Archive | July, 2013

I’m the only archaeologist!

3 Jul

Duelling with dualism

posted on: 2 July 2013by: Tom De Craene
I’m the only archaeologist!

“My wife tells me constantly I have the tendency to exaggerate, but it is true: in the database of our national IFES movement (Ichtus Belgium), I’m the only archaeology major among more than 30 years of graduates. I admit, it is not the biggest field – for some reason few people seem to be interested in archaeology – but does that alone account for me being the only one in 30 years?

A closer look at our database seems to say ‘no’. There are some other fields with only one graduate to date: such as physics, chemistry, biology and philosophy. On the other hand there are some 20 theologians, 40 nurses, 45 teachers and educational scientists, and more than 50 medical doctors.

There may be numerous explanations for this, all worth thinking about. For example, it would be interesting to research whether our type of ministry attracts females more than males, and if there is a correlation between gender and certain domains of study. But one of the causes of our ‘imbalanced’ database is most definitely dualism: the idea that came out of Greek philosophy (and was reinforced by modernity and the Enlightenment) that spiritual things are higher, more valuable, better than the material.

I dare say even some strands of Christianity contain, promote and perpetuate a dualism that has penetrated our thinking and acting. One may not say it or hear it often, but a lot of us Christians act as if we believe that the spiritual is better than the material, the soul higher than the body. What’s worse, most of us think that God is more interested in spiritual matters too, that he stays away from the tangible, the bodily and the material… and he wants us to do the same.

Although the doctrines of creation, incarnation, and the new heavens and renewed earth contradict this kind of thinking, the consequences of this belief system run deep. While no one will say it out loud, a lot of our students still see being a pastor as a higher calling than being a journalist, being in full-time ministry as being more valuable than being a full-time lawyer. However there isn’t enough work for hundreds of theologians in my country, and not enough money to give everyone a salary in so-called full-time ministry. So we implicitly endorse a lot of ‘good, Christian’ professions: doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, occupational therapists, and so on.  I’m not saying that those who choose these professions aren’t passionate about what they have studied or do for a living. But it is striking that we don’t have more artists, lawyers, management graduates, physicists, political scientists, sociologists, etc.


Are these fields still seen by some as ‘dangerous’, ‘unethical’, ‘sinful’ or just ‘less worthy’?  If the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, if Christ is Lord of all, if he is reconciling all things to himself, if he has given us the ministry of reconciliation, if he calls us to follow him, if we want to engage the university, can we continue to think and act as though some professions are beyond his lordship? Can we afford to leave dualism unchallenged?

I clearly remember a meeting I had with pastors where I ‘blamed’ their churches for giving eighteen-year-olds the theological framework that made them choose ‘safe’ fields of study, while I hid behind the idea that I couldn’t do anything about this dualistic approach to study. I said: ‘Our student movement only receives people after they have made a choice about what they are going to study; it is up to you to change this paradigm.’

But this dualistic way of thinking has influenced me and our movement too, and I also see it in IFES. Only recently some general secretaries and IFES staff were talking about one of the best training conferences our region has to offer. We were sharing testimonies about how this conference has changed lives. We were ecstatic about the number of people who, after having gone to this conference, became involved in their student group, and about how many became great staff or board members. But not one of us had a story about how this conference made the participants into better students, better housemates, better citizens, better doctors, better teachers… or even better archaeologists.

So if we are truly committed to ‘students reaching students’, let’s challenge this pervasive dualism. Let’s encourage students to be disciples of Christ in all areas of higher education, and to reach others in these fields too.”