Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning

By David I. Smith; James K. A. Smith | Go to book overview

From Curiosity to Studiousness:
Catechizing the Appetite for Learning

Paul J. Griffiths

Learning requires both knowledge and the skills of thought. To have the former without the latter is to be a storage device, capable of being called upon for information but not for thought. That is not learning; it is at best recall and display, activities better performed by computers than human beings. To have the latter without the former is to be capable of distinction, argument, and synthesis, which are the paradigmatic intellectual skills; but to have nothing to which to apply them. That also is not learning; it tends toward sophistry. The learned, ideally, have intimate acquaintance with and love for a body of knowledge, coupled with the ability to think about it, view and present it from different angles, ornament and develop it, and in those and other ways return its embrace. The learned are active lovers of what they know, and like all lovers they need at once to know the bodies of their beloveds and how best to return the embrace given. The appetite for learning, in this full and nuanced sense of the word, needs catechizing, which is to say instruction, direction, and formation. Christians have, or should have, rather particular ideas about all this — about, that is, the nature and value of learning, and about how the appetite for it should be kindled and directed. Those ideas, or some of them, are the topic of this essay; they run counter to a good many of the ortho-

This essay is a descendant of a lecture given at a conference called “Teaching, Learning, and Christian Practices,” hosted and sponsored by the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 29 October 2009. I have removed from it most traces of its oral origins, and expanded it in various ways. I am grateful to David Smith and Jamie Smith for the invitation to participate in that meeting, and for the many useful questions and comments I received when the lecture was delivered.

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