Blog | Topic: Academics

Learning for the Love of God: A New (Revised) Resource from CPYU

LearningForLoveOfGodThe Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness, coauthored with Don Opitz, was published in 2007. Our hope was to provide a resource that would equip college students to be faithful to God in their academic pursuits. Thanks to the good folks at Baker Publishing Group and Brazos Press, we are releasing a 2nd edition with a new title: Learning for the Love of God: A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness. It includes updates throughout, two new substantive appendixes, personal stories from students, a new preface, and a fresh interior design. The new book also comes with a fresh new endorsement from one of our favorite philosophers and theologians James K.A. Smith of Calvin College:

“What does discipleship have to do with learning? How do I follow Jesus as a student? What does the Lord require of me at university? This marvelous book answers just these sorts of questions. It’s one of a kind, an expansive vision of Christian learning written not for professors but for students. Best of all, this is a book that can profit students in any educational context, secular or religious. Buy a box of these and give them to every high school senior you know.”

Wow. Thank you Dr. Smith.

Just in case the release of a revised edition of a previous book with a different title is confusing, here are a few FAQs:

Why does it have a new title? Good question. (Thank you.) The old title was connected to a very important book by George Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. While we really liked the idea of making the connection to that book, it was lost on most readers. Learning for the Love of God better describes the book’s content.

What is different about the new edition? Another great question! (Just doing my job.) There’s a new, short preface where we tell a few stories about how the first edition was helpful students. We didn’t want to change too much of the integrity of the original, so chapters 1-8 are very similar, with a few needed corrections and updates, making the text even more accessible to students. The interior design and layout make it easier to read, including a few pull-out boxes to highlight key terms and concepts.


Can you tell me more about the two new substantive appendixes? Of course I can. I’m glad you asked. The first appendix, “Deeper,” is an annotated bibliography, suggesting books for students looking for the next step. It’s also fun and a little funny, we think. A little different from most bibliographies we’ve read. The second appendix, “Liturgies for Learning,” was inspired by Jamie Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom. Smith argues that deep learning is never merely cognitive. When our emotions and our bodies get involved, learning tends to sink in and stick. Turning on the emotions and tuning in the body can happen in the classroom, but it sure helps to practice good liturgies of learning outside the classroom. So, we offer six learning exercises to put into practice!

If I already have a copy of The Outrageous book, should I buy a copy of Learning for the Love of God? Yes, in fact you should buy 5 copies of the new one.

Is there anything else you would like to say about the new book? Just this… the new book includes this dedication:

“For our friend and favorite bookseller, Byron Borger, whose love for God and learning exemplifies a life of faithful service to the King.”

Thank you Byron for your friendship and encouragement in this project! And thank you to all the readers who have made a 2nd edition possible!

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Infographic: Students Unprepared for College?

During my recent visit to Olivet Nazarene University, I had a lunch conversation with the Counseling and Health Services staff. After explaining my work presenting College Transition Seminars for students and parents, I asked the counselors what they think I should be sure to communicate to students (and parents) before they head off to college. Right away, one of the counselors responded: “Tell them that college will be hard work!” She went on to explain that she has noticed a trend among the students she counsels: many of them were not prepared for the challenges of college academics.

That conversation was in the back of my mind when I came across the following infographic created by College@Home. College is hard work and this infographic reminds us that more can be done to prepare students for the transition.

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So Thankful for Hearts & Minds Bookstore!

On Friday Hearts & Minds Bookstore of Dallastown, Pennsylvania will celebrate a major milestone for any small business. For thirty years, proprietors Byron and Beth Borger have faithfully and relentlessly served their neighbors and their God by selling books and promoting reading. As I sit here the day before Thanksgiving, Hearts & Minds and my friendship with Byron & Beth is pretty high on the list of things I’m thankful for!

I hope the Borgers don’t mind me pointing out that I was only five years old when they opened the store. As I was eating turkey (and too much cranberry sauce, again) during my first “break” from elementary school, the Borgers were probably putting books on shelves and a sign out front. It wouldn’t be until I was twenty-four that I would step foot into their store, nineteen years after it opened. And, with nineteen years of book evangelism under his belt, Byron went to work, recommending books and going over the “must reads” and best authors. It’s difficult to put into words what it is like to spend an afternoon with Byron at his store. Challenging. Exhilarating. Refreshing. Those words come to mind pretty quickly. So do names of authors. If it were not for Byron, I never would have known about or have been encouraged to read writers such as Wendell Berry, Walter Brueggemann or Marva Dawn. And now it’s hard to imagine my faith without reading their books. There are countless other books and authors too, but Berry, Brueggemann and Dawn represent three writers that Byron recommended at just the right time, as he always seems to do. And they are not authors that you typically see on display at most “Christian bookstores.”

There are many ways that I could honor Byron and Beth with this short reflection. Thirty years as a small business owner is inspiring enough, to say the least. What’s more, the bookselling industry has been hit pretty hard of late. Way to go Byron and Beth! Thirty years! Wow. But I don’t want to miss this opportunity to say very clearly and publically that Byron and Beth’s friendship and Hearts & Minds Bookstore fuel my work daily as the Director of CPYU’s College Transition Initiative. My passion is seeing young people take ownership of their faith during the critical years (18-25). Many times I will be talking to a teenager or parent or youth pastor and I’ll think: “If only they could spend five minutes with Byron, they could ‘see’ the difference faith in Jesus makes in every area of life.” To do my work well, I need resources and encouragement. Byron and Beth offer both on a regular basis!

The store itself is a reflection of the Kingdom of God. God cares about every nook and cranny of his Creation, and He has called people to serve Jesus is all areas of His world. (I can’t imagine writing that sentence without Byron’s influence.) And some of them have taken the time to write books (and sell them!) to spur others on to do likewise. Put simply, without Hearts & Minds, the Gospel of the Kingdom would be harder to believe.

Thank you, Byron and Beth, for your commitment and courage. It is an honor and blessing to call you friends. Here’s to thirty more years!

Please take a few minutes to watch this video of Byron talking about his store at the Center for Faith & Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. And join me in being thankful for the ongoing ministry of Hearts & Minds.

And, I am pleased to announce that on December 4, CTI will be hosting an event with Byron and Beth. The “Christmas Shoppin’ Drop-in” will be held at Mount Joy Mennonite Church from 6:30pm-9:00pm. There will be an opportunity to purchase thoughtful Christmas gifts from Hearts & Minds with a portion of the proceeds going to support the ministry of CPYU/CTI.

Learn more about the CTI “Christmas Shoppin’ Drop-inhere.

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Finishing Strong: Advice for Parents of High School Seniors

We try to finish strong in almost every area of life. Runners sprint toward the finish line. Sports’ teams make a final push to make the playoffs. Candidates deliver their best speeches right before Election Day. Retirees talk about moving from success to significance. And then there is high school. Many students coast through their final year. Limping toward the finish line has become the norm. There’s even a word for it: “Senioritis.” With 11 years of schooling behind them, some students develop an allergic reaction to institutions of education.

It might be easy for parents to adapt a similar posture and coast through the final year of parenting a high-schooler. Raising teens is hard work. While most students are ready for high school to be over, many parents might be just as ready for their kids to move on. It’s understandable. But that attitude could cause parents to miss a remarkable opportunity to engage their teens in more meaningful conversations. And teens need it.

According to William Damon of Stanford University, only 20 percent of teens “express a clear vision of where they want to go, what they want to accomplish and why.” Many students don’t seem to know why or if they want to go to college, what they want to study or what kind of career they want to pursue. I recently heard one student put it like this: “Going to college would be a waste of my time and my parent’s money. I have no idea what I want to do after high school.”

It’s easy to be frustrated by a young person’s apathy and lack of vision for the future, but have we done enough to equip teens with a better vision for how to make the most of their senior year? In his eye-opening book, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School, sociologist Timothy Clydesdale suggests: “More can be done to encourage those teens who do want to examine the purpose or direction of their lives by engaging them at deeper levels before the first year out of high school.” As your teens get ready to transition to their senior year, here is a “3-D vision” to keep in front of them…

Download the full article (PDF) here.

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What is College For?

Why do you think people go to college? I ask this question during the introduction of the College Transition Seminar. It is always interesting to hear how students and parents respond. “To get a job” is probably the reason I hear the most. And, of course, there are the playful, more peripheral answers: to get married, to party, and to play sports. But then someone will sheepishly raise a hand and suggest: “to learn something.” A few weeks ago at a church in Florida, in fact, I counted eleven answers that were given before someone mentioned, “learning” or “education.”

College is certainly about more than learning. The time between adolescence and adulthood includes a variety of character-forming decisions and activities. But it does surprise me when a room full of college bound students don’t naturally list “learning” as a reason for going to college. In his informative book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco  challenges readers to think more deeply about the aims of a college education.

Dr. Delbanco explains that historically there have been basically three prevailing answers to the question, what is college for? The most common answer is an economic one. A college education makes an individual more competitive in the job market. The second answer is based on citizenship. An educated society is required for a democracy to flourish. The third answer is rarely considered, however Delbanco thinks it deserves more attention: an educated person enjoys a fulfilling life. “You want the inside of your head to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life,” Delbanco quotes former college president, Judith Shapiro, to make his point. Delbanco laments:

“In Today’s America, at every kind of institution—from underfunded community colleges to the wealthiest Ivies—this kind of education is at risk. Students are pressured and programmed, trained to live from task to task, relentlessly rehearsed and tested until winners are culled from the rest. They scarcely have time for… contemplation.”   

And contemplation about education, and life in general, is desperately needed! According to Delbanco “most students have no clear conception of why or to what end they are in college. Some students have always been aimless, bored, or confused; others self-possessed, with their eyes on the prize. Most are somewhere in between, looking for something to care about.”

Students are craving something to care about. The pressure to perform and achieve is intense and often leaves students feeling empty. I recently had a conversation with a youth pastor who was worried about his students. Many of them were stressed and overwhelmed about their Advanced Placement (AP) courses. What’s more, the students who were not taking AP classes were looked down upon and ridiculed. At one point in our conversation, the youth pastor passionately asked, “Where is Jesus in all of this?”

This summer marked the fifth anniversary of the publication of The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. My good friend Don Opitz and I published this little book to try to answer the question this youth pastor appropriately asked: does Jesus care about our academic pursuits? Our hope is that our book serves as a guide for students who are perhaps “aimless, bored or confused.” It is also a challenge to students with their “eyes on the (worldly) prize.” We invite students to consider Kingdom-shaped answers to the questions, what is college for and why is learning important? Here are a few answers we suggest:

“We want you to find the deep satisfaction of pursuing your daily labors (for now, primarily attending class and studying) as service to God. We want you to experience the unending challenge of exalting Christ as Lord of your thinking… to imagine the application of your learning—your studies and plans and dreams—as an expression of love, or better yet, as a conduit for the love of God.”

“Christ is the very source of learning, and his disciples are the intended recipients of that wisdom and knowledge. As we learn in faith, not only will our own capacity for wonder and insight and love increase, but others will benefit as well.”

“Being concerned about grades is appropriate, but too often students become obsessive about grades and success and begin to lose the bigger picture. Learning needs to be pursued with the right motives and applied to worthwhile purposes.”

“Two things can happen to a college student, and both of these things are very bad. Unfortunately, both are also very common. You can lose the capacity to dream, and you can lose the gumption to act.”

“The Bible portrays a seamless continuity between our knowing and our doing… Learning isn’t merely for job readiness or self-advancement. Learning ought to be a way to love God and neighbor, a way to care for the creation and develop healthy communities.”

“If your capacity for delight and wonder and curiosity and compassion is being enlarged while you are in college, then that is a very good sign indeed… that is what most of us really want for ourselves. Academic faithfulness is the sure cure for collegiate boredom, apathy, and listlessness.”

When the topic of academic faithfulness or Christian scholarship has been raised, Christian students often see the challenge as beyond them, as a task for the stout and the wise, for the uniquely gifted. We think every Christian student has been called by God to think faithfully about learning. But students shouldn’t have to engage this conversation alone. A study guide has been created to be used in small groups as well. Our prayer is that The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness invites more and more students to ask better, bigger questions about faithfulness and learning.

Professor Delbanco’s new book, College, should help to keep this important conversation in front of many students and parents as they make important college decisions. I am grateful for Delbanco’s wisdom and hope his book is widely read.

(Read an interview from Inside Higher Ed with author Andrew Delbanco.)

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