One in a series of "President's Perspectives" in which Dr. Richard J. Mouw discusses Fuller's core values.
Fuller Seminary’s focus on interdisciplinary integration
was a key attraction for me in deciding to join the faculty in the
mid-1980s. This interest had been a big factor in my previous career of
teaching philosophy in a Christian liberal arts college. I had been very
enthusiastic about the idea of helping students form and articulate a
Christian worldview. I wanted students preparing for careers in
medicine, law, business, and the like to think Christianly about what
God was calling them to do and be. I saw it as important to guide them
in thinking carefully about how the various areas of academic
study—natural sciences, social sciences, the humanities—could be
integrated within a biblically shaped framework for discerning God’s
will for all of life.
Fuller Seminary impressed me as a place where I
could continue that kind of integrative teaching in new and creative
ways. I was excited about a graduate-level institution of Christian
learning that encouraged the integration of theology, psychology, and
intercultural studies. I joined the Fuller faculty with an enthusiasm
for the mission of the seminary.
If anything, I am even more enthusiastic now about
that mission than I was when I first signed up for it at Fuller. This
increased enthusiasm has much to do with two factors. The first is that
our collective understanding of the scope of the integrative task has
been expanding significantly during the past few decades.
The emphasis on “integration” at Fuller got started
with the founding of our School of Psychology in 1965. In those days,
there was much suspicion about psychology in the Evangelical community.
Many Christians saw it as a substitute for faith in Christ—relying on
“secular,” even “godless,” methods for dealing with the basic problems
in our lives.
Fuller insisted that psychology could be a positive
Christian instrument for wrestling with the challenges of the human
condition. The problem with much psychology is not due to any intrinsic
characteristics of psychology as such, but that it is often guided by an
inadequate understanding of human nature. Psychology must be shaped by a
biblical understanding of God’s creating and redeeming purposes. So:
psychology needs theology.
All of that was wonderful, providing a solid basis
for Fuller’s pioneering efforts in promoting Christian psychology. The
problem, though, was that the integrative project was often viewed in
“uni-directional” terms. Yes, it is true that psychology does need
theology, but what we have learned over the years is that theology also
needs psychology. Equipping people for “the manifold ministries of
Christ and his Church” requires that we draw upon all the resources
being made available by the human sciences. Increasingly at Fuller, our
educational mission features the need for an integrative process that
flows in both directions.
Correction: it’s actually three directions. We have a
School of Intercultural Studies in addition to Schools of Theology and
Psychology, and increasingly in recent years, the integrative movement
has flowed throughout all of our programs. For example, “Children at
Risk” has become an important focus in our Intercultural Studies
curriculum. We want children around the world to come to know the
Savior’s embrace, and in order to make that possible we must couple the
evangelistic task with a concern for poverty, homelessness, the HIV-AIDS
crisis, sexual trafficking—and much more. This in turn requires, among
other things, understanding child and adolescent development—thus the
link to psychology. But if Christian psychologists, in turn, are to
address these matters, they must also be sensitive to intercultural
realities—which we are learning in China, where Fuller psychologists are
offering training in faith-based mental health services. And all of
that requires a biblical and theological grounding. An exciting
The second factor has to do with the way in which my
own personal understanding of the integrative task moved from using
nouns to employing gerunds in characterizing it. I mentioned earlier
that I came to Fuller with a history of strongly emphasizing the need
for having the kind of Christian worldview that assists us in achieving
interdisciplinary integration. In recent years, though, I have come to
see the need to shift from the idea of “having a worldview” and “attaining integration” to the more dynamic sense of engaging in worldviewing and integrating.
The “-ing” endings are very important here. Arthur
Holmes, who taught philosophy at Wheaton College for many years, was
fond of insisting that the Christian intellectual quest has to be
characterized by both humility and hope. The humility is necessitated by
the realization that we are finite human beings, who are, as the
psalmist reminds us, called to serve a God whose thoughts are far beyond
our ability fully to comprehend: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for
me; it is so high that I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). At the same
time, though, we live in hope that things will get clearer because, even
though we presently know “only in part,” there will come a day when we
will know more fully (1 Corinthians 13:9–12).
Our Christian lives are pilgrimages, and this means
that intellectually too we are on a journey. We cannot expect that we
will easily come to “have” a worldview or to “achieve” integration.
Instead, we must engage in the processes of worldviewing and
integrating—shining the light of God’s Word on new realities and
challenges as we proceed along the way.
The social sciences are constantly expanding in both
methodology and subject matter. Within psychology, sociology, and
anthropology, new subdisciplines keep emerging—areas of inquiry that we
knew nothing about two or three decades ago. It is unrealistic to think
that we as Christian scholars could have somehow mastered all of this
and put it together into a perfectly coherent system of thought.
This is not to suggest that we should give up on the
integrative project. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). In Jesus Christ “all
things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). We can keep at it, knowing that
our efforts are not in vain.
Fuller Seminary is a community of men and women who
approach the equipping for “manifold ministries” with both humility and
hope. We want to honor the Cross of Christ in all that we do, making it
the center of our efforts to understand God’s creating and redeeming
will for humankind. For the present, we know that, at best, we know only
in part. But we do know that we are called by the Lord to keep at the
process of worldviewing and integrating in the light of God’s Word. And
we can do so in the confidence that the One who calls us to those
dynamic tasks is himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Our ongoing “trialogue” is exciting—as is a way of
serving the cause of Truth in which gerunds are often more important