Archive for the ‘Reflecting on Faith’ category

Signing Off: Greg Jones Bids Farewell

July 8, 2013

Friends and Colleagues:

After three years of service as the grad rep for the Conference on Faith and History, today marks my final work in the position.  I’m passing the torch to Mary Sanders, an Oklahoma State University PhD student and enthusiastic member of the CFH.  I’m certain Mary will do a great job for us.

Just by way of update, I am still finishing my doctoral work at Kent State University.  This fall I’ll be teaching via a temporary appointment at Geneva College, my alma mater.  I’ve been working as a part time instructor there for a few years and love it.  God is very good in His provision.

I thought I’d finish off my work at the CFH with a few personal reflections.  It is not an easy position to be both a Christian and a scholar.  I’ve learned that I need to spend a lot of time focusing more on Christ and less on my career.  Here are a few points of perspective for your consideration.

First, I learned that God provides.  I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a college professor.  In fact, I started talking about it in middle school.  My parents smartly reminded me that I might consider actually attending college before I thought about teaching it.  God opened the doors for my MA and PhD programs in ways that are hard to describe. When I faced the ending of my adjunct work at Kent State, God provided the opportunity at Geneva. I’ve learned a lot lately about the foolishness of cutting pieces of scripture out of context to suit our own needs, but I have to say the “seek ye first” passage [Matt. 6:33] seems true in any context.  Seek first God’s wisdom and righteousness, before personal career, and He will bless your work (albeit not always how you envisioned).

Second, I learned that no matter the work, my family matters most.  Without getting too autobiographical, I’d just like to say that time spent with family is never lost time.  For those of us with small children bouncing around our rooms, it may be difficult to focus on that book review or last minute edit, but time spent with family is never lost.  Don’t use family as a crutch to miss out on responsibilities, but remember that family is the root of life.  When you put them in the acknowledgements of your book one day, you want to mean what you say about their support.  Don’t cut yourself off from that which brings real blessing.

Third, I learned that nothing is promised.  Not a day is promised to us.  We have to live for the moment not in a hedonistic sense, but to do our best.  I may never teach another class.  The higher education bubble may burst any day, closing our access to ever teaching or researching again.  So enjoy today.  Read what you must, but also read what drives  you.  Tomorrow is not promised so work and play as hard as you can today.  When I hear colleagues whining and complaining about how much work they have to do, I can’t help but feel for them.  This “job” is such a blessing to me.  Do I always love grading?  Of course not.  Do I always love meetings?  No way.  But do I count it a blessing to work in the conditions I do with people that I love, reading and discussing the things that matter most?  Of course.

Wherever you are in your program, or even if you’re a non-academic that surfed your way to this entry, keep working.  Keep your hand to the plow.  Keep your nose to the stone.  Work, love, play, and embrace the world that we have.  God is good and His bounty is not complete.  Seek Him.  Listen to His guidance in career, in research, in writing, and in teaching.  Faith is more than a nice set of moral standards for conducting our lives.  Faith is the lived evidence of a Living God.  Testify with your life, with your work, and with all that you are.

Thank you, again, to the CFH for inviting me to this position.  Thank  you to my fellow graduate students who have shared in CFH panel discussions or corresponded with me.  Thank you to the grad students who will carry on after me.  It is my prayer that the organization continues to grow, beaming the Light of Christ in the midst of an ever-darkening Academy.  Let us be a beacon of hope for the Kingdom of God.

Greg Jones


Guest Post: History That Matters by Daniel Cooley

October 30, 2012

Daniel Cooley is a graduate student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He was kind enough to accept the invitation to reflect on CFH President R. Tracy Mckenzie’s Presidential Address from the conference at Gordon College.  Please take a moment to view his family’s adoption page.

History that Matters

Recently, I learned that some members of my church were concerned about the growing balance of our benevolence fund, which is devoted to assisting members in financial distress. It seemed as though the rate of distribution of these funds was slowing. I spoke to a former member of the committee that is responsible for distributing the money, and she shared something revealing. She told me that
no one with a legitimate need was ever turned away; however, the definition of legitimate need had changed. It had narrowed. This former committee member felt that the process was designed to protect the church against being taken advantage of rather than for increasing access to these funds. As I reflected on Tracy McKenzie’s address from our recent CFH meeting, I wondered if Christian historians might sometimes be guilty of an analogous practice. I wonder if we historians who posses a wealth of knowledge are sometimes guilty of a similar practice of narrowing the definition of need?

Through the course of the professionalization of history writing, the definition of what a historian can legitimately say has narrowed. So the sort of history that finds at least part its raison d’être in moral example is no longer a “legitimate need.” A famous example would be Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire which suggests that superstition and religious belief are dangerous to society. It brought down Rome, and it can bring down Enlightenment rationalism too.

This professionalization, of course, has afforded tremendous advances in the field, but this has also changed the definition of “legitimate need.” What I mean by this is that the sort of projects which are deemed significant, useful, and helpful has changed. Up until the modern period, it seems that historians were more likely to view their task in relation to their own real world context rather than an academic ghetto. Their task was to help their community to make sense of their identity, origins, purpose, and morality. At the same time, I suspect that nearly every professional historian working today would agree that they too want to make sense of questions related to identity, origins, purpose, and morality. If that is so, why does it seem that “public intellectuals” rather than professional historians are answering these historically minded questions for the general public?

To take this one step further, exactly how am I supposed to write history that matters? Who decides what is significant, useful or helpful? As I reflect on the conference this past week, these questions have been circulating in my mind. In the last few weeks, I obtained approval from my committee to begin writing my dissertation, and so these questions take on a new urgency for me. When I began to form my proposal, I did not sit down and think about these questions. My immediate concern was to write a dissertation that would satisfy my committee. My next concern was to write a dissertation that could get published. As I think back on this, I am not sure this was the best start in writing something that mattered. What do you think? How do we determine which projects are significant, useful, and helpful?

I think this question ought to compel us how we might “advance the field,” but I also think that it moves us beyond the world of the academy and into the realm of the world and the realm of the Church.

From President Hankins – A Message to Grad Students

September 24, 2012

CFH Grad Students,

A new academic year is upon us. For some of you it is your first in grad school. For others, you’ve been at it for many years now, perhaps nearing completion of your Ph.D.

Both prospects and everything in between can be exhilarating and terrifying.

When I was in grad school, the job market was about like it is now, perhaps worse. At times I was tempted to doubt whether I should be preparing for a profession with such a dismal record of career placement. In order to keep moving forward, I often thought of my situation like this:

Question: What do I want to do with my life?

Answer: Read, think, write, and teach.

Question: What am I doing currently in my grad work?

Answer: Reading, thinking, writing, and teaching.

I concluded that the right door had already opened, and I had been successfully placed in the career to which I felt called. I decided that as long as that door stayed open, I would continue in this vocation. Thirty years later, I’m still doing those things.

As much as is possible, concentrate on your calling in the situation you find yourself in at the moment. As an act of faith, believe that the papers you write, the lectures you give, and the discussions you lead, all contribute to the scholarly enterprise and ultimately to the kingdom. Pursue your calling as long as the door of Christian scholarship and vocation remains open, and leave the future in God’s hands.

See you at Gordon for the biennial Conference on Faith and History meeting.

Barry Hankins

President, Conference on Faith and History

Holy Week

April 5, 2012

This Holy Week, how will you choose to reflect your faith in your world?

I know some of you are saying “I do that every week.”  Good.  But this week, as we make special reflection, how will you do so in your classes?

This makes me contemplate my own work at two different schools, one a large state school and the other a small liberal arts Christian school.  I open one with snarky sports references, the other I often open with prayer.  As we embrace the holiday and its delicious traditions (mmm pie), we must also remember that the holiday is a remembrance of the greatest sacrifice ever made.

What I’m trying to say, without preaching to the choir too much, is that as Christians and historians, we need to be ever reflecting on our faith.  As we teach, think, and learn, we must keep focus on our faith not as a sidebar or interpretive framework, but as a life calling.  We are Christians and historians.  This week is important to us because it is the mark in which the Supernatural intervened into our natural humanity… and historically changed the world forever.

ESN on Failure

March 27, 2012

Grad students are not perfect (collective gasp!).  In fact, we often produce some lousy work in a rush.  Sometimes late night brilliance results in poor writing, bad thinking, and less-than-stellar grades.  For reflection on failure in graduate school, enjoy the Emerging Scholar’s Network article on the topic.

Check it Out: Kennedy on Science and the Church

January 16, 2012

Please check out this link to Point Loma’s Professor Rick Kennedy’s (Former CFH President) latest work.  It’s of particular interest to folks interested in science, Darwinism, and how that intersects with faith.  The historian/philosopher’s take is engaging if also re-orienting.  

As historians, this is an important read.  It shows that not only do we not have to check our faith at the door of secular universities, but also that it is a worthwhile (perhaps even necessary) conversation.


The Bible is Dead; Long live the Bible

April 20, 2011

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has an interesting article from Timothy Beal about the life and death of the Bible.  Check it out.