The newest issue of the Ichthus is out (go read it if you haven’t already!), and it’s brimming with interesting articles. I was especially fascinated by Stanley Hauerwas’ “War and the American Difference: A Theological Assessment”. He does, indeed, deal with war; but he also explores the purpose of the university, arguing that the university has changed into a purely research-driven institution as the “great separation” of politics and theology has seeped into our thought. He writes, “once the “great separation” is accepted then a Hobbesian world cannot be avoided, that is, a death determined world committed to the defeat of death. In such a world the university cannot help but become the home of technologies designed to increase our power over fate.”
Much of what Mr. Hauerwas says rings true. The fear of death must, indeed, be a powerful motivator once all hope of transcendent meaning is taken away. However, I believe that changes occurring in the university do not involve what is studied so much as how it is studied. After all, the natural sciences in themselves are not problematic—in fact, they spring naturally out of a theistic universe in which creation is good, stable, and open to being explored. And the humanities, as much as the sciences, can be tainted by the drive to escape death. They are twisted from being a joyful exploration of the meaning already inherent in the world and perceived by humankind to being a fevered attempt to push our own paltry meanings onto the denuded world around us.
Mr. Hauerwas calls Christians to “[do] theology unapologetically…[to] reclaim theology as a knowledge central for the work of any university worthy of the name ‘university’”. I submit that this should take two forms. First, theology as a discipline in itself must be embraced by those who have the passion and abilities to make theology their life’s work. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, theology must be studied by those who have found their calling in other disciplines. I am not myself a theologian; I do not know to what extent divinity schools and religion departments unabashedly study God. However, I am a student, and I have seen that even among my Christian friends there is a need for a deeper and more intellectual understanding of what we believe. The seemingly abstruse questions that theologians consider have important practical consequences for our lives as Christians and as beings in society. Theology is central for any university worth the name, because the “study of God” must be at the center of every academic discipline. Our Lord is the creator of all, and so all of creation is suffused with His glory. As university students—as people—we must work for a greater understanding of that glory, for it has razed death to the ground.