Symposium Recap – Matthew Bracey on Faith and Scholarship

by W. Jackson Watts

Matthew Bracey’s Symposium paper really scratched a personal itch of mine, which is the relationship between faith and scholarship. Specifically, my good friend helped the audience think about this as a mutually-reinforcing enterprise to which all Christians are called.

Though he outlines several definitions of faith, and a few of scholarship, Bracey essentially means a committed appropriation of Christianity, applied to everyday life, church ministry, and the academy. He distinguishes between lay Christian scholars (all disciples) and professional Christian scholars (in the church and other professions).

Regardless of what type of scholar or student one may be, all scholarship is predicated on our pursuit of God’s glory, the knowability of truth, and a Total Personality (thinking-feeling-acting) understanding of personhood. From these we can faithfully express a vibrant intellectual life.

Bracey is clear to help us avoid a cold, purely cognitive understanding of the intellect. He calls for us to see how the life of the mind is indeed a spiritual concern, even if it is primarily concerned with ideas. His choice of an excellent James Sire quotation really drives this home. I’ll include just a snippet here:

           An intellectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications,  stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop            up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them. . .[1]

Though it may only be the calling and gifting of the professional scholar that is characterized by such a rigorous engagement with ideas, all believers are to love God with their minds.

Bracey also discusses the role of worldview in scholarship. This is a rather extensive discussion, partly due to the fact that so many varied definitions surrounding this contested term. In summary, though, Bracey’s point is that the professional scholar integrates all truth he acquires into “some coherent view of life and of the world” (68). He also cites seven helpful tenets of faith-learning integration from Beckwith and Moreland. I’d encourage interested readers to purchase the Digest online, or listen to Bracey’s presentation on our site to catch each of these. They’re all worth some reflection.

Moreover, Bracey lists some of the intellectual virtues which are essential to Christian scholarship. I found these to really expand one’s vision of intellectual and spiritual integrity, and yet remain consistent with what I think we find in the New Testament.

So many different facets of this topic were pursued in this paper, but one sentence that really stood out to me was a quote Bracey provided from A.G. Sertillanges: “by choosing one road I am turning my back on a thousand others.”[2] As someone who knows all too well the pull of ideas on my own heart and mind, I think this is something worth pondering in terms of choosing what we will give our time to.


I really appreciated the topic being taken up in this setting. After all, is there a more appropriate venue for such an exploration?

Mr. Bracey and I have discussed this topic countless times, as well as many of the secondary themes and points of his paper. We orient ourselves to this subject a little differently, and yet I find his presentation touching nearly every major theme one would need to consider in order to think well on this topic.

In an era where so many Free Will Baptists are pursuing higher education, rightly understanding the relationship between Christianity and scholarship is as important as it ever has been. It’s a good thing that papers like this are being given, and insight like this is being provided. I pray it gets a wider hearing.


Note: Page numbers in parenthesis above follow the printed Symposium Digest of Papers.

[1] James W. Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 27-28; Cited by Bracey in Symposium Digest, 67.

[2] A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, trans. Mary Ryan (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1998), 62; Cited by Bracey in Symposium Digest, p. 73.

Matthew Steven Bracey: Faith and Scholarship: A Christian Calling

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