Faith & Scholarship
Reflections on the Tradition of Semestral Galilean Fellowships and Christian Life Emphasis Week in Silliman: A Tradition of Fusing Faith and Scholarship, of Church and University, and of Academic and Religious Freedoms
Ben S. Malayang III, President
I believe in the consistency and concilliability of both academic and religious freedoms in the context of full freedom of expression. There can be unfettered religious freedom fully lived out in an environment of unfettered academic freedom. And, too, without compromise, there can be unfettered academic freedom fully lived out in an environment of unfettered religious freedom.
I believe this has been a fundamental legacy of Silliman, a university founded by American Presbyterians pursuing a trilogical mission of teaching, preaching and healing (where absent of one it would not be the Silliman intended by its founders and known by many).
This week, we celebrated our semestral University Christian Life Emphasis Week, featuring our tradition of students, faculty and staff gathering together in Galilean Fellowships of study and prayers. And so, once again, we are being asked: why place faith as hallmark of a modern academia? Is not academic freedom incompatible with faith proclamation?
I happen to not think so, at least in the case of Silliman.
Silliman is a hall of learning where scholarship is not dictated by State, owner, or religion. It has a vast space for academic freedom but where faith and the proclamation and living out of faith have a secure place in the campus. It has a Silliman Church, which is a church IN Silliman University, where the University can be a university IN Silliman Church.
Silliman was founded not on the view of having a school AND a church, but of having a church IN a school, as much as the school is IN a church.
The church edifice might be just in a corner of the campus, but its presence has always been intended to be in the heart of everything happening in the University.
And does Silliman Church represent a religious imposition on Silliman University?
Not in my mind. Rather, i see it as a towering call to faith amidst the confusion of learning; a constant pulse to remind each one in Silliman that faith in a just and loving God is what makes learning a meaningful enterprise.
The church in Silliman does not represent the presence of a religion, nor of a narrow creed or denominationsl distinction. It represents the presence of an opportunity to struggle with one's faith (or non-faith) under an aura of deep confidence that any such struggle eventually nurtures faith, and nurturing faith eventually leads to seeing the reality of a God who, when disrobed of theological ornamentations, reveals love and justice and the bare essential of being the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.
And does to struggle with one's faith (or non-faith) contradict academic freedom?
Absolutely not, for after all, when all is said and done, academic freedom is fundamentally founded on the presupposition that one must have the widest space to struggle in one's mind for what would be the best Way, the highest Truth and the most real Life.
This is Silliman — a great hall of learning where academic freedom demands (not adjuncts) the freedom to struggle and nurture faith. This is where we are being honest about the fact that absent of pretensions of intellectual prowess, true scholarship leads to faith and faith is a necessary substrate to true scholarship.
This is a school that rejects tales of angsts and anguish over alleged inconsistencies and incompatibility of faith and scholarship, where instead we boldly claim and anchor our commitment to truth and to the integrity of life, on two basic propositions that (1) true faith is founded on the solid study of what is true, just as real truth is anchored on the necessity to have faith that such is the truth; and (2) that we all are made in the image of God so that in each and every person and the many faces we see on campus (and in our world) — and in all that we do — we see eventually the undeniable presence and reality of a one single God.
And so, i would have this to say: Silliman Church and faith-nurture, must be embedded in the life of Silliman University, just as Silliman University and the rigorous pursuit for truth should be embedded in the life of Silliman Church, and on each and everyone's faith.
The two — a Church proclaiming a faith and a University pursuing truth — must be so intertwined and fused into a single unity of organization and purpose because without the other, each would lose power and meaning just as a soul without body is but a ghost, and a body without a soul is but an unfeeling machine.