Earlier this semester, Dr. Andrew Irvine, associate professor of philosophy and religion, had his Maryville College “Faith Works” speech published on “The Church and Postmodern Culture” blog. The website is sponsored by long-time running publishing company Baker Academic.
“I posted the text up on my Facebook account, and I’m Facebook friends with this guy,” Irvine said. “The editor of the blog read it and decided ‘Hey, I’d like to put that on the blog.’”
Baker Academic has been around for almost 75 years and has, as their online mission statement reads, “published high quality writings that represent historic Christianity and serve the diverse interests and concerns of evangelical readers.”
“Baker, as I understand it, is an evangelical publishing house, which it is unusual that I would get published by a conservative evangelical publishing house,” Irvine said. “I think it’s interesting that it spoke to some people who are in those circles.”
The essay, a reproduction of Irvine’s speech, focuses on deciphering what exactly “faith” means, and how “faith works.” He first asks the big questions on how faith is shown and used in ordinary life and how there are a few ways in which he believes faith “works.”
Essentially, Irvine disagrees with the idea that true faith is just a tool for, in his words, “furthering ends,” and instead he describes how he feels that faith is almost another trait that makes humans who they are as beings.
“The theme for chapel this year was ‘Faith Works,’ so that got me thinking about what faith is, if it’s useful, and what we mean by ‘faith works,’” Irvine said. “I was thinking about faith as something more than just a Christian idea or experience.”
To explain this idea, in his essay Irvine recounts his travels abroad to Argentina and China, where people who have suffered great devastation in their lives still hold onto to a sort of faith.
“They’ve gone through these terrible times, and yet they met with this kind of courage, creativity and commitment,” Irvine said. “That seemed to reflect the Chinese idea of how faith is a power in human experience that transforms us.”
His inspiration came from, as he jokingly put it, not only an invitation from Anne McKee that “forces you to become inspired,” but from his experiences as an eternal student of philosophy and those of his travels. While his essay explains part of his views, what he would like for others to take out of it is more specific and goes a simple interpretation of faith. The essay presents a different perspective on faith and calls for a more progressive understanding of it while keeping an open mind about all the faiths that people hold in the world.
“It’s not just a simple ‘you have it or you don’t,’ nor is faith something easy,” Irvine said. “I don’t think it’s as simple as saying you believe in Jesus, but rather something that involves the whole person wholly committed to something.”