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Finding God at the University

Back in 1992, Ari Goldman published his personal investigations into spirituality at Harvard Divinity School, called The Search for God at Harvard. His search was a discouraging one, leading him to conclude that keeping faith in the modern academy was not a promising endeavour. In response, in 1997, Kelly Monroe collected 42 essays from faculty, students and orators at Harvard in a volume entitled Finding God at Harvard, that displays a rich tapestry of Christian faith within the institution.

Just last week, I picked up from the printers the University of Texas at Austin’s contribution to the “series,” edited by my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Don G. Davis, Jr., Emeritus, entitled, The Truth That Makes Them Free, A Collection of Essays. It contains essays from twelve UT faculty about their spiritual journeys in and around the “40 Acres.” The title comes from John 8:32, which is carved into the edifice of the UT Main building.

There is a deeper purpose aside from plugging our new book. This evening, a former student of mine dropped by the office. He now works in campus ministry with international students, particularly those of his native Vietnam. Tonight, he brought with him a man who is a Vietnamese national who works on staff with the same ministry in his native country. I presented him with a copy of the book and he was very excited, telling my student how he felt that many people (faculty, I think) at his campus would be very interested in reading the book, and how if it is successful, he’d like to see it translated into Vietnamese! Think of that—the book is less than a week old. It isn’t even available yet on Amazon, yet there is already talk of translating it into other tongues.

That is the hunger out there. As faculty, we have a platform few have access to, and many wish to hear from. Even our testimony has weight around the world. Whether other countries hate or love the US, they are fascinated by it, and because of the reputation of our universities, academics, students, and even government officials are interested in what we have to say, even about faith, even in closed countries.

The Vietnamese staff member said that he sometimes brings in an American professor to talk about success, and how it is best found first spiritually. He is eager to bring in other faculty because he knows students and others at his university want to hear from us. In spite of the resistance we have from our colleagues, it is not a global phenomenon. In fact, it is better viewed in the context of Christ’s quip in Nazareth, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” In some ways, this may be viewed as increased incentive to interpret the Great Commission in a sending context. “They ain’t listenin’ to me here, so I’ll go where they will listen.”

In fact, that is part of the motivation of this blog—to reach beyond the 40 Acres to any who are interested. There are just under 68,000 people at UT (faulty, staff, students), which is only 0.001% of the world’s population of just under 7 billion people. And UT is a big institution. So, there are a whole lot of people outside the borders of our campuses that can be reached by not limiting our spheres of influence to just our individual campuses. The written word spreads out and lasts beyond our days, and it is relatively easy and inexpensive to reach even the furtherest corners of the world from here.

Feel your oats. See how far the Lord will take you if you will lift your eyes from the row you hoe to the fields “white with harvest.”


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