Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Creed

Why Are We Students?

We study in order to
Understand God’s Good Creation
And the Ways sin has distorted it
So that, in Christ’s Power, we may
bring healing to persons and the created order
And, as God’s image-bearers,
Exercise responsible authority
In our task of cultivating the creation
To the end that all people and all things may
Joyfully acknowledge and serve
Their Creator and true king.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Longing to Know

"There are some who long to know, simply for the sake of knowing, and that is shameful curiosity. Others long to know to show off before others, and that is shameful vanity. There are others who long for knowledge to make a fat profit from it, or to make honors from it; and this is shameful profiteering. But there are those who long to know in order to be of service to others; and this is love."

-- Bernard of Clairvaux, The Love of God, 11th -century

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

College Students Spend More Time Drinking Than Studying?

Outside The Classroom and NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) announced that during the fall semester of 2008, first-year college students who used alcohol drank an estimated 10.2 hours per week, compared to studying only 8.4 hours per week. Students who drank represented 68.9% of the study sample, or 20,801 students altogether. Of these, 49.4% spent more time downing alcohol than they did studying.

Key quote:
“I’m sure most Americans – and even most college students – will agree with me that having so many students drinking their way through college is an intolerable state of affairs. It’s time all of us who care about higher education refocus on our core mission of educating and preparing young adults to be our next generation of great minds, leaders, and contributors to society. ”
--Brandon Busteed, Founder and CEO of Outside the Classroom

Do you think people are making too big of a deal about college students and drinking?

In what ways do you think the drinking culture on campus hinders students from taking academics more seriously?

Friday, May 8, 2009

On Being a Child of God

Few writers “read me” better than the late Henri Nouwen, making me a little nervous whenever I pick up one of his books. He delivers penetrating insights into the spiritual life, challenging readers to consider the deepest motivations behind their actions. This can sometimes be a painful process for me. Page after page of his writing reminds me that I have been created and loved by God but often try to find my value and self-worth apart from God.

Nouwen wrote from experience. After becoming an accomplished, prestigious professor of religion at Harvard, Nouwen engaged in a life of “downward mobility,” leaving his teaching post and moving to Toronto to work with the mentally handicapped; not because he had anything to teach them, but because they had everything to teach him. For the first time in his life, Nouwen began to wrestle with what it meant to find his identity in Christ alone.

The story is told in his award winning book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. In fact, the whole story never would have happened had Nouwen not become fascinated with Rembrandt’s famous depiction of the parable. He would spend hours staring at the painting, contemplating what God was trying to teach him. This reflection caught my attention:

“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me – my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts – and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God."

Developing our intellectual gifts, not for the praise of others, but for the glory of God. I needed to hear that.

--Derek Melleby

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning in the Crossfire

In the Shadow of the Big One (WWII) the esteemed scholar C. S. Lewis penned Learning in War-Time. This brief essay was written to encourage university students who were not risking their lives in the war effort. He knew that they felt insignificant and cowardly while their friends and loved ones fought and died. How can we continue to take an interest in the academy, he asked, when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance? But Lewis realized that this was not just a question for war-time. It is an “all the times” question for the Christian. How can we study when at every moment lives are in the balance—eternal destinies—and we are studying literature or art or mathematics or sociology? Is academic work still important in the face of such national and eschatological realities? Or is it simply frivolous or selfish to invest in learning?

Evidently you have decided no—it is not frivolous. But is it a resounding NO? Do you really cherish learning, and does God? I am convinced that God made us to learn, and that our learning was to be connected somehow to God’s glory. Lewis argues that human culture has always existed under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself, and that there is no life apart from culture. In other words, we were made to invest in culture, but always with our eyes set on something beyond that culture.

Culture is our game, the human assignment. And academic culture is the special opportunity and challenge for college students. Faithful work on campus will be a battle, to be sure. Christian students are to be waging war with ideologies and intellectual lies (2 Corinthians 10:5)! The university is no place for cowards, and the work done on campus is far from insignificant. Fortunately, much of the time our work won’t feel like a battle. It will feel like we are doing the very thing that we were made for—loving the Lord our God with all of heart and soul and mind and strength.

What is Success?

One of my heroes is John Perkins. He was a sharecropper’s son who grew up in Mississippi amidst dire poverty. His mother died when he was 7 months old and his father left him shortly after that. Although he dropped out of school in the third grade, Perkins eventually moved to California, got a very good job, married his wife (still married after 55 years!), had kids, a nice car, and a very nice house. Perkins was the incarnation of the American Dream. But then Perkins couldn’t get a single phrase out of his mind: “Success isn’t enough.” The thought was so penetrating that Perkins moved his family back to Mississippi to engage in civil rights activism. He was beaten and tortured on his way to becoming the “Father of Christian Community Development.”

Success isn’t enough. I remember having a similar thought when I started taking academics seriously from a Christian perspective. I was good at the college “game,” figuring out ways to get good grades by doing minimal work. Academic success, for me, was seeing my name on the Dean’s list showing others how bright I was.

Academic success isn’t enough. If we are going to be serious about our faith in college, I think it will require a re-examination of how we define success. The novelist Walker Percy writes of the person who "gets all As and flunks life." The pursuit of academic faithfulness doesn't guarantee all As. It will lead, however, to a life worth living, a life lived on behalf of others.

Monday, May 4, 2009


"We couldn't be more impressed. The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is serious, well-written, charming and challenging. It does this job--explaining the contours and the importance of a Christian vision of life and learning--as well as any book in print. . . . This book deserves to be acclaimed as it will change the lives of those who take it seriously, and could revolutionize . . . young adult ministry, campus work, and even high school fellowship groups. . . . This little book is unlike any other, and will make a difference, underscoring a movement of thoughtful Christians relating vocation and calling, work and career, God's ways in the real world. It may be outrageous to say this, but this thin, fun book, may be one of the most important books of the decade."--Byron Borger,

"Looking for a meaningful gift for a graduating high school senior? Check out this new book intentionally written for those preparing to embark on college careers. . . . What makes this book so appealing is its specificity. . . . This book is written for young persons graduating from high school, preparing to enter college, and wondering what role their Christian faith should play in this next phase in their lives. Opitz and Melleby . . . write as though they actually are talking to college students. Their engaging and thoughtful book requires intelligent reflection from the reader, never descending into the cute, trite or pedantic. It is intellectually stimulating and challenging--and at times quite humorous."
--George C. Love, Presbyterians Today

"Opitz and Melleby have written a book that is long overdue. Here is a plea for students to take their academic pursuits as part of their faithfulness to Christ. . . . The book provides a map of what it means 'to take every thought captive to Christ'--in their own words, a 'fitness campaign for the Christian mind.' It is a book that pastors, youth leaders, and parents should place in the hands of every starting college freshman. I'm sending a copy to my nephew. The next step is getting them to actually read it. If they do, they will be exposed to a vision of college life beyond their wildest dreams."
--David John Seel, Critique

"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness asks questions about formation and faithfulness. Filled with rich insights and probing questions, it encourages students, through its accessible chapters and group discussion questions, to connect their faith with their studies, through all the excitement and trials of academic life."
--Gayle Doornbos, Comment

"This is an easy-to-read, interesting book encouraging students to take up the challenge of marrying their beliefs in God with the commitments to academics. . . . My favorite question the book asks is, 'Does God care about academics,' and the book builds on that question, seeking to help the reader develop a level of academic study that relies on the truth of God as well as adopting the principles of God."--Tim Baker, Journal of Student Ministries

"The authors use key examples from Scripture and pop culture to insightfully maintain the 'outrageous' idea that students can use their studies to better connect with God. In addition to these practical insights, Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby offer sound ideas on developing a present-future worldview founded in 'His Story.' Their language is both humorous and unassuming, painting clear guidelines for the seasoned Christian as well as the unfamiliar seeker. Each chapter ends with interactive questions and suggestions for further reading to continue the journey. A great gift to college-bound senior or those already pursuing their degrees, the authors have presented a solid and relevant guide useful on both the Christian and secular campus."--Tony Miles, YouthWorker Journal

"By all means read this and give it to your teenagers, especially those headed for a college or university. . . . I appreciate the way the authors frequently reminded us throughout the book that knowing also involves doing. . . . I also appreciate their emphasis that knowing is also relational--good perspective on Christian epistemology. . . . Buy this book! Read it and discuss it! Give a copy to any teachers, preachers, professors, and students."
--Equip to Disciple

"A clarion call for students to step out of hiding, fully commit themselves to honoring God and His Word, and embrace the concept of scholarship as an honorable act of worship. This is a primer work, an easy read of eight short chapters with thought-provoking questions and recommended readings at the end of each chapter. . . . Practical suggestions are made to enable students to strengthen their minds and discern truth. . . . The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness would be appropriate for students, parents, those who minister to the 'y' generation, and college Bible study groups. . . . An encouraging, uplifting, practical, and inspirational read."
--Jon Forlines, Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought

"This book is a must-read for students seeking the tools for success inside and outside the classroom during their time at the university. . . . Each of [the authors'] backgrounds is a clear contribution to the content and thoughtfulness of this work. . . . It is obvious that both experience and study inform their plea for Christian, academic faithfulness in the ivory tower. The format of the book is both useful and effective. Each chapter is introduced with a relatable story or pop-culture example and ends with questions for discussion. This book would be most helpful for students in a small group setting in the presence of a facilitator. However, it should also be considered for individual use. . . . Likely, this book would be of significant impact for a cohort of students entering into Christian higher education. However, since learning happens in a myriad of places, it would also be useful as a book study in any Christian sector because of the key idea it recognizes: that learning is full of impact and one should not enter into it passively. . . . The authors anticipate conflicting ideas that students will encounter in college and give them tools to navigate the conflict critically. . . . Christian professors, students, and staff members of any institution of learning will be glad they read this book. Short but thoughtful, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness accomplishes its goal to challenge and inspire readers 'to love God and neighbor' through learning. For readers who have never explored the place that faith has in learning, this is a must-read, and for scholars who have long been thinking about these concepts, it is a refreshing look at how faith should inspire a true change in our lives that manifests faithfulness in academics."
--Jessica Rimmer, Christian Higher Education

"This book differs in several ways from some other recent volumes apparently addressing similar goals. First, it is genuinely written for the average beginning college student, rather than leaning to the highly academic and philosophically inclined. The prose is lively, readable, and very accessible, and is punctuated by anecdotes and comments from students. Second, it does not attempt to induct the student into particular theories of the academy or philosophical debates . . . but instead settles for pointing students in the direction of connecting their faith and their learning without prescribing many of the intellectual outcomes. Third, the task of being a Christian scholar is not presented solely in terms of developing Christian concepts and positions, but includes a focus on practices that span the devotional and the educational."
--David I. Smith, Journal of Education and Christian Belief

"Do you have a son, daughter, grandchild or friend who is heading to college for the first time or returning for another year? If so, the book The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is the perfect read for them before they leap into academia. . . . This imaginative guide . . . offers practical support to college-bound students."
--Susan Aungst, Hershey Free Press

About the Authors

Donald Opitz (PhD, Boston University) is associate professor of sociology and higher education at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous articles and has worked as a pastor as well as a campus minister.

Derek Melleby
(MA, Geneva College) is the director of the College Transition Initiative for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, through a unique partnership with the Coalition for Christian Outreach.


"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is the sort of book that should be read by Christian students going to college and studied in campus fellowship groups. It provides clear and accessible guidelines as to how to relate one's faith to academics. I hope it will be widely used."
--George Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame; author of The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

"Deep yet easily accessible, this book reminds us why we study. Many students want to play a part in the great Story--redeeming all of life and building the kingdom in a hurting world. Such outrageous vision requires the wisdom and brilliance of the Creator in every field and discipline. The humility of a true scholar yields not only purpose but also curiosity and delight as we rejoice in the glory of God on the far side of every question."
--Kelly Monroe Kullberg, author of Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas

"This book addresses numerous timely issues related to college transition, the place of academics in the life of the Christian student, and the development of a lifelong Christian perspective on issues of calling and vocation. Nothing I have seen yet addresses these particular issues with a combination of theological depth and easy accessibility that mark this book."
--Walt Mueller, president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding; author of Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

"From their own years as students and teachers, Melleby and Opitz have written a wonderfully imaginative guide for university students who want something more from their studies. Probing yet playful, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is full of wisdom for those who yearn for their learning to move beyond mere labor to true love."
--Steven Garber, director, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture; author of The Fabric of Faithfulness

"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is an outstanding book about how Christian students can learn to be faithful to their Lord in their studies. This volume shows them why and how. Its biblical moorings, fresh and clear language, and vivid stories give it transformative power. It is pitched at just the right level to reach its target audience. The authors have invested much in writing this insightful book. Those who read it--students and teachers alike--will reap genuine dividends."
--David Naugle, professor of philosophy, Dallas Baptist University; author of Worldview: The History of a Concept

"Opitz and Melleby's wonderfully outrageous little book will tickle, inspire, challenge, and encourage students to gain a real life--not just grades, degrees, and jobs. Their message is deeply biblical and splendidly relevant for today's learners and, truth be told, teachers. Well done, faithful servants!"
--Quentin J. Schultze, Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Faith and Communication, Calvin College; author of Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing?

"Papers and professors, labs and lectures. Few Christian books for college students even mention the central aspect of college life--academics and course work. This one, though, lays it all out, brings it all together. It is easy to read, fun, funny, and full of robust insight. There is nothing like it in print. Students who desire to truly live out the implications of their faith in the classroom setting will find this book to be an extraordinary help; campus ministers or faithful faculty wanting to assist their young friends in serving Christ in the classroom will want to have a stack of these on hand to pass out. It is on that short list of must-reads, essential for grooming Christian faithfulness in the college years."
--Byron K. Borger, Hearts & Minds Bookstore, Dallastown, Pennsylvania

"As you get ready to plunge into college, add this book to your reading list. It will help you navigate the common landminds that can trip up your faith, and it will give you the tools you need to sprint ahead."
--Kara Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary

"The most difficult transition in the life of faith is from high school to college. As many fade away from the faith as come to the faith. Morals, vocation, and the simple development of the mind are each put to the test in a way unlike any time in all of life. This book, while it focuses on learning to think as a Christian, will prove valuable in each of the areas for any student who gives it the time it deserves. Read and listen, I say. If you do, you will rise up and call these authors 'Blessed!'"
--Scot McKnight, North Park University; author of The Jesus Creed

"We need this book! The idea of a Christian worldview has passed into common use, but we seem no closer to living what we supposedly believe. Opitz and Melleby assert--correctly I think--that we won't ever put legs on a biblical vision for all of life until we begin to learn differently. Other people have asserted the same, but I've yet to see anyone else make it so clear how this can be done."
--Daniel Dupee, president, Coalition for Christian Outreach

Book Description

Most Christian college students separate their academic life from church attendance, Bible study, and prayer. Too often discipleship of the mind is overlooked if not ignored altogether. However, authors Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby issue a clarion call to students to integrate their faith and learning in The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness. Colossians 2:3, after all, indicates that in Christ himself are 'all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.'

In eight succinct chapters the authors stress the importance of academic discipleship and taking studies seriously. According to Opitz and Melleby, a Christian worldview--or biblical gestalt--brings unity to the fragmented curriculum of higher education. Each breezy chapter concludes with thought-provoking discussion questions as well as recommendations for further reading.

Written for a narrative generation, this guide extracts illustrations from the Book of Daniel, The Lord of the Rings, the experiences of real students, and more. This book is an excellent gift for college-bound seniors in high school. It's an essential text for first-year college students, too. Last, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness will benefit professors, pastors, and parents.

Friday, May 1, 2009


The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is available wherever books are sold, including the following online stores:

Hearts & Minds
CPYU Resource Center