Coming up in two weeks' time is the next in the series of Forming A Christian Mind conferences in Cambridge. Entitled "Christ, the Academy and the (Post-)Modern World: Approaching Your Subject in the Light of the Gospel", this event is slated as the first of three conferences for this academic year. The keynote speaker is David McIlroy, Visiting Professor in Law at SOAS (University of London), who will speak on ‘The Narratives of Modernity and the Christian Story’ and ‘Christianity and the Modern Conception of Rights’. At the end of the day there's a plenary talk by Daniel Hill,
A major challenge for younger academics is the increasing prevalence of both fixed-term contracts and institutional mobility. A year ago I wrote about moving from a university to a business environment, and now I'm back in a university again, with another shift in my research area. So I thought it might be helpful to share the story of these transitions and what I've learned through them.
Today I want to share a prayer that has become a regular part of my working life. At the Scriptorium here in Oxford, this is one of the prayers we say together at the beginning of every working day. It's usually attributed to the medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas; perhaps it will be helpful for you to use as you seek God's help in your work today.
In the next few weeks, I am hoping to submit my thesis. I'm not at the summit of my academic career (at least, I hope I'm not!) but I am approaching a significant waypoint that I've been working towards for three years. I don't really know what I expected to feel as I approached the final incline: victory, perhaps? I certainly don't feel that. I do feel wondrous awe and gratitude, though: at this natural pausing place in my academic (and life) journey, God has pulled me aside, turned me around, and shown me where I am and where I've come. It's a beautiful view.
Looking outside as I write this, I see that the nights are drawing in and there’s the beginnings of a chill in the air, which can mean only one thing: autumn term is nearly upon us. Inevitably, then, the minds of many academics will fast be turning away from ongoing research projects or thoughts of a holiday (or a kind of tug-of-war between both these things, as Georgina described so well in July), and towards the returning students and the task of teaching.
I'm drawing closer to the end of my doctoral work, and that means a lot of my work at the moment is revising drafts. In the last couple of weeks I have been redrafting the introduction to my thesis. This is slow, bitty work: fixing various details, doing small pieces of further reading and research, tightening up or clarifying expression on sentence level.
It's vacation season once more and everyone seems to be posting pictures of themselves lounging by the river, sipping G&Ts. No better time, then, to consider the role of rest in our work. Academia seems to offer lots of ‘time off’: Easter breaks, Christmas breaks, and summer breaks can dwarf the terms they punctuate. But we all know that breaks are not really breaks for researchers. When undergrads are away, academics rejoice: now we can really start getting some work done!
Christian thinkers have proposed a range of ideas about what science is, ranging from reading the book of God's works and "thinking God's thoughts after Him" to studying how the Universe runs itself if God doesn't intervene. Views like these were expressed by early modern scientists (Galileo, Bacon, Newton and others) who were Christians of one sort or another, but they needn't be the last word for a theistic perspective on science.
In this post I’d like to reflect on a tension that I consider to be quite widespread within academia. ‘Critical thinking’ is often extolled as one of the core virtues necessary for the intellectual life: much university-level teaching is geared towards developing this skill, and it is viewed as foundational for effective research.