David Dockery’s “Faith and Learning” and “Christian Leadership Essentials”

Over the past couple of decades, David Dockery has been one of the most potent antidotes to American educational mediocrity, where there sometimes is not enough brainpower to operate the tilt-a-whirl at the local carnival. In addition to taking the presidency at Union University, he has managed to put forth a steady stream of books on Christian higher education and related issues.

His most recent contribution is Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education (B&H, 2012), a 548-page edited volume with 24 essays. The book’s thesis is, “Learning to think Christianly, or, to express it differently, to be a thoughtful Christian, will shape the way we think about schools, businesses, health care agencies, governments, social structures, recreation and, yes, our homes and churches, too. To love God with our minds means that we think differently about the way we live and love, the way we worship and serve, the way we work to earn our livelihood, the way we learn and teach.” (p. 4)

Toward this end, Faith and Learning sets forth the biblical foundations and disciplines that ought to shape the educational theory and practice for Christian colleges and universities. The chapters are organized under three categories: Foundational Commitments (pp. 3–124), Christian Faith and the Disciplines (pp. 125–474), and Concluding Applications (475–538). The contributors include both junior and senior scholars.

In Part One, Dockery (ch. 1) sets for the foundational commitments for Christian higher education. Stated at the most basic level these commitments are to hew and hold together faith and learning in all the Christian college or university does. Thus, Dockery in his essay establishes the historical, cultural, personal, and theological rationale for Christian higher education. Other essays are written by Gene Fant, Kenneth Magnuson, Harry Poe, and Klaus Issler. In Part Two, an array of scholars address Christian faith among the various academic disciplines. Two of the best chapters are by Greg Thornbury (Biblical and Theological Studies in the Christian University) and Hunter Baker (The Study of Political Philosophy at the Christian University). Among the thirteen other contributors are notables such as Jimmy Davis. Part Three provides a robust conclusion, including notable chapters by Kimberly Thornbury (Student Life: Thinking Biblically about Vocatio and Community) and Ben Mitchell (Engaging the Culture and the Academy).

Each chapter of the book concludes with questions for further reflection. This feature makes the book practical for classroom or conference use. Faith and Learning is a welcome and needed contribution to an ever-increasing field in educational theory and practice.

Also noteworthy is Dockery’s recent Christian Leadership Essentials: A Handbook for Managing Christian Organizations (B&H, 2011), an edited volume in which Dockery and a team of 18 contributors address the major issues involved in leading Christian organizations and institutions. Among the notable essays are Robert Sloan’s “A Biblical Model of Leadership,” Carl Zylstra’s “Leadership, Organizations, and External Relations,” and Kimberly Thornbury’s “Crisis Management.”