Christian witness in the university

Integrity, incarnation, and dialogue in today’s universities

At this time of advent, as we consider the incarnation of Jesus, we want you to pray for student witness to our God-made-flesh in the university.

Start by thinking of some specific students you know and use these excerpts from an article about incarnational witness to inspire your prayers for them.

“The incarnation of the Word of God in human flesh speaks of identification, dependence, vulnerability, and weakness. It proclaims a Saviour who comes to us where we are, looks through our eyes, speaks with our tongue, wears our clothes, carries our infirmities, and suffers in solidarity with us. An incarnational engagement with the university implies that we are fully immersed in the life of the university.”

Pray students you know would be immersed in their universities, witnessing with integrity as they study, debate, write essays and learn from others.

“A university is a place where conversations of many kinds are taking place, whether in the classrooms, the research labs, the tutorials, the senior common room (faculty club), the student union, or the host of student societies that sprout on campus. That is where Christians should be, humbly yet boldly joining those conversations (which, for the most part, they have not initiated) and taking them in a different direction. I believe it is possible to start with any subject, from the most ridiculous to the sublime, and if we ask sufficiently probing questions we descend to the bedrock issues that the gospel addresses: What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of ultimate reality? What is it we truly value and why? Whence do we derive our notions of good and evil, reason, beauty, or justice?

Pray for students to be good at asking questions and seeing the bedrock issues of the gospel behind everything. Pray they would have confidence in humbly and boldly joining in conversations that are already happening in their universities.

“We do not take Christ into the university; it is he who goes ahead of us and leads us there. He is present, even though unacknowledged, in the biochemistry laboratory, the music class, the radio astronomy centre, the Student Union debates about global warming or student funding, and all the conversations that make up university life. We are called to discern his presence and activity and articulate it with courage and wisdom.”

Praise God that he is already at work in the universities. Pray students would be sensitive to listening to what he is doing and be ready to serve him.

And above all, pray that Christ would be made “flesh” through the witness of his people, on campus and in the university through this period of advent.

Read the full article from Vinoth Ramachandra on “Christian witness in the university” in issue four of IFES Word & World. Vinoth is the IFES Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement.

Quotations marked NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Discussion questions

Read Vinoth Ramachandra, “Christian witness in the university”, and John 15:26-27.

  • When we bear witness, to whom do we witness? Who does the witnessing?
  • What does it mean for you to practise integrity in your studies and work?
  • Does your student fellowship or church bear witness to the body of Christ as a community with no divisions based on sex, ethnicity, or social class?
  • Do you tend to think of bearing witness in the university as about hosting evangelistic events, about participating in events others organize, or both?
  • When have you taken part in dialogue in the university? How has that dialogue changed you? How has that dialogue changed those with whom you speak?

Further reading

  • Chong Yun Mei, Lisman Komaladi, and Esther Yap Yixuan, eds. Engaging the Campus: Faith and Service in the Academy. 2nd ed. Singapore: Fellowship of Evangelical Students, 2016. 
  • Lundin, Roger, ed. Christ across the Disciplines: Past, Present, Future. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013. 
  • Malik, Charles Habib. A Christian Critique of the University. 2nd ed. Waterloo, Ont.: North Waterloo Academic Press, 1987. 
  • Peskett, Howard, and Vinoth Ramachandra. The Message of Mission: The Glory of Christ in All Time and Space. Bible Speaks Today. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003. 
  • Ramachandra, Vinoth. Gods That Fail: Modern Idolatry and Christian Mission. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1996. 
  • Sloane, Andrew. On Being a Christian in the Academy: Nicholas Wolterstorff and the Practice of Christian Scholarship. Waynesboro, Ga.: Paternoster Press, 2009. 

Footnotes

[1] Charles Villa-Vicencio, A Theology of Reconstruction: Nation-Building and Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 265-66.

[2] Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 155.

[3] Andrew Walls, “Introduction”, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Edinburgh: T & T Clark; New York: Orbis, 1996).

[4] Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980), 121-2.

Quotations marked RSV are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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