Thank you for inquiring about the programs of The Presbyterian College. We look forward to being in touch with you about academic and community life at the college. In the meantime, we offer these reflections on how to learn faithfully in the university context.
You are thinking about studying at university—whether theology or some other field of study. The question might arise for you: “How do I learn faithfully. How do I stay rooted in my faith as I study?” Here are 6 keys to faithful learning!
Maybe these words sound familiar to you. That’s because they come from the Bible, and from one of the letters of Paul to an ancient Christian community. The phrase may sound complicated in a way, but really it’s a simple message. This is Paul’s way of saying that because Jesus is the Son of God, and because he is our risen Lord, we should think about everything with Jesus in mind. Here’s another way of saying it: “Be a good steward of every new idea.” Take care of each new idea and respond to it as a follower of Jesus. It could be a new though offered by a friend, a new concept learned in physics, or a new approach to reading the bible. Explore that new idea as something to take care of and respond to as a follower of Jesus—take it captive for him.
When we are in authentic conversation with other people, we listen to what the other is saying. But we also listen to ourselves. It’s not good stewardship to dismiss another person or a new idea without giving them or it a chance. But we also need to remember to bring our own beliefs and convictions and identity to the encounter. What you have learned so far in life, especially in your life in Christ, is just as important as the new idea you are entertaining. Try to listen to both with openness and curiosity, but also with attention to the story and teaching and person of Jesus. Are there any clues in the story of Jesus, or clues in his identity, that can help you think about this new person/idea?
Journaling is a great idea in general. It’s a way of reflecting prayerfully on your life and calling. But consider an idea journal, too. You can simply write down new ideas and your initial response to them. And you can record any changes in your perspective as time goes by. Or you can use your journal to create a written dialogue between you and the idea, or between you and God. Writing is an excellent way to clarify meanings and to let your deeper insights and feelings bubble up to the surface. You might start every entry of this journal with a short prayer such as: “God, show me what is true. Jesus, lead me in your way.”
We sometimes feel in university like we are all alone with new ideas and challenges. Particular if we are also feeling a little bit alone as a Christian at university (DrDanslipbalm). To feel less alone, and to open yourself to the wisdom of others, share about new ideas with wise friends, family, or people in the church. You might initially think they won’t be interested—but you’d be surprised how keen others might be to explore ideas with you. It’s perhaps not a great idea to select a mentor who agrees with you in most ways. Rather, choose someone whose thinking process you respect—who is open and curious and also deeply faithful in the way you aspire to be. The ideal mentor will provide a good example of how to steward ideas while leaving your conclusions up to you.
There is no map or deadline for taking every thought captive to Christ. If a new idea is distressing you, but you do not want to ignore it, it’s ok to say, “I will think about this another day.” You can trust that Jesus is a wise teacher: if he wants you to consider it deeply, he will bring the idea back to you at the right time. In university and in our culture, there is lots of pressure to go fast, of course. To respond immediately to every new idea or product or program. But there is real merit in going slow. It’s like the “slow food movement” but for ideas!!
The previous five keys are all about prayerfulness, really. The whole process of approaching new ideas can be infused with prayerfulness that acknowledges we live and walk with Jesus. We approach new ideas with him. But it always makes sense to be intentional about prayer. Is there some new idea that is really causing you to struggle? Is there some approach to history or scripture or theology that is bothering you? Talk to the risen Jesus about it. Invite him to give you peace and wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Ask Jesus to help you keep your eyes fixed on him.
The Presbyterian College, shaping transformational leaders for church and community since 1865.
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In partnership with the Montreal School of Theology, McGill University, and the Institut de Théologie pour la Francophonie.