Life of the Mind, Life of the Spirit: HPU speaking sessions celebrate crossroads of faith and academics

BROWNWOOD – February 27, 2019 – Embracing true Christian higher education is less about integrating faith with learning than it is about recognizing that the two are already inherently joined – no “integration” required. The study of science, history, math, English – every subject – is also the study of God the Creator.

With this in mind, Howard Payne University has instituted a new one-semester, intensive speaking series during which representative faculty and staff members share with their colleagues how they are incorporating this “life of the mind, life of the Spirit” philosophy into their teaching and/or administrative work. The personnel speak on how their areas of oversight function at the crossroads of the mind and the Spirit to teach and work from a biblically informed, Christian worldview that goes beyond simply allowing a Christian emphasis to fostering it.

Staff members from HPU’s offices of admission, marketing and communications and financial aid, along with faculty members from the schools of science and mathematics, education and Christian studies, have presented to their peers with several more sessions from others across campus planned throughout the semester.

Additionally, two colleagues in Christian higher education from North Greenville University in South Carolina recently joined HPU personnel for a professional development day on the topic of engaging the mind and the Spirit.

Speaking on the HPU campus were Dr. Gene C. Fant Jr., president of North Greenville University, and Dr. H. Paul Thompson Jr., dean of North Greenville’s College of Humanities and Sciences and chair of the history department. Both emphasized that truly Christian higher education is about much more than praying before class.

Dr. Fant said that Christian educators have unique access to ideas and concepts in their content areas as illuminated by the light of Christ.

“You ought to understand the philosophical framework of your discipline through a light that others in your discipline who are not Christ followers cannot comprehend,” he said. “If I have the mind of Christ, I have the mind of the One who has helped us to understand the reality that He has prepared for us. I have access to ideas, understandings and perceptions that others (non-Christians) do not.”

He went on to say that students are hungry for spiritual conversations.

“Not only that, they are hungry for you to have spiritual conversations about your discipline,” he said. “There’s nothing that is ‘second class’ about being Christian in higher education. You have true academic freedom in that you can talk about things here that you would be called on the carpet for at a state university.”

Dr. Thompson taught for 13 years in public education before entering a career in Christian higher education.

“Making the transition to a place of being able to merge my faith with my discipline has not been arduous,” he said. “It’s been a joy. There is a wholeness now that I never had before professionally or personally.”

The two most powerful, life-changing experiences a person can have, said Dr. Thompson, are a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and a high-quality education.

“We are at ground zero in Christian higher education to merge those two intentionally and explicitly,” he said. “That’s a really, really powerful thing.”

Dr. W. Mark Tew, HPU’s provost and chief academic officer, said all HPU faculty and staff, regardless of their individual roles, are responsible for teaching the students in some way.

“Our prayer is that as we perform our jobs, we recognize that they are more than a series of tasks,” he said. “We have the opportunity every day to present and model to the students God sends our way the image of people who are seeking to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.”

It is exciting to know that we have been placed where we can help prepare the next generation of leaders, Dr. Tew said.

“We recognize that we can accept that challenge and shape and mold students in such a way that they go from here knowing that their careers are their calling to serve God so that they can use their gifts and talents that we’ve helped them fine-tune,” he said. “We pray they use these not just to make a living for themselves but as a means to a far greater end – that is to share the love of Christ in everything that they do.”

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Cutline: Colleagues in Christian higher education from North Greenville University recently joined HPU personnel for a professional development day on engaging the mind and the Spirit. Pictured are Dr. Gene C. Fant Jr. (left), president of North Greenville University, and Dr. H. Paul Thompson Jr., dean of North Greenville’s College of Humanities and Sciences and chair of the history department.