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The Passionate Intellect

Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education

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"A welcome addition to recent Christian writing on higher education. While addressed primarily to the prospective student, teachers and administrators too should benefit from its discussion of Christian humanism and humanist education in a postmodern world."--Arthur F. Holmes, Wheaton College

In The Passionate Intellect, Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann take up the theme of humanism and put it into the context of changing commitments in the institution of the university from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment to postmodernity. Citing evidence and discussion of an institution in crisis, the authors argue for the relevance of faith commitment as part of the life of the mind and of a viable humanism. This is not a "how to choose a Christian college" book or a "hanging on to your faith through college" book. Rather, it offers students and educators an understanding of what is happening on the college or university campus. How did we get where we are, where values such as skepticism, secularism, consumerism, and pragmatism seem to dominate the landscape? And how does a Christian appropriately engage the intellectual life of the university without withdrawing into sectarianism? The authors emphasize the continued value of the university and seek to present a vision of what its intellectual culture should become in order to serve the greatest benefit to all students and scholars.

The Passionate Intellect is written in the first instance for Christian students who may be uncertain how to affirm intellectual endeavor in general and how to negotiate the ideological terrain of the contemporary university. Other students, particularly those in the humanities or with a humanistic outlook, will also find that The Passionate Intellect provides a means of contextualizing disciplinary issues within a broader framework. A unique feature of the book is the authors' "Neohumanist Manifesto," a statement of faith that seeks to foster a healthier worldview and bring together an understanding of rationality, texts, and personal identity.


"In the increasingly secular atmosphere of contemporary university life, Klassen and Zimmermann's The Passionate Intellect provides an excellent practical guide for those Christian students (and scholars generally) committed to an integration of faith and the intellectual life. Providing concrete directions through the increasingly labyrinthine corridors of academic ideologies, the book offers useful insights into the long tradition of Christian humanism, its defense of full human dignity, the goodness of creation and personal endeavors within that creation, and the joy of learning and critical analysis, 'embraced in humility and trust'--the crown of incarnational humanism and common grace."--Peter C. Erb, visiting professor of Catholic Studies, Centre for Christianity and Culture, University of Prince Edward Island

"This is a welcome addition to recent Christian writing on higher education. While addressed primarily to the prospective student, teachers and administrators too should benefit from its discussion of Christian humanism and humanist education in a postmodern world."--Arthur F. Holmes, emeritus professor of philosophy, Wheaton College

"Regarding the challenge of Christian involvement in higher education, this book gets right at the heart of the matter--what does Christianity contribute to the life of the mind? And it does so with great erudition and aplomb. A very helpful contribution to the burgeoning literature on Christianity and the university."--Robert Benne, author, Quality with Soul--How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their Religious Traditions; and director, Roanoke College Center for Religion and Society

"How do young Christian students prepare themselves for the hard and rewarding work of developing their intellect? What does it mean to be a faithful thinker in an age of doubt, fear, and intellectual isolation? Klassen and Zimmermann provide a rich introduction to the nature and history of Christian thought, how the church has responded to the intellectual weltanschauung of its day, and make a compelling case for a vibrant, thoroughly biblical engagement with the predominant postmodern worldviews of the twenty-first century. The authors argue convincingly that Christians need to think--with humility, conviction, and an understanding that God's common grace extends to the world of ideas. Christian students and faculty will find this book an immense resource in their collective task of 'taking every thought captive' to Christ."--Ronald P. Mahurin, vice president, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities

The Authors

  1. Norman Klassen

    Norman Klassen

    Norman Klassen (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is professor of English and modern languages at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ontario. He is the author of Chaucer on Love, Knowledge, and Sight.

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  2. Jens Zimmermann

    Jens Zimmermann

    Jens Zimmermann (PhD, University of British Columbia) is Canada Research Professor in Humanities at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He is the author of Recovering Theological Hermeneutics: An Incarnational-Trinitarian Theory of...

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"Intended as a primer for Christian freshmen, this text has study questions concluding each chapter and a bibliography for further reading. It nicely summarizes the philosophical and historical developments that have transformed academia from its 'holistic medieval beginnings' to its 'postmodern fragmentation' while erroneously constructing Christian faith as 'anti-intellectual.' The interest is in reclaiming holistic, intellectual inquiry based on 'the rudiments of Christian theology.'. . . The authors are to be applauded for attempting to resurrect a term such as 'humanism,' even an 'incarnational' one, especially in Evangelical contexts. . . . Even the noncollege freshman will find this a helpful treatise on 'thinking' as an essential part of Christian identity."--Randall J. Pannell, Religious Studies Review

"[The authors] direct The Passionate Intellect at the university student struggling to understand how to reconcile Christian faith and university study. . . . They write warmly and invitingly, and are careful to build their argument with patience and as much attention to detail as one can expect in a modest book-length study. . . . Unlike contemporary titles about the Christian worldview that take a superior or triumphalist tone, The Passionate Intellect is written with the same humility that its authors call for in others. It would serve as an excellent textbook or supplementary reading in first-year Christian worldview courses or intellectual history courses. Students attending universities where this book is unlikely to be chosen as a text would also benefit immensely from this work, in campus study groups, for example. Libraries should certainly include it in their collections. Klassen and Zimmermann are to be commended for furnishing their readers with such an inviting and clear map of a territory that contemporary readers find increasingly foreign and strange."--Ken Badley, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

"[A] wise book. . . . Klassen and Zimmermann make helpful distinctions between the more humanist (Gadamer, Levinas) and more antihumanist (Heidegger, Foucault, Lyotard) postmoderns, and how such figures complement and critique each other. . . . [It is] intended as a guidebook for Christian university students beginning to wrestle with intellectual currents of the day and seeking to understand how they can both learn from and address such currents with integrity. Within that context, the book does its job well. . . . I hope [this book's] light radiates to far corners. Amid polarizations, our era does provide avenues for rejoining subject and object, for thinking 'within' and 'through' and not just 'above' our traditions, biases, bodies, faith commitments, or objects of study. Christian and not-Christian, we need such [a book] to help us conceptualize, critique, and share in this moment of opportunity."--Michael A. King, Conrad Grebel Review

"[The authors] have provided . . . a survival guide for Christian young people entering either Christian or secular universities. A clear writing style . . ., study questions after each chapter, and a list of further readings will make the book even more useful to its intended readers. . . . Those headed off to college in the fall should add this book to their summer reading list. So should the professors and administrators responsible to help students think Christianly, for this is a well-reasoned, historically-grounded, and theologically sound book that returns humanism to its rightful home, the Church."--Steve Lennox, Evangelical Journal

"One of the strengths of the book is that it highlights the importance of worldview formation, which is an inherent part of the university. . . . The authors are right to argue that religion has been and will continue to be instrumental in preparing students to face the issues of our culture. Another strength of the book is that it provides motivation for potential high achieving students to become a part of, succeed in, and challenge the secular universities' guiding assumptions. . . . The authors are right to note that the anti-intellectual stance of the church that has led to the marginalization of Christians from the mainstream could be reversed. . . . Ultimately, this informative book is a call for Christian students to be the paradigm of academic excellence, exercising the virtues of a regenerate life to shape and guide culture through moral and academic excellence."--Keith A. Boozer, Southwestern Journal of Theology