Learning for the Love of God

A Student's Guide to Academic Faithfulness

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Most Christian college students separate their academic life from church attendance, Bible study, and prayer. Too often discipleship of the mind is overlooked if not ignored altogether. In this lively and enlightening book, two authors who are experienced in college youth ministry show students how to be faithful in their studies, approaching education as their vocation.
This revised edition of the well-received The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness includes updates throughout, two new substantive appendixes, personal stories from students, a new preface, and a fresh interior design. Chapters conclude with thought-provoking discussion questions.


Preface to New Edition
1. Wide-Eyed
Beer and Circus
Grades and Accolades
All for One
2. Babylon U?
Daniel and Friends
Faithful under Fire
Panning for Gold
3. Believing Is Seeing
A Whirlwind Intro to Worldviews
Like Gestalt
The Re-sighting of Saul/Paul
4. A Story-Framed Life
Life in the Shire
Stories in Conflict
Hearing and Telling the Story
5. Fish-Eyed Learning
The Disembodied Mind
Thinking Scripturally
6. Four-i-ed Learning
Herbie's Bible
7. Embodying the Outrageous Idea
Connect Up, Connect Out
Dig Deep, Dig Slow
8. Chutes and Ladders
Read Twice, Write Thrice
Dream Big, Act Small
Work Hard, Play Hard
Appendix I: Deeper
Appendix II: Liturgies for Learning
Appendix III: Student Responses


"What does discipleship have to do with learning? How do I follow Jesus as a student? What does the Lord require of me at university? This marvelous book answers just these sorts of questions. It's one of a kind, an expansive vision of Christian learning written not for professors but for students. Best of all, this is a book that can profit students in any educational context, secular or religious. Buy a box of these and give them to every high school senior you know."

James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College; author of Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation

Praise for the First Edition

"Deep yet easily accessible, this book reminds us why we study. Many students want to play a part in the great Story--redeeming all of life and building the kingdom in a hurting world. Such outrageous vision requires the wisdom and brilliance of the Creator in every field and discipline. The humility of a true scholar yields not only purpose but also curiosity and delight as we rejoice in the glory of God on the far side of every question."

Kelly Monroe Kullberg, author of Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas

"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is the sort of book that should be read by Christian students going to college and studied in campus fellowship groups. It provides clear and accessible guidelines as to how to relate one's faith to academics. I hope it will be widely used."

George Marsden, professor of history emeritus, University of Notre Dame; author of The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

"This book addresses numerous timely issues related to college transition, the place of academics in the life of the Christian student, and the development of a lifelong Christian perspective on issues of calling and vocation. Nothing I have seen yet addresses these particular issues with the combination of theological depth and easy accessibility that marks this book."

Walt Mueller, president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding; author of Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

"As you get ready to plunge into college, add this book to your reading list. It will help you navigate the common landmines that can trip up your faith, and it will give you the tools you need to sprint ahead."

Kara Powell, executive director, Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary

"From their own years as students and teachers, Melleby and Opitz have written a wonderfully imaginative guide for university students who want something more from their studies. Probing yet playful, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is full of wisdom for those who yearn for their learning to move beyond mere labor to true love."

Steven Garber, director, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture; author of The Fabric of Faithfulness

"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is an outstanding book about how Christian students can learn to be faithful to their Lord in their studies. This volume shows them why and how. Its biblical moorings, fresh and clear language, and vivid stories give it transformative power. It is pitched at just the right level to reach its target audience. The authors have invested much in writing this insightful book. Those who read it--students and teachers alike--will reap genuine dividends."

David Naugle, professor of philosophy, Dallas Baptist University; author of Worldview: The History of a Concept

"Opitz and Melleby's wonderfully outrageous little book will tickle, inspire, challenge, and encourage students to gain a real life--not just grades, degrees, and jobs. Their message is deeply biblical and splendidly relevant for today's learners and, truth be told, teachers. Well done, faithful servants!"

Quentin J. Schultze, Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Faith and Communication, Calvin College; author of Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing?

"Papers and professors, labs and lectures. Few Christian books for college students even mention the central aspect of college life--academics and course work. This one, though, lays it all out, brings it all together. It is easy to read, fun, funny, and full of robust insight. There is nothing like it in print. Students who desire to truly live out the implications of their faith in the classroom setting will find this book to be an extraordinary help; campus ministers or faithful faculty wanting to assist their young friends in serving Christ in the classroom will want to have a stack of these on hand to pass out. It is on that short list of must-reads, essential for grooming Christian faithfulness in the college years."

Byron K. Borger, Hearts & Minds Bookstore, Dallastown, Pennsylvania

"The most difficult transition in the life of faith is from high school to college. As many fade away from the faith as come to the faith. Morals, vocation, and the simple development of the mind are each put to the test in a way unlike any time in all of life. This book, while it focuses on learning to think as a Christian, will prove valuable in each of the areas for any student who gives it the time it deserves. Read and listen, I say. If you do, you will rise up and call these authors 'Blessed!'"

Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary; author of The Jesus Creed

"We need this book! The idea of a Christian worldview has passed into common use, but we seem no closer to living what we supposedly believe. Opitz and Melleby assert--correctly I think--that we won't ever put legs on a biblical vision for all of life until we begin to learn differently. Other people have asserted the same, but I've yet to see anyone else make it so clear how this can be done."

Daniel Dupee, president, Coalition for Christian Outreach

The Authors

  1. Donald Opitz

    Donald Opitz

    Donald Opitz (PhD, Boston University) is chaplain and senior director of Christian formation at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He is the author of numerous articles and has worked as a pastor as well as a campus minister.

    Continue reading about Donald Opitz

  2. Derek Melleby

    Derek Melleby

    Derek Melleby (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is director of calling and career development at Lancaster Bible College. He is also an associate staff member with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. He lives in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.

    Continue reading about Derek Melleby


"There is much of value here for Christian students in general This is because the authors have managed to navigate the tightrope between 'popular but lightweight' on the one hand and 'academic but turgid' on the other hand The result is a surprising amount of creatively packaged theological material contained within a slim volume The style is informal and conversational; any references are gathered at the end of the book, and discussion questions complete each chapter. . . . This book received good reviews and endorsements first time round and is worth a reissue. It is refreshingly unpatronizing, it stresses the importance of the biblical narrative in discipleship, and it offers a robust challenge to students to take seriously the call of academic faithfulness as a way of pleasing and honoring God."

Patrick Mitchel,

Journal of Education and Christian Belief

"Creative chapter titles frame significant points and assist students to more easily remember each chapter's primary content. Within each chapter, humorous anecdotes and direct statements make a reader feel as thought one is having a conversation rather than reading a book. Personal examples also abound, explaining and reinforcing the authors' main ideas. Lastly, each chapter relies heavily on and strongly advocates biblical discernment."

Ron Belsterling,

Journal of Youth Ministry

"[This book] offers essential guidance to all that we mean by 'developing the Christian mind' in just the right way. . . . It is easy to read and yet challenging, thoughtful but not arcane. Learning for the Love of God is ideal for students, offering insight about the nature of learning, the ways to think faithfully in college, and how to discern God's fingerprints (and the smear of idolatry and ideology) all over the subjects they are studying. I cannot easily tell you how wise these two guys are, and how fresh their writing is. There is no other book that covers this stuff so well. . . . Fun, funny, interesting, challenging, and very practical, but connected to very astute Christian philosophy. . . . May Learning for the Love of God be used to invite students to take their faith into the classrooms and labs and study halls, to make their own connections between their deepest religious beliefs and their studies, and find, early on, a sense of God's call upon their lives. "

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"Now in its second edition, this book is an important contribution to Christians, particularly those involved in educational circles in some way. It can be teachers or students, parents or educators, leaders or community decision makers, and so on. The idea of 'academic faithfulness' needs to be expanded beyond the circles of the academy. . . . Read this book. Buy it for your children or college students. For a student who is trained in 'academic faithfulness' through college will stand a better chance of godliness and vocational integrity through the journey of life."

Conrade Yap,

Panorama of a Book Saint blog

Praise for the First Edition

"We couldn't be more impressed. [This book] is serious, well-written, charming and challenging. It does this job--explaining the contours and the importance of a Christian vision of life and learning--as well as any book in print. . . . This book deserves to be acclaimed as it will change the lives of those who take it seriously, and could revolutionize . . . young adult ministry, campus work, and even high school fellowship groups. . . . This little book is unlike any other, and will make a difference, underscoring a movement of thoughtful Christians relating vocation and calling, work and career, God's ways in the real world. It may be outrageous to say this, but this thin, fun book, may be one of the most important books of the decade."

Byron Borger,


"A must-read for every college student. . . . This is the best book on this stuff, and, as I've often said, it is interesting, well-written, fun, and although meaty, not intimidating. Perfect for students, helpful even for faculty or others who work in higher ed. . . . There simply is nothing like it. Tuck it along with your student, or send a care-package, quick. It is wonderful and important."--Byron Borger, heartsandmindsbooks.com

Byron Borger,


"These two have cooked up the tastiest book of its kind! This is a fun, yet altogether serious call to be outrageous, to be full of wild hope even in your college learning. . . . The Bible speaks of 'taking every thought captive'. . . and the 'renewal of your mind'. . . and this book makes it relevant for young students. Have you pondered how to serve God, even in your schoolwork? This is the best entry point to this wonderful idea."

Byron Borger,


"Looking for a meaningful gift for a graduating high school senior? Check out this new book intentionally written for those preparing to embark on college careers. . . . What makes this book so appealing is its specificity. . . . This book is written for young persons graduating from high school, preparing to enter college, and wondering what role their Christian faith should play in this next phase in their lives. Opitz and Melleby . . . write as though they actually are talking to college students. Their engaging and thoughtful book requires intelligent reflection from the reader, never descending into the cute, trite or pedantic. It is intellectually stimulating and challenging--and at times quite humorous."

George C. Love,

Presbyterians Today

"Do you have a son, daughter, grandchild or friend who is heading to college for the first time or returning for another year? If so, the book The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness is the perfect read for them before they leap into academia. . . . This imaginative guide . . . offers practical support to college-bound students."

Susan Aungst,

Hershey Free Press

"Opitz and Melleby have written a book that is long overdue. Here is a plea for students to take their academic pursuits as part of their faithfulness to Christ. . . . The book provides a map of what it means 'to take every thought captive to Christ'--in their own words, a 'fitness campaign for the Christian mind.' It is a book that pastors, youth leaders, and parents should place in the hands of every starting college freshman. I'm sending a copy to my nephew. The next step is getting them to actually read it. If they do, they will be exposed to a vision of college life beyond their wildest dreams."

David John Seel,


"The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness asks questions about formation and faithfulness. Filled with rich insights and probing questions, it encourages students, through its accessible chapters and group discussion questions, to connect their faith with their studies, through all the excitement and trials of academic life."

Gayle Doornbos,


"The authors use key examples from Scripture and pop culture to insightfully maintain the 'outrageous' idea that students can use their studies to better connect with God. In addition to these practical insights, Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby offer sound ideas on developing a present-future worldview founded in 'His Story.' Their language is both humorous and unassuming, painting clear guidelines for the seasoned Christian as well as the unfamiliar seeker. Each chapter ends with interactive questions and suggestions for further reading to continue the journey. A great gift to college-bound senior or those already pursuing their degrees, the authors have presented a solid and relevant guide useful on both the Christian and secular campus."

Tony Miles,

YouthWorker Journal

"By all means read this and give it to your teenagers, especially those headed for a college or university. . . . I appreciate the way the authors frequently reminded us throughout the book that knowing also involves doing. . . . I also appreciate their emphasis that knowing is also relational--good perspective on Christian epistemology. . . . Buy this book! Read it and discuss it! Give a copy to any teachers, preachers, professors, and students."

Equip to Disciple

"This is an easy-to-read, interesting book encouraging students to take up the challenge of marrying their beliefs in God with the commitments to academics. . . . My favorite question the book asks is, 'Does God care about academics,' and the book builds on that question, seeking to help the reader develop a level of academic study that relies on the truth of God as well as adopting the principles of God."

Tim Baker,

Journal of Student Ministries

"A clarion call for students to step out of hiding, fully commit themselves to honoring God and His Word, and embrace the concept of scholarship as an honorable act of worship. This is a primer work, an easy read of eight short chapters with thought-provoking questions and recommended readings at the end of each chapter. . . . Practical suggestions are made to enable students to strengthen their minds and discern truth. . . . The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness would be appropriate for students, parents, those who minister to the 'y' generation, and college Bible study groups. . . . An encouraging, uplifting, practical, and inspirational read."

Jon Forlines,

Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought

"This book is a must-read for students seeking the tools for success inside and outside the classroom during their time at the university. . . . Each of [the authors'] backgrounds is a clear contribution to the content and thoughtfulness of this work. . . . It is obvious that both experience and study inform their plea for Christian, academic faithfulness in the ivory tower. The format of the book is both useful and effective. Each chapter is introduced with a relatable story or pop-culture example and ends with questions for discussion. This book would be most helpful for students in a small group setting in the presence of a facilitator. However, it should also be considered for individual use. . . . Likely, this book would be of significant impact for a cohort of students entering into Christian higher education. However, since learning happens in a myriad of places, it would also be useful as a book study in any Christian sector because of the key idea it recognizes: that learning is full of impact and one should not enter into it passively. . . . The authors anticipate conflicting ideas that students will encounter in college and give them tools to navigate the conflict critically. . . . Christian professors, students, and staff members of any institution of learning will be glad they read this book. Short but thoughtful, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness accomplishes its goal to challenge and inspire readers 'to love God and neighbor' through learning. For readers who have never explored the place that faith has in learning, this is a must-read, and for scholars who have long been thinking about these concepts, it is a refreshing look at how faith should inspire a true change in our lives that manifests faithfulness in academics."

Jessica Rimmer,

Christian Higher Education

"This book differs in several ways from some other recent volumes apparently addressing similar goals. First, it is genuinely written for the average beginning college student, rather than leaning to the highly academic and philosophically inclined. The prose is lively, readable, and very accessible, and is punctuated by anecdotes and comments from students. Second, it does not attempt to induct the student into particular theories of the academy or philosophical debates . . . but instead settles for pointing students in the direction of connecting their faith and their learning without prescribing many of the intellectual outcomes. Third, the task of being a Christian scholar is not presented solely in terms of developing Christian concepts and positions, but includes a focus on practices that span the devotional and the educational."

David I. Smith,

Journal of Education and Christian Belief

"My all time favorite book for college students. . . . If you are a pastor or youth worker, I think it is nearly professional malpractice not to get this into the hands of your college-bound friends."

Byron Borger,


"Written in breezy prose with stories and humor, [this book] is perfect for the younger student, inviting them to take their college classes seriously, to develop habits of the heart that allow them to serve God in their course work and to be faithful as students. Yet, professors, I believe (and parents and youth workers too) need to be ever aware of how younger adults think, need to know the kinds of resources that make sense to their young friends, need to recall basic ways to articulate a whole life Christian vision that relates faith and learning, worldview and way of life, heart and mind. [The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness] is ideal for this and it would be foolish to think that it is 'beneath' us to be refreshed with such important, important insights. It is obviously one of the most important books for those who do campus ministry or young adult work. It is fabulous for RA staff, for student affairs leaders, for college administrators, for high school youth workers--not to mention college students themselves!"

Byron Borger,