Why I Should Study Slower

In preparing for a lecture I am to give later this week at the University of Calgary on “Putting God in His Place: Does Theology Belong at the University?” I have reviewed a lot of writings I have found provocative on the nature of theology, the university, and the humanities. Here is a passage that slowed me down to re-read and re-think, from an internationally renowned Christian diplomat whose own academic training was in philosophy (he studied with, among others, Whitehead and Heidegger):

Stillness…belongs to the essence of the humanities…. The deadline must be met, the manuscript must be completed, the dissertation must be revised, the meeting must be attended, the appointment must be kept, the news must be followed, the developments must be watched, the latest literature must be mastered, their anxieties about their position and their future must be allayed–and therefore they can give you only five minutes! And even in these five minutes their mind is not on you. There is no stillness, no quiet, no rest, no living in the presence of eternity, no overcoming of time and its pressures, no unfreezing patience, no resting in being just yourself….

But the humanities mean peace, grace, patience, communion with others, the joys of fellowship and sharing, the art of relaxed, creative conversation, abiding friendship, love—love of the subject matter and love of your friends—the suspension of time, forgetting even yourself, that incredible inner freedom which creates on the spot.

Charles Habib Malik, A Christian Critique of the University (IVP, 1982), 80-81.

4 Responses to “Why I Should Study Slower”

  1. BigB

    If I may refelect on Government sources on the numbers of Chrisitian’s in Canada, beyond what people often misundertand from Statistics Canada. I would ask the question, Why have theology in any public insitution’s if less than 1 in 10 Canadians attend Church? Why, since by 2030 it will be less than 1 in a 100? Mabey it is for this exact reason you should keep a remnant of teaching. Either your God is about to cause a great revival or every church will close it doors, there is no middle ground here. Yet some teachers act as though there is. Curious.

  2. Wayne Holst


    I look forward to seeing and hearing you here in Calgary this Thursday evening!

  3. Mike in Pennsylvania

    Thanks for this quote. I’m going to print it out and tape it to the bottom of my monitor. I teach High School students and I’ve come to realize that a good deal of education is encouraging presence…the complex triangle of the presences of teacher, student, and subject. (Parker Palmer’s and Michael Polanyi’s work has helped me think through this, too.)

  4. D Goheen

    I recommend Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God. We are also told to Be Still and Know that I am God.


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