Dynamic Christian thinking about the ideas that shape our world
FiSch is a network of fellowship and support for Christian thinkers both in and out of the university.
We love the rich diversity of God's world and find that knowing Jesus as Creator, Redeemer and Lord transforms the way we understand it. We share a passion to see ideas bearing good fruit as we investigate problems, create opportunities and find smart solutions to the challenges of our time.
What do we do?
Faith-in-scholarship pursues three types of activity:
- Conferences and collaborations for learning, research and development in the Christian framework of reformational philosophy.
- Nurture of groups fostering discussion that recognises Christ’s authority in all things, including academic work.
- Facilitating the mentoring of Christian students by mature Christian thinkers.
The first of these represents much of the work of the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies (the former name of Thinking Faith Network). The second is the primary aim of the FiSch Fellows who were central to the beginnings of Faith-in-Scholarship. The third activity is part of our ongoing ambition to nurture Christian scholars across all academic disciplines.
We are delighted to be partnering with St John's College, Durham, to run Church Scientific, exploring how a Christian worldview can enhance science.
To read about the other research projects with Faith-in-Scholarship is coordinating or contributing to, see our FiSch research posts.
What is this 'reformational philosophy' framework?
Reformational philosophy builds on the thinking of Abraham Kuyper, who in 1880 famously said,
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’.
A rich philosophical framework unpacking this has since been developed by the Dutch philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven and their numerous students worldwide. The framework is characterised by seeing the created order as intrinsically diverse, such that the academic disciplines complement each other, each proceeding by abstracting one or more aspects from that order. This stands in contrast to the reductionism that pervades much academic thinking, in which the disciplines are in competition with each other to provide a fundamental account of reality.
As such, the guiding beliefs of the FiSch project include:
- the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things, including theoretical thought;
- that reality is given its structure by the Word of God that also became flesh and is revealed through the Scriptures;
- that the many-sidedness of this rich reality calls for interdisciplinary collaboration;
- that God calls people to scholarly work in the history of His Kingdom;
- that human interpretation of reality is impaired by sin but still produces good fruit insofar as God graciously guides both believers and unbelievers;
- that faithful, Spirit-led communities of study can enhance Christian responses to God’s diverse callings.
We think that being guided by these beliefs as we engage in our study, research, teaching, etc, will help us pursue our calling as Christian academics.
For more, see the series of blog posts, What is Faith-in-Scholarship?.
Background to our postgraduate ministry
Postgraduate students constitute a large proportion of all university students in the UK. Many go on to positions of cultural leadership here and overseas, often in countries with minimal Christian influence. Christian postgraduates therefore are an internationally-important group with significant opportunity for bringing redemptive influence into diverse fields of culture and society including academia, politics, media, business, finance, science and law. These fields are increasingly driven by secularist agendas that may threaten the freedom and well-being of citizens.
While undergraduate Christian fellowships are active in most UK universities, and well supported for example by UCCF, Christian postgraduates' groups (CPGs) are known to be active only in some twelve UK universities. There are large and active groups at Oxford and Cambridge, but most CPGs are believed to meet in small numbers for social contact, prayer and Bible study, and only occasionally to discuss questions arising in academic study. At Leeds and York, for example, mailing lists reach around 30 contacts and regular attendances are around 3–10 people. Yearly turnover of students renders such groups vulnerable to extinction.
Christian postgraduates' involvement in churches is the rule, but it is often tenuous. While a few churches run postgraduates’ fellowship groups (especially in London, Oxford and Durham), this context is unlikely to sustain serious reflection on what a Christian worldview means for their disciplines and careers. Church leaders cannot contribute understanding of many highly-specialised fields and few churches enjoy the membership of many academics. Christian professional organisations support critical reflection but their meetings may be occasional and not always accessible to busy campus-based students. University chaplaincy services are available for postgraduates but only occasionally penetrate the faith-and-learning nexus.
Previous research reveals a need for institutional support of Christian postgraduates in the UK. Thinking Faith Network has already begun to engage with other individuals and organisations that sense the need for ongoing support for integrating faith with scholarship among students. Thinking Faith Network explores the power of faith commitments in learning about every aspect of life; it values inter-disciplinary relationships among academics, professionals, media, commerce and all other fields of culture. Thinking Faith Network has a national support base, active contact with the Christian postgraduates’ conference Transforming the Mind and associate membership of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education.
So FiSch was initially set up to reach Christian postgraduate students and help them explore what Christ’s lordship means for their research – through discussion groups, reading, networking and conferences. It aims to support the development of Christian scholars who are sensitive to more- and less- faithful ways in which they can respond to Christ's Lordship in their own and other academic disciplines.
To learn about some of the different Christian postgraduate groups around the UK, see the series of blog posts about local groups.