Learning for the Love of God: Book Review

During the summer, people often have summer reading lists or beach reads which tend to be lighter fare. For myself, I tend to do my more serious reading in the summer. I have several books lined up to read this summer that I hope are interesting and that will be worth sharing with you. This is the first of an intermittent series of book reviews- for your summer reading enjoyment.

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I am the ministry coordinator for True North Campus Ministry, a ministry for college students in Grand Rapids Michigan supported by the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our particular interest at True North is helping students connect their faith with their daily lives. I am always on the lookout for books that help students make those connections. Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby’s book Learning for the Love of God:A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness, (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids MI), is a terrific book to help senior high school students and freshman college students begin to think in a Christian way about learning and college life.

The transition from high school to college can be difficult. Often students are moving away from home and living with strangers (at least initially) and that presents particular challenges. But even for students who live at home, there are significant differences between high school and college. The style of teaching and the expectations of professors can be quite different than students are used to. Students are, we hope, meeting people with different views and beliefs. And all students are concerned about fitting in, finding new friends and finding their place in college.

Opitz and Melleby have written a short and accessible book for students who are incoming freshmen. The book has eight chapters and so lends itself to small group study and discussion during the first half of the student’s first semester. There are good, open ended discussion questions at the end of each chapter that encourage students to reflect on what they have read and what they have encountered in school.

What I appreciate most about this book is that it encourages students to enter academic life wholeheartedly and unafraid. Many Christian students come to college worried that people will try to damage their faith. While that may be true sometimes, the authors encourage students to carefully cultivate a biblical worldview and to understand how that worldview is the same and different than the other worldviews they will encounter. All truth is God’s truth and students do not need to be afraid of the truth. We are able to learn from all sorts of people.

Opitz and Melleby spend considerable time in the book discussion modernity and postmodern worldviews and how they differ from a Christian worldview. The idea is not that we reject modernity or post modernity, but that as Christians we strive to reframe ideas, and academic disciplines into a Christian worldview that seeks the well-being of all.

The authors remind students that being is college is preparation for their future careers and they are not responsible to “fix” or correct the views of their professors. In fact it is unfair to expect 19 year olds to debate older more experienced persons. They explain that developing the ability to think with a biblical worldview and the ability to reframe ideas is a process. It is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. A student’s college career is when they begin to practice that skill.

Students are encouraged to find a group of Christian friends with whom they can talk about how their Christian perspective shapes their learning and grow in that ability. The idea of bringing one’s faith to whatever one is doing is what True North encourages students to do. We hope students develop an ability to engage the world thoughtfully and faithfully.

If you are not a high school or college student, or involved with students there is probably not much reason for you to read this book. But if you are a student or the parent of a student or work with students, this is a gentle and wise book to read and share.

One note: This book Learning for the Love of God,is the second edition of the book The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. There is not too much difference between the two editions except some minor editing- the phrase “Christian worldview” and “Christian view” have been changed to “biblical worldview” and “biblical view”. The authors have added some charts to help clarify certain concepts. Two helpful appendices have been added. The first gives a variety of very good resources for further reading organized by topic, for example, the Bible, spiritual disciplines, the life of the mind  and faith and culture among others. The second appendix has what they call “Liturgies for Learning” which are a variety of practices they suggest students consider. These practices are very straightforward and grounded in the Christian tradition. These appendices are good enough to consider buying the new edition, even if you have the first edition.

One other note: I received a free digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but no other compensation.

One thought on “Learning for the Love of God: Book Review

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