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Storyboarding your discipline

How the world of academia or the profession we choose can be united in our lives as a tool for our Christian walk is not a question necessarily applied to our circadian experience on campus. For the most part, our academic discipline seems to stand-alone--at least from how we relate the gospel message to those around us--and we think of ourselves as Christians who happen to be economists, statisticians, psychologists, or artists.

Author: 
Apryl Morden
Full text: 

How the world of academia or the profession we choose can be united in our lives as a tool for our Christian walk is not a question necessarily applied to our circadian experience on campus. For the most part, our academic discipline seems to stand-alone--at least from how we relate the gospel message to those around us--and we think of ourselves as Christians who happen to be economists, statisticians, psychologists, or artists. It is often the job we do rather than a direct point through which, or from which, we approach and share the gospel message. Yet the people with whom we work are also people with whom we may share our faith, but do we necessarily explain our faith at the same academic level at which we explain our discipline? Do we even understand our faith at the same level at which we understand our discipline?

This was the task put to a small group of academics by Christopher Watkin of Monash University: storyboarding our individual academic disciplines, as a tool that engages fundamentally with our experience of life as a Christian. To learn to be able to explain convictions of faith as a Christian in the same way we engage with and explain our disciplines.

The group was set the task to tackle the breakdown of a discipline into a ‘storyboard’, in essence finding the right categories to reduce the story to key moments, namely what our disciplines has to say about ontology, anthropology, ethics, soteriology, epistemology and eschatology. In this, the task led us to think through the key elements of our disciplines; what is crucial, what is implicit, and what is anathema to our fields. This breakdown or storyboarding was for the purpose of better understanding our disciplines in the light of our Christian faith, better engaging with our colleagues in these given ‘key moments’ in our disciplines. This rationale, of providing explanations of faith on a level on par with academic thinking, highlights what is important to the colleagues around us in our immediate academic or work context. Knowing what engages them, and where their convictions lie (in regard to their profession), helps us to understand an approach to sharing the gospel with them.

We can’t expect to develop this understanding immediately, but need to see it as an ongoing part of our life as Christian researchers.

For those interested in undertaking this exercise for themselves, here are some questions to help unpack your discipline:
• What assumptions does nobody in your discipline question?
• What is a virtuous thing to do in your discipline?
• What is the worst thing you could possibly say or do, academically, in the eyes of your colleagues?
• For your discipline, who are the “baddies”?
• If the leaders of your discipline became the leaders of the world, what would the world look like?
• For individual methodologies or positions: what bigger story is this part of? What story is being told and what are its values and assumptions? What other stories are not being told?
• Where did this come from/what is it reacting against or trying to renew?
• In terms of which of these categories (ontology, anthropology, ethics, soteriology, epistemology or eschatology) is your discipline most at variance with Christianity?

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