Science in Christian Perspective



Christian Teacher-Secular College: A Paradox
Department of Biology
Nassau Community College
Garden City, New York 11533

From: JASA 36 (December 1984):227-234.

The active presence of a Christian teacher in a secular college is not only non-contradictory; but this presence is absolutely necessary, if the true mission of the school is to be realized and if its true aim is to be attained.

The gift of the Christian message to the school is as necessary for its proper end to be realized, as is the gift of grace necessary for each individual to reach his or her proper end. Individuals who resist grace lose their way and institutions that reject this same grace in the form of the Christian message lose their way as well.

The thrust of this paper will be to propose that a Christian teacher in a pluralistic, secularistic school is not only non-contradictory but this presence is absolutely necessary, if the true mission of the school is to be realized and if its true aim is to be attained.

Two works serve as the basis of this presentation: The Idea of a University by John Henry Cardinal Newman (1852), and Lay Teachers-Witnesses to Faith, a document on the Catholic lay teacher from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education (1982).

In 1852, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Rector-elect of the new Catholic University in Dublin, began a series of lectures to the church hierarchy of Ireland in an attempt to persuade them to support the founding of the university. These lectures grew into The Idea of a University. Newman argued that of necessity, theology must be a formal and integral part of the university. He attempted to justify this relationship to his audience by not "bringing into the argument the authority of the Church, or any other authority at all; but I shall consider the question simply on the grounds of human reason and wisdom. "1

Although most of us do not teach in departments of theology, I believe that there is a close parallel between Newman's arguments for the inclusion of a "Theological Chair" within the university and the inclusion of the "Christian Message" in secular subjects. Such parallel does not imply a substitution of the Christian message for the content of a secular subject. What is intended is to allow the light of the Christian message to illuminate this content wherever possible. This illumination is only justified if it allows the truth of the secular subject to be seen more clearly or comprehended more completely by the student. Any attempt to equate this message with the content of the secular course, or to replace one with the other would be a foolish and abusive use of teaching authority.

There are two important questions raised by the proposal to include the Christian message in secular subjects. How, in an admittedly pluralistic society such as ours, could it be possible for one to teach secular courses in a secular university within the framework of one specific religious belief system? This is without doubt a question of significance and one which must be answered. I believe, however, that the second question is more basic. Is there any one specific religious belief system which can be used as a framework within which all human endeavor and knowledge take on a more full, clear, and profound meaning? The answer to the latter question is yes, and this religious belief system is the Christian message which is not only the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, but the ultimate source of any and all truth to be found in all other religious belief systems. The former question can only be addressed as it must be, after the latter is answered in the affirmative.

Whether or not the college or university is founded upon Christian presuppositions is not really important. Whether or not the Christian message is necessary for that institution to be what it should be, and to do what it should do is very important.

The gift of the Christian message to the university is as necessary for its proper end, as is the gift of grace necessary for each individual to reach his or her proper end. Individuals who reject grace lose their way, and institutions that reject this same grace in the form of the Christian message lose their way as well.

In teaching, there are three concepts which must be taken into consideration: The subject matter being taught, (truth), the recipient or object of the teaching, (the student), and the relationship between faith and reason. Regardless of the type of teaching institution, Christian or secular, the instructional tone of that institution will be significantly influenced by the accepted meaning of these concepts.

I personally believe that the lack of possession of the concept of the real nature of the student is the one major failing of our educational system. We try to teach our students to be fully human without knowing or accepting their real nature. This ignorance of true human nature is secondary and flows naturally from the essential ignorance of not recognizing or accepting the reality of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Christians we believe with certitude that we are a composite; a body via human generation and a soul created by God. We are the result of a cooperative act of love. Our parent's conjugal love was left cooperatively open to the creative love of God. We were literally loved into existence by the creative will of God. Our nature is, although not that way from the beginning, sinful, fallen, imperfect and naturally prone to evil, Fortunately God loves us so much that He not only wants us with Him, He became incarnate to personally atone for our sins and to tell and show us how to live to be happy here and now and for all eternity. We come from God as our true origin. We live by the grace of God, our true sustainer. We return to God, our true end. This is real human nature.

Unless all parties to the educational process recognize, accept and act upon the real nature of the student, the process is doomed to failure. If we do not remind our students of their true nature, they will be told without hesitation and with an enthusiasm often greater than our own that they are grand accidents, very intelligent, but only animal in nature, here only for their own ease, comfort and enjoyment. And why not? After life there is only the oblivion of extinction.

In addition to having a Christian concept of the nature of our students, we also have the Christian concepts of the nature and relationship of truth and faith. As Christians we believe that truth exists on two planes: natural truths which may be arrived at by the use of reason alone, and supernatural truths which human reason would never arrive at unless aided by Divine Revelation. Truths to be taught then do exist at two levels, the level of reason and the level of faith.

Reason refers to one process by which we are able to arrive at truth. Truth, as used in this paper, is to be taken in the general sense of conformity of mind and reality. It is not within the scope of this paper to distinguish kinds of truths, e.g., logical truth, scientific truth, metaphysical, ontological truth, moral truth, or revealed truth, etc.

Faith and reason are distinct entities but as both are always found to a degree in one individual they are not completely

No one can seriously argue against the fact that teachers are professionals. What we may need to be reminded of from time to time is that teaching is more than a profession. It is a vocation.

separated from each other. There is a definite relationship between faith and reason. The common ground of both faith and reason being truth.

Many, in and outside of academic circles, would have us and our students believe that Divine Faith and human reason are incompatible. Faith and reason are presented as contradictions. We know that this is a distortion. We recognize a compatibility between acts of faith and acts of reason. We do not fall into the trap of saying that Faith and reason are contradictory; human reason alone is not able to completely understand the mysteries of Faith which we accept as true based upon the authority and truthfulness of God, the Revealer. To admit to a contradiction here, would force us to admit to contradiction between our reason and physical "mysteries" presented to us by authoritative and truthful specialists in any field of human knowledge in which we lack complete mastery.

It is natural to find in everyone a response between faith in some human authority and the use of our natural human intelligence, It is just as natural to expect to find in those who leave themselves open to it, a "relationship between human response to God's revelation and the use of human native intelligence."2 Among other things, human reason "can both show that the mysteries of the faith are in harmony with naturally known truths and can defend their validity against the charge of being contrary to reason'3 in order to "teach students" it is necessary to know and act upon these basic concepts-the true natures of the student, truth, faith and reason, and the real relationship between faith and reason. Newman considers faith in the traditional sense, of being an intellectual act (rather than as a strict feeling or emotion). Faith has truth as its object; as its result faith produces knowledge of things to be believed (credenda), and of things to be done (agenda). Faith, therefore, in this sense is communicable.

Problems-Old and New

A question which Newman asks early in his lectures is whether it is consistent with the idea of university teaching to exclude Theology from a place among the sciences which it embraces."4 It would seem that in many contemporary institutions of higher learning this question has been answered with a thundering affirmative. Not only has Theology (faith in the Triune God, seeking understanding through formal and systematic study), been excluded, but even the most vague reference to the Deity as a reality that has something to say about our life-styles has been anathematized.

The exclusion of theology from the university was to Newman, an "intellectual absurdity."5 He presents his reason for saying so in the form of a syllogism:

A university, I should lay down, by its very name professes to teach universal knowledge: Theology is surely a branch of knowledge: how then is it possible for it to profess all branches of knowledge, and yet to exclude from the subjects of its teaching one which, to say the least, is as important and as large as any of them? I do not see that either premise of this argument is open to exception.6

If the university is to operate on a consistent plane of logic, God cannot be ignored. if God is ignored by the university, then other realities may, by the same lack of logic, be ignored. Newman asks:

Are we to limit our idea or university knowledge by the evidence of our senses? Then we exclude ethics; by intuition? We exclude history; by testimony? We exclude metaphysics; by abstract reasoning? We exclude physics. Is not the being of a God reported to us by testimony, handed down by history, inferred by an inductive process, brought home to us by metaphysical necessity, urged upon us by the suggestions of our conscience? It is a truth in the natural order, as well as in the supernatural.7

In retrospect, Newman's examples may limp, but his conclusion-that if sacred knowledge is compromised, the end result will be to "break up into fragments the whole circle of secular knowledge, if you begin the mutilation of the divine"8is valid. When I first read these words on the fragmentation of this circle of human knowledge, I could not help thinking of the almost infinite number of courses offered to our students. Departmental disciplines have been so extended, so protracted that the basic truths of these disciplines have been stretched and shredded into a proliferation of courses that cannot be explained merely on the basis of any type of knowledge explosion or technological demand.

Newman talks about human obstacles to knowing Faith as truth. There are those who would deny the propositions of the Faith altogether. There are those who recognize their existence, but deny the right to teach matters of Faith in any but formal theological studies. There are still others who recognize it, but recast it in their own image. How close to home strike the quotations used by Newman to describe the remarks of the antagonists of his time. "We do not pretend to lecture on Theology, and you have no claim to pronounce upon Science.9 "Why cannot you go your way and let us go ours."10

Newman cautions about the consequence of failing to teach religious truth.

... if there be religious truth at all, we cannot shut our eyes to it without prejudice to truth of every kind, physical, metaphysical, historical, and moral; for it bears upon all truth. "

Newman makes an analogy between two systems of education. One system of study is one in which the idea of the agency of man in the natural world is neither recognized nor allowed and only physical and mechanical causes are considered. Man's mind and its powers are omitted in a most cavalier fashion. If man is mentioned at all, it is only by way of explanation of his omission. The other system, one with which we are only too familiar, is one in which the agency of God in human events is treated in the same way.

Certainly the former scheme would present a radically one-sided view of reality, a view so radical that if we proposed such a system of education, we would be considered mad. We would be rightfully told that the knowledge which we were transmitting was unreal. In using this analogy Newman brings out the unreality of both schemes. If the omission of man is an absurdity,

Edward W. Habert is Professor of Biology at Nassau Community College. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from St. John's University. His main research interests are in cytogenetics and insect viruses. He has read papers at meetings of The American Society for Cell Biology, the Entomological Society of America, and the Tissue Culture Association. Abstracts of his papers have been published in the Proceedings of these organizations. He has also published research findings in Cytologia, had articles published in Newsday and The Nassau Review. This paper is based upon a talk presented to a joint IVCF-ASA meeting in the fall of 1983, by a non-ASA catholic brother.

worse incomparably, for the idea of God, if there be a God, is infinitely higher than the idea of man, if there be a man. If to blot out man's agency is to deface the book of knowledge, on the supposition of that agency existing, what must it be supposing it exists, to blot out the agency of God?"

In Newman's mind the suppression of teaching the Faith will result in the compromise of all truth.

Another result of not teaching the truths of the Faith is that an intellectual vacuum is set up temporarily. Other things not proper rush into this void and take the place of what rightfully should be there. If Faith is removed, non-Faith will enter. As Newman puts it: "We cannot do without a view, and we put up with an illusion, when we cannot get a truth.13

In regard to the intellectual vacuum which results from not teaching the truths of the faith he observes:

that if you drop any science out of the circle of knowledge, you cannot keep its place vacant for it; that science is forgotten; the other sciences close up, or, in other words, they exceed their proper bounds, and intrude where they have no right ... they would be sure to teach wrongly, where they had no mission to teach at all.14

The truth of this statement is borne out by practical experience in my own field. Biology speaks often and well when she "sticks to her last." However, when the biologist, as a biologist, speaks to matters that are of faith rather than science, science suffers, is made to appear foolish, and the student is not presented with truth but with biased conjecture and outright lies. It is very difficult, especially for an intellect in the process of development, to recognize that an authority in biology may be just that and no more. Speaking as a biologist, there is an overstepping of the bounds of his or her authority when teaching about matters of faith exclusively under the umbra of this natural science. This dishonest approach to teaching not only presents a distortion of faith, it is extremely poor science.

Such biased digression from truth is illustrated by the chapter on evolution in A View of Life by Salvador Luria, Stephen Gould, and Sam Singer, which was published in 1981. Sadly, the misrepresentations stated in this text are the rule rather than the exception in textbooks of general biology.

The student is told: "Evolution is a fact."15 There is no qualification of the sense in which the term evolution is used, The impression is that evolution in the Darwinian sense has been proven scientifically. In fact it has not.

Continuing, the student reads: "Humans have evolved from ape-like primates. That too is fact."16 In both of these statements the authors seem to have taken an inordinate amount of liberty with their use of the word fact. Words do, and must have meaning, and the word fact means something known to have happened, a truth known by actual experience or observation.

Professor Luria and his co-authors cap their point of view with the following declaratiom

Then biology demonstrated that we are not created in the image of an all-powerful God, but had evolved from monkeys by the same process that regulates the history of all organisms.17

How could biology demonstrate anything about a nature (God's) to which the humanistic-rationalist denies existence? How could biology, a science, demonstrate anything about an object which is non-quantifiable? Biology would certainly

If the university is to operate on a consistent plane of logic, God cannot be ignored.

appear foolish in any attempt to measure the immeasurable. Biology could never prove or disprove that man is made in God's image. We can at this point echo a loud "Amen" to Newman's observation that "They would be sure to teach wrongly, where they had no mission to teach at all."19

Not only is this declaration of Luria, et al a typical corruption of a supernatural truth, which in itself is bad, but even worse is its potential effect upon the student; it offers him an illusion when be seeks the truth. How many accept and live, based upon frequency of repetition, the illusion that we are biological accidents; that we are made strictly for animal pleasure; that sex is only for fun; that marriage is solely for convenience; that taking of innocent human life by abortion and euthanasia is permissible and desirable; that escape from the unpleasantness of reality through the use of drugs and alcohol is a legitimate recourse; that we live only for the here and now and, should life become a burden, suicide is an option; and that there is no life principle higher than self-indulgence and self -gratification?

Is it any wonder that our students from non-Christian homes experience great difficulty in initially encountering the truths of the faith? is it any wonder that students with only a nominally Christian background lose their faith? Can we expect anything less than a weakening of faith among students from homes where Christianity is practised?

The exclusion or corruption of religious truth from university teaching is not only a compromise of truth itself, it is also a compromise of the spiritual and physical good of our students. This is particularly true in a student-teacher relationship where the teacher is often perceived by the student as an authority in all things. Newman describes this situation: ". . . and as every man has not the capacity of separating truth from falsehood, they (false teachers) persuade the world of what is false by urging upon it what is true. '19 This is not to imply that "experts" are never wrong within their fields of specialization. Nor is it to be implied that one can never speak correctly outside of their own area of professional expertise. However, it must be recognized that not infrequently some "experts" do use their position in the academic and scientific community to impress upon the public their personal opinion, prejudice, and illusion as truth. 

Mission is Integral Human Formation

The imparting of truth (instruction), is an important part of the educational process, but by no means is it the sole reason for the existence of the school. These truths, secular and sacred, do contribute to the mission of the school, but taken by themselves are not the mission. Mission has to do with "a sending; a going forth from one person to others in order to effect some beneficial change in their (the others) favor."20

Newman tells us that:

education is a higher word (than instruction), it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent. . .21

Education deals with integral human formation. Each type of education is conditioned by a philosophy, by a specific idea of who man is and what it really means to be a human person.

Very few seek knowledge for its own sake. It seems to be the mission of education to provide knowledge for use. The mission of education is to form knowledgeable people into wise men and women. The development of the proper use of knowledge imparted by instruction, which may also be described as the development of Christian character, is then the mission of the school.

An expansion and elaboration upon Newman's idea of acting upon our mental nature and the formation of a character" might be the following. Here I quote from Lay Teachers-Witnesses to Faith.

In order to fulfill its mission, the school must be concerned with constant and careful attention to cultivating in students the intellectual, creative, and esthetic faculties of the human person; to develop in them the ability to make correct use of their judgment, will, and affectivitv; to promote in them a sense of values; to encourage just attitudes and prudent behavior; to introduce them to the cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations; to prepare them for professional life, and to encourage the friendly interchange among students of diverse cultures and backgrounds which will lead to mutual understanding.22

It also involves preparing students "to open themselves, more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life."23

For the Christian teacher, the idea of reality and the meaning of life is clear and unequivocal. We come from God, created in His image. We are fallen and have been redeemed. We are to live according to the words and example of Jesus Christ. This life is, with the graces won for us by the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, difficult but always within our grasp. Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. This is openness to reality. There can be no more clear and real idea of the meaning of life. Christian wisdom is promoted and sustained by an openness and docility to the reality of Christ in our daily lives.

To see the mission of the school as anything less than the development of Christian wisdom or, if you prefer, Christian character would seem to blur and confuse very different and very basic concepts. This blurring and confusion of basics will result in the development of a shallow philosophy of life. Newman talks about the dangers of separating knowledge from the development of Christian character and he reviews

We can at this point echo a loud "Amen" to Newman's observation that "They would be sure to teach wrongly, where they had no mission to teach at all."

some of the concepts whose meanings have consequently become obscured.

Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another, good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of view, faith. Philosophy, however enlightened, however profound, gives no command over passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles. Liberal Education makes not the Christian .... 24

Whenever there is talk of proper and just use of knowledge (wisdom), or that particular character of the human person which we designate as Christian, we become involved with human acts directed to specific ends. We become involved with conscience. The word conscience as being used here is taken in the Thomistic sense of being an intellectual act, the making of a judgment on the morality of an action. We know that there is no automatic response of right action merely because we are in the possession of certain knowledge. The accumulation of knowledge without the education of the part of the intellect which makes moral decisions (conscience) within the framework of the truths of the Faith cannot produce wise, Christian men and women.

The education of conscience requires a harmonious balance that can only come with the fullness of truth. If we do not educate conscience by the rules of Divine Faith, it will be educated by the rules of human faith. Simple, controverted human knowledge will be the sole basis of our intellectual, moral decision making. If Divine Faith is ignored (or more properly, if God is ignored), then there can be no concept of a transgression against the Divine. There can be no sense of sin, as traditionally expressed in Christianity.

Conscience tends to become what is called a moral sense; the command of duty is a sort of moral taste; sin is not an offense against God, but against human nature.25

The objective distinction between right and wrong, between good to be done, and evil to be avoided is replaced by a subjective feeling of what we think is fitting and proper and the nice thing to do. We lose our hold on moral objectivity as well as upon objective reality in general. Newman describes those who have developed this type of secular wisdom.

The notion of an All-perfect, Ever-present God, in whose sight we are less than atoms, and who, while He deigns to visit us, can punish as well as bless, was abhorrent to them; they made their own minds sanctuary, their own ideas their oracle, and conscience in morals was parallel to genius in art, and wisdom in philosophy.26

This shallow philosophy of life must result from a Godless education. The results are predictable and all too obvious to

At no time in the history of our nation have so many been exposed to so much education with so little apparent effect.

us. Newman faced with the same situation speaks to this doctrine.

Such a doctrine (Religion of Philosophy), is essentially superficial, and such will be its effects.... It is detection, not the sin which is the crime; private life is sacred, and inquiring into it is intolerable, and decency is a virtue.... Poets may say anything, however wicked, with impunity; works of genius may be read without danger or shame, whatever their principles; fashion, celebrity, the beautiful, the heroic will suffice to force any evil upon the community. The splendours of a court, and the charms of a good society, wit, imagination, taste and high breeding, the prestige of rank, and the resources of wealth are a screen, an instrument and an apology for vice and irreligion .27

What greater appeal can be made for the common sense of including truths of Divine Faith in teaching? What more obvious, common sense results than those cited by Newman could be expected when the truths of Divine Faith are excluded?

The proponents of this "religion of philosophy," although they will not readily admit it, are extremely reluctant to allow the slightest intrusion of any religion other than their own into the school. Their attitude says, in effect, that the university is their church and that church extends from classroom, to speaker's bureau; from governance procedures to the selection of textbooks; from student activities to campus based cultural events. This false religion seems to be tolerant and pluralistic except when it comes to the person and message of Jesus Christ.

Exclusion or corruption of Divine Faith tends to lead to intellectualism, the belief that our reason is the principle of reality.

Knowledge, viewed as knowledge, exerts a subtle influence throwing us back on ourselves, and making us our own center and our minds the measure of all things. This, then, is the tendency of that Liberal Education, of which the university is the school, viz., to view revealed religion from an aspect of its own-to fuse and recast it-to tune it, as it were, to a different key, and to reset its harmonies-to circumscribe it by a circle
which unwarrantly amputates here and unduly develops there; and all under the notion, conscious or unconscious, that the human intellect, self-educated and self-supported is more true and perfect in its ideas and judgments than that of Prophets and Apostles, to whom the sights and sounds of Heaven were
immediately conveyed. A sense of propriety, order, consistency, and completeness gives birth to a rebellious stirring against miracle and mystery, against the severe and the terrible.28

Reviewing the Problem

Perhaps, for the sake of perspective, a brief review of the consequences of excluding or corrupting the truths of Divine Faith and failure to recognize the true nature of students in university teaching is in order. These consequences are as follows:

There will be confusion about the real nature of human beings.

There will be an antagonism developed between faith and reason.

There will be a basic inconsistency with the idea of a university-the very name implies teaching of all truth (human and divine).

There will be fragmentation and distortion of human truths.

There will be disciplines which teach out of their areas of authority-lies are taught rather than truth.

There will be a disposition on the part of the student to accept illusion rather than truth.

There will be a weakening or loss of the Faith in those who possess it.

There will be a severe impediment in the path of those who, consciously or unconsciously, are searching for the Faith.

There will be the prevention of the integral formation of the human person (Christian character will not be formed).

There will be an impossibility of properly educating and forming a right and certain conscience on the part of the student.

There will be the establishment of a false and intolerant religion of philosophy.

There will be the development of intellectualism.

Solutions-Old and New

What can we do?

Let us not, as Christian teachers, become discouraged with our vocation-to bring the message and example of Christ to our students in the classroom. Let us not despair that we will be unable to fulfill this calling in a secular university setting. If we look at the calling of Old Testament servants of God, from Moses to Abraham, to Gideon, to Isaiah, to Jeremiah and to the New Testament servant of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, we find the same Divine promise. In each of these callings the Lord promises to be with those whom He has called. Our vocation is blessed with the same Divine promise. We are never alone. God is always with us.

Newman looked in a very positive way upon the secular university environment of his time. He saw it, with God's help, as an opportunity.

It is one great advantage of an age in which unbelief speaks out, that faith can speak out too; that, if falsehood assails Truth, Truth can assail falsehood.29

This is most definitely a moment in history when truth is under assault.

The tendency toward gloom which may from time to time settle upon us is understandable. At no time in the history of our nation have so many been exposed to so much education with so little apparent effect. Not only does the system generally fail on the intellectual level, it fails on the level of character formation. Murder, deviant sex, suicide, moral atrocities at the individual and international level abound. It is certainly a cause for dejection for those of us involved in the process; but at the same time it is a cause of hope for us. We know the basic reason for the failure-the exclusion of God from the process. The system is trying to educate man fully without recognizing that his or her full potential is only to be realized supernaturally. The United States has, in the last half of the twentieth century, written its own sad educational history. Newman sums up this situation very succinctly. "When, then, in a comprehensive scheme of education, Religion alone is excluded, that exclusion pleads in its own behalf. "30 Could there be any more obvious and eloquent plea than the intellectual and moral chaos in which our nation currently finds herself? Almost every human remedy has been tried. As Christian teachers, we must look to the rule of prayer and action. We must pray and work toward the end of bringing the Divine Physician to our ailing educational system. We must do this with gentleness, persistence, and courage. We must do it immediately.

We have all practised and developed, within our speciality areas, our own art of teaching, our own unique pedagogy. In order to bring Christ to our students, our pedagogy must give 11 special emphasis to direct and personal contact with the students. "31 We must use Christ's example as a teacher, and this was His human vocation. He was a rabbi, a master practising the art of teaching in the manner of His time. Part of this art was to live in very direct and personal contact with His students. There was never any doubt who the authority was. There was always the prudent combination of familiarity and distance. Jesus' closeness to His students was such that His life was a confirmation of His message. We should always make this a part of our pedagogy: to establish a Christ-like relationship with our students. This type of relationship will 1. allow for an openness and a dialogue which will facilitate an understanding of the witness to faith that is revealed through the behavior of the teacher."32

We must also remember that we not only are sharing Christ's pedagogy, we also share or continue His mission of helping the students to grow in holiness. We must be profoundly convinced that we share in the educational and thereby sanctifying mission of Jesus. This sanctifying mission of education, as we all know, is never easy. Once again we must look to Christ as an example. He, throughout His life, met with hostility and rebuke-culminating in the ultimate rebuke of crucifixion. Christian teachers cannot expect less. Difficulties in our mission should "be viewed and confronted with a healthy optimism and with the forceful courage which Christian hope and a sharing in the mystery of the Cross demand of all believers."' The fortitude to do this can only come as a result of a personal identification with Christ.

We must remember that what we bring to our students, we have received as a grace, a f ree gif t f rom God f reely given. No strings attached. We must offer this gift of faith intact. Not only intact in the sense of wholeness of content, but also

In order to "teach students" it is necessary to know and act upon these basic concepts-the true natures Of the student, truth, faith and reason, and the real relationship between faith and reason.

in the sense of the spirit in which it was given to us. Jesus did not force the faith upon us. The gift was offered. It had appeal, both to faith and to reason. We freely opened ourselves to it and accepted it. We must present the faith to our students in the same way. "Though offered insistently and urgently, it cannot be imposed."34

When Christ offered this gift it was with an authority, a warmth, a love, and a freedom which were an integral part of the personality and life of the Divine Teacher. just as Christ's life expressed and made real the gift of faith, so must the lives of Christian teachers. We must be "the incarnation of the Christian message in the lives of men and women."' We must offer, by example, a life-style not demonstrated by the world. We must put to rest any notion that regards "Christian behavior as an impossible ideal."35

No one can seriously argue against the fact that teachers are professionals. What we may need to be reminded of from time to time is that teaching is more than a profession. It is a vocation. Our mission is made more difficult, if not impossible, if we reduce our role to a strict definition of professionalism. Our mission is only possible if our "professionalism is marked by and raised to a supernatural Christian vocation. "37 We must recognize the momentousness, fruitfulness, and the obligations of this profession, if we are to function as Christian teachers.

The fact that we are professionals makes it imperative that we keep abreast of developments within our areas of specialization. The fact that we have a supernatural vocation makes it imperative that we are not only knowledgeable about the truths of the Faith, but that we make these truths the bed-rock of our personal and professional lives.

We must constantly keep ourselves attune and open to the sources of God's grace without which nothing of significance is possible. Or on a more positive note-with God's grace anything of significance is possible. We must constantly be aware of our primary obligation as creatures to our Creator. This primary obligation is to pray. We must pray without ceasing. Prayer is a primary source of grace as are reading and living Sacred Scripture, liturgical celebrations and making use of all sensible signs instituted by Christ to give grace. Without Divine Grace no one can hope to make the truths of the Christian Faith the bedrock of their professional lives. Without Divine Grace, growth in spirituality and holiness is impossible.

The Christian teacher must "put on" a Christ-like sensitivity to the spiritual needs of the student. We must be sensitive to these needs whenever and wherever they are expressed. We must respond to these spiritual needs gracefully and in a Christ-like manner.

Signs of Contradiction

Finally, I submit that if the mission of the university is integral human formation, and if the aim of all university teaching is truth, there is only one framework within which this mission and aim can be fully realized. This framework is the message of salvation found only in the words, example, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One obvious way that this message can come to the university is to be 11 preached" by the words, example and life of the Christ-like Christian teacher. There is no purely sociological or psychological, no purely economic, political or educational system that can satisfy this mission and aim. No purely human effort will suffice. The Christian message presented by the Christian teacher in a pluralistic, secularistic university would seem to be the only non-utopian hope for the realization of this mission and this aim.

That Christian teachers in secular schools are not outright contradictions surprises everyone, except Christians. To us it comes as no surprise because ours is a religion of apparent contradictions. Ours is a religion of paradox: that God should become incarnate; that the Son of God should become the son of a carpenter; that everything comes from nothing; that the last are often first; that inheritance comes through meekness; that richness comes through poverty; that comfort comes through mourning and weeping; that satisfaction comes through hunger and thirst and purity of heart; the Kingdom through persecution; and dominance through gentleness.

Who other than a Christian would live such foolishness-, Who but a Christian teacher would have the confident expectation, the hope, of using the profane, the secular and the temporal as the tools to build the sacred, the holy and the eternal? Who other than the Christian teacher could possibly do it?


1. John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University. New York, N.Y. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964, p. 6.
2. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary. Garden City, N.Y.; Doubleday
and Co., Inc., 1980, p. 205.
3. ibid., p. 205.
4. Newman, op. cit., p. 14.
5. Ibid., p. 14.
6. Ibid., p. 14-15.
7. Ibid., p. 19.
8. Ibid., p. 20.
9 Ibid., p. 33.
10. Ibid., p. 39,
11. Ibid., p. 39.
12. ibid., p. 45.
13. ibid., p. 47.
14. Ibid. p. 55.
15. Salvador E. Luria, Stephen Gould, and Sam Singer, A View of Life. Menlo Park, Ca.: Benjamin/Cummings Pub. Co., 1981, p. 575.
16. Ibid., p. 575.
17, , Ibid., p. 568.
18. Newman, op. cit., p. 55.
19. Ibid., p. 59.
20. Hardon, op. cit., p. 354,
21 Newman, op. cit., p. 86.
22. Lay Teachers-Witnesses to Faith. The Pope Speaks. vol. 28. 1883, p. 49.
23. ibid., P. 50.
24. Newman, op. cit., p. 91.
25. Ibid., p. 145.
26. Ibid., p. 147.
27. Ibid., p. 153. How often have we heard this plea when the private life in question involves homosexuality, prostitution, pornography, pederasty, and abortion?
28. Ibid., p. 165.
29. Ibid., p. 287.
30. Ibid., p. 287.
31. Lay Teachers, op. cit., p. 52.
32. ibid., p. 52.
33. Ibid., p. 54.
34. Ibid., p. 55.
35. ibid., p. 56.
36. Ibid., p. 57.
37. Ibid., p. 59.