God never meant for Christian faith to discard intellect. Jesus calls us to use our whole heart, soul, and mind in living out our devotion to Him. When Christians use their mind well, they glorify the Creator of that mind, and they contribute a Christ-like perspective to the world of scholarship. Part of InterVarsity’s vision to renew the campus takes into account not only the heart and soul of students and faculty on campus but their academic studies as well.
Pursuing True Results
For assistant professor Jimmy Kim at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, renewing the academic field of educational research means doggedly pursuing truth. Discovering truth may seem an obvious goal for a researcher, but Jimmy’s experience has not been so clear-cut.
In such an ideological field as education, Jimmy said that researchers are often tempted to use evidence to support their bias and may “cherry pick” findings to align with their theories. “As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to be as truthful as I can with my research and communicate the most accurate and valid story, even if it upsets the superintendent or doesn’t support a favored theory,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy’s research evaluates literacy interventions for children in high-poverty schools. Setting aside his own agenda and keeping a diligent watch on his objectivity, James can more accurately serve these students.
He accomplishes this by mentally shifting his role from researcher to God’s research assistant. “I’m the guy who’s trying to pray and listen to the Father—the principle investigator—about the research questions I should ask, the data I should collect, and the tests I should run,” Jimmy said.
While he researches, he prays. He wants these students to improve their literacy skills so they can read about God’s creation, science, and history; and so they can understand the Bible, despite its high readability level. Jimmy said, “When I do my research and have these samples of kids, they aren’t nameless or faceless, but they’re individual children whom I pray for.”
Strengthening the Framework
Oyebola Olabisi, a Nigerian student in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, also desires to bring integrity and truth to her field of public policy. She wants her studies to influence research and training procedures in Nigeria and other African countries.
“I am hoping to really inform the policy making process so that it’s more thorough, more methodical, and has more substance behind it beyond what the leader feels like doing at that moment,” said Oyebola.
When Oyebola first came to Harvard, she thought her goals should be tangible, like implementing a drastic change in health care systems. But her InterVarsity community encouraged her to be thorough in all her work. She began to realize that first she must strengthen the framework within government policy making before changing outer structures.
“Being able to bring more transparency and truth to the whole process of policy making is in itself an expression of what it means to follow Christ,” said Oyebola. More and more, her InterVarsity chapter is considering a biblical perspective on issues like fair trade and globalization, asking God, “What do You think? Which direction should we be moving?”
Bringing a Christ-like Perspective
Sometimes renewing the campus means considering Jesus’ approach to certain fields of study. InterVarsity member Daniel Thies comes from a long line of lawyers and has seen first-hand how the law helps people during crucial times, setting the standard for justice within communities.
As an undergraduate law student at Harvard Law School, Daniel also sees many of his peers wondering why they should commit their careers to social justice. “I think any secular basis for bringing justice to society is ultimately inadequate,” said Thies.
Thies explained that in a law school classroom, professors use the Socratic method, questioning every statement to reach some foundational justifications. The method trains students to be good public speakers and sharp thinkers on their feet. But it rarely uncovers satisfying answers, mostly giving hazy observations about “the greater good.”
Thies believes that InterVarsity students bring a Christ-like perspective of justice into classroom conversations, providing concrete answers for what it means for humans to flourish and creating effective legal systems. This specific point of view often produces practical solutions that scholars can use, rather than continuing vague discussions.
The university has significant influence in our society and culture. Far from being against progress, InterVarsity students and faculty are in the midst of renewing scholarship practices on campus. Jesus calls Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we honor Him by using our minds to bring truth to each field of study.
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