Sociology and Faith: Inviting
Students into the Conversation
Robert A. Clark
IN THE MID 1970S, with a fresh Ph.D. in hand, I started teaching at a church-related college where the integration of faith and disciplines was expected and encouraged. Integration was intriguing yet mysterious to me. Graduate school had been no help at all. My graduate training had attempted to separate facts and values and to convince me of the unique significance of sociology for explaining and changing the social world. I was prepared to teach the best sociology I knew, but when I did that, my students complained that it was not enough. My colleagues were engaged in "Christian scholarship" and were excited about incorporating it into their teaching. I was attracted by their passion and the substance of their work but confused by the whole notion of "Christian scholarship" and ill prepared to take it into the classroom.
Over time the meaning and value of integration became clearer to me. I have come to think of the word integrity when considering integration. It connotes connection and wholeness as opposed to fragmentation and inconsistency. So, instead of our understandings of Christian faith and sociology being unconnected or in an incoherent relationship, integration involves finding connections, coherence, or points of commonality between them. There are many views of this "substantive integration" and many forms it can take, but at base they all include meaningful interaction between the ideas of faith and the sub-