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Book Note: Teaching and Christian Practices, Edited by David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith

I would like to note a interesting book that came out last year:  Teaching and Christian Practices:  Reshaping Faith & Learning, edited by David I Smith and James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans, 2011), with a forward by Craig Dykstra and Dorothy C. Bass.  This collection of essays applies ideas from the philosophical, theological, and pedagogical literature of practice to teaching in church-related higher education.  More specifically, the work attempts two interventions in the literature on church-related higher education.  First, as do many such works in the last ten years, Smith and Smith recognize a new narrative for church-related higher education (some call it the “comeback” of church-related higher education) that has moved past the jeremiad tones of Marsden’s Soul of the American University  and Burtchaell’s The Dying of the Light  to recognize a renaissance in the way church-related institutions increasingly draw on their traditions’ theological, liturgical, and practical emphases to address pedagogy, research, and especially the new way religion or spirituality is expressed on both church-related and secular campuses.  Secondly, Teaching and Christian Practices adds another dimension to the dominant emphasis in the literature on integrating the intellectual resources of Christian theology with learning.  This added dimension is to consider the impact of Christian (and secular) reflections on practice.  Drawing on works in this category ranging from Alasdair MacIntyre  (philosophy) to Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra (theology) to Etienne Wenger (pedagogy), the contributors to the volume report on ways in which their classroom activities benefit from integrating certain practices from the Christian tradition.  In addition, Paul J. Griffiths offers a reflective essay on the basic project of the book that summarizes, as well, many of his intriguing arguments in the Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar, which explores the classical theological distinction between curiosity and studiousness in the contemporary academic context.

A description of Teaching and Christian Practices from Eerdmans’s website:

Over the past twenty years there has been a ferment of reflection on the integration of faith and learning — yet relatively little notice has been paid to the integration of faith and teaching in the Christian university. In Teaching and Christian Practices twelve university professors describe and reflect on their efforts to allow historic Christian practices to reshape and redirect their pedagogical strategies. Whether using spiritually formative reading to enhance a literature course, table fellowship to reinforce concepts in a pre-nursing nutrition course, or Christian hermeneutics to interpret data in an economics course, the authors present a practice of teaching and learning rooted in the rich tradition of Christian practices — one that reconceives classrooms and laboratories as vital arenas for faith and spiritual growth.

Posted by Joe Creech

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