C.S. Lewis’ “Silver Chair” (part 6 of the Chronicles of Narnia), you know what I am talking about: the lion Aslan told Jill four signs to observe which seemed easy, but in the pressurising circumstances they were nearly all missed. The same is true on board the MS University. At your entry, you feel like you will change the world for better. But the first enthusiasm about your own capacities and the new surroundings to be conquered can easily fade away as you work through your lectures and essays day by day. It is easy to forget God’s plan for your life and be infected by inhaling the values of the people around you. Hence, keep your vision fresh by reading the logbook of your real captain and relate it to the environment of your ship. And watch out for brothers and sisters in the Lord who live on the same ship and take care to establish encouraging and praying fellowship with them. Follow the example of Daniel in Babylon.
The second principle takes a lot of critical thinking. Every ship runs on a set of official rules that are written down, but also hidden rules that can only be felt. These comprise ethical standards like how a university institute deals with passing exams and publishing research results. But also how you use your time: will you learn seven days a week and submit your life to academic pressure, or will you study by partying with your fellow students without taking care of your academic duties? The Bible gives us good advice for a healthy work-life-balance.
It is not only about conduct, however, but also about the intellectual approach to the content of research. Every discipline has its ethos, and so different institutes follow their paradigms. Hidden presuppositions guide the questions that are inquired – and the responses. Academia today has changed the reasonable methodology of understanding the world, as if God did not interfere, into the principle that God does not exist.
E.g. many scientists today believe in a multiverse, even though we have no single experimental evidence for it. Why? Because the basic parameters of the universe are fine-tuned to such an amazing degree to allow for our existence that it seems unlikely that our universe could be the only one. Like in the lottery, our fortunate universe can occur only if there is a process which has continuously been producing new universes. But is this response scientific? No, it is a metaphysical belief which is no more scientific than the alternative that the accuracy is best explained by the designing mind of God. Similarly, in theology the composition of the gospels is usually dated after AD 70, as the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple is mentioned. As accurate human prophecy is very unlikely in a naturalistic framework, the gospels must have been written after this event. Is this the only possible conclusion? Famous German secular historian Hermann Bengtson noted that the destruction of the temple strengthened the Christian faith, as they remembered Jesus’ prediction.
What do we learn from that? Explanations always work on the basis of presuppositions. In order to understand the mindset of the people around you, you need to find out the presuppositions that usually are not explicitly mentioned. Critical thinking and asking good questions is crucial.
And this brings us to the third principle: your mission on the MS University is to love the Lord with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind! This implies offering your time to him: fulfil your duties, but don’t get enslaved. Have fellowship with your friends, Christian and non-Christian, but don’t let it distract you from your duties, and don’t forget that your friends need Jesus too. And it implies that you develop a Christian framework to your discipline. Ask yourself: which research questions can you ask on the basis of the truth of the gospel? E.g. would you as a Christian expect that most of the DNA is just junk or is it worth to look for functionality? Would it be interesting to study the effects of forgiveness on human wellbeing? Would you expect that living out Christian virtues makes a difference in the business world and for ecological sustainability? On which basis can we assume that human beings are responsible for their choices? And I am sure you will discover many more issues and maybe you feel already how your heart and mind are being inspired by these questions…
In this way, Christian faith can not only try to defend itself from secular paternalisation, but even set the stage for future research projects. If academia is your calling, this implies that you help society discover the reality of the gospel, and help the church not to be afraid of academic research, but to engage with it meaningfully and wisely.
So here it is, the MS University! Would you like to get on board? Just don’t forget the three principles…
Dr. Alexander Fink, director of the Institute for Faith and Science www.iguw.de in Marburg (Germany).