Synthesizing Interdisciplinary Studies and The Christian Attorney

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It’s been a while since I have published anything in my “missions update” category. I realize that many of you are probably tired of long posts by now, so I promise this will be my last long post for a while. I wanted to recycle on here for you one of my last essays I wrote for my BS degree –on synthesizing Interdisciplinary Studies and my goal of being a Christian Attorney– because it is a good description of a side of me that I haven’t posted on here very much. I know personally that I have always appreciated reading or hearing about why people chose the majors that they chose, and how they plan to use that major for their future, because it has always helped me to make better decisions in what to major in or what to do in the future. Plus I just find it interesting.

Hopefully, you can learn something that you would want to do, or maybe realize what not to do. Or maybe it will just be a different perspective for you on how Christians can look at academic study and synthesize that knowledge with the revelation of scripture. But either way, I wanted to update you all on the academic side of my life.

So, without further adieu: here is the essay I wrote on synthesizing knowledge; especially as regards to Social Sciences, Religion, and the study of law.

 

A SYNTHESIS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE AND RELIGION AND HOW IT RELATES TO BEING A CHRISTIAN ATTORNEY

            During my interview in the process of applying to law school I was asked to explain my chosen major, Interdisciplinary Studies, as the interviewer had not heard of that major before. I replied that it is a major for people with interest in more than one subject, and for those who wish to understand and synthesize multiple academic disciplines. For my areas of cognate emphasis, I expounded, I chose Social Science and Religion with a minor in Biblical Studies. This begs the question then how does one synthesize social science and religion, and how would that help a future law student and attorney? Within my chosen major, interdisciplinary studies, the studies of social sciences and religion can be synthesized and, along with my Christian worldview, will positively impact my future academic and professional careers.

Liberty University (LU) developed Interdisciplinary Studies (INDS) for students with credits or life experience from many different backgrounds, colleges, or experiences. Liberty University explains stating,

It combines 2 or 3 unique areas of study to “customize” a major that consists of multiple disciplines. Each B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies major looks different from one student to the next.  There are no specific course requirements for the Areas of Study.  It is an individualized degree that provides flexibility and gives students the options to select courses that will help them meet their academic goals.[1]

Interdisciplinary Studies majors can go on to become historians, sociologists, writers and editors– to name a few.[2] My Interdisciplinary Studies degree, unique to me, is in Social Science and Religion. I chose those two fields because that is what I had the most units in and I wanted to graduate as soon as possible. I changed my majors many times, and took multiple breaks along the way to completing my degree, but ironically Interdisciplinary Studies is a great description of who I am as a person. I love to study many different disciplines, and I love the idea of synthesizing them. Social science and religion can go together quite well, but first let’s take a look at each discipline individually.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines Social Science as “a branch of science that deals with the institutions and functioning of human society and with the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society,” or more simply put, “the study of human society.”[3] Liberty University defines their Social Science major as “history studies with additional coursework in geography, government, and economics. Students are equipped with a global perspective, enabling them to understand world societies and cultures.”[4] The interactions, histories, cultures, and archeological leavings of societies past and present have always fascinated me. My many different interests can been shown by my previous LU majors in Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and most recently History, until I made the switch to INDS. All of these things I find fascinating, but none of them were my very first major and, therefore, not my first academic love.

Before even attending Liberty University, I had already attained my A. of Theology and additional Theology units beyond that. The Encyclopedia Britannica comments on Theology, stating that is a

philosophically oriented discipline of religious speculation and apologetics that is traditionally restricted, because of its origins and format, to Christianity but that may also encompass, because of its themes, other religions, including especially Islam and  Judaism. The themes of theology include God, humanity, the world, salvation, and eschatology.[5]

The study of religion became interesting to me as I began to take my walk with God seriously at age 18 and took 2 Timothy 2:15 to heart which states “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (New King James Version). In fact, it was partly because LU would accept some of these credits that I chose to become an online student with them. Majors in Religion at LU engage in solid instruction on fundamental principles of the Bible, Christianity, theology, and the church.[6] Those who choose this major at LU are good candidates for Christian ministry, or to continue on to graduate school or seminary. Studying religion and Christian theology has been the foundation of my academic career, and it is because of my discovered love of the Bible and studying it that I even began to realize that I liked academics at all.

Social science is the study of human society, and religion is how humans react to God and how God interacts with humans, so naturally the two go hand in hand. Studying religion is a great place to begin to understand humans, as learning about the Creator can only help to better understand the creation. The Bible is also the ultimate textbook when it comes to human history and society, since it explains where we came from, what is our purpose, and even tells us what the future holds. Social science is a good compliment to the study of the Bible and Religion, in that it attempts to record and study the rest of the story—social science being the interesting but non-essential science of human society. A good student of the social sciences will find a greater balance in his or her studies if they open their mind beyond to the possibility of explanations of finite societies, and into realm of the infinite—the divine. Likewise, a good student of religion would do well to observe some of the natural revelation found in human history—and to understand and learn about the Imago Dei creation of mankind.

So then to me the study of religion is the spirit, the supernatural eternal soul, while social science is the body—the flesh and mechanical vessel through which the spirit lives. The soul and the body make the person complete, and the spirit drives the body forward into further action as religion drives the study of human society forward and to greater depths of understanding. The study of religion is the true life of the body, and so studying religion (knowing Christ) and sharing that knowledge (spreading the Gospel) gives life to others, but the social sciences can be the means and the mechanical process for which this study was accomplished or furthered. After all, if there were no human society and human interaction then there would be no religion for humans to interact with the divine. The study of religion gives light, while the study of human society is the shadow to that light. I picture a city, an ancient city, which time has almost forgotten– illuminated by only a dim light which cannot be readily seen. Shadows encroach, and cover this ancient and uninhabited city. What secrets could it hold? Where did its people come from? Who were its creators? Who was their Creator?

If it were not for my Christian worldview, and upbringing, I would never have chosen to study either of these fields in the first place. Dr. Bernard Ramm once said,

All is from presuppositions. There can be no thinking without presuppositions, and therefore, all respectable thinking is from sound presuppositions. Any “neutrality” in science, philosophy, or religion is fictional. The only respectable procedure is to admit that one thinks from presuppositions in a responsible manner. [7]

It was my faith in Christ that led me to desire to learn more about Him, and about His word—from this presupposition, this worldview, I began. Subsequently I naturally wanted to know more about the world He had created. When I look at human society, and even religion, I do not see simply mere coincidences and biological relations. Instead, I see the hand of God. I see how unique God has made us, how many different cultures and people have been uniquely their own—and yet there is still something common about us all. In religion I see more than the need to explain the unexplainable; I see the explanation to it all. In social science I see the truth of religion revealed, for better or for worse.

The synthesis of religion and social science would have gone far to help me in any career, but I can definitely see it aiding me in my future career as a lawyer. Having studied the social sciences (such as history, geography, economy, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, government, etc.) has given me a great basis on which to study law. Knowing where we have come from, and where we are, will greatly help me as I apply the law to effect change (or preservation) to society. Having studied religion, and especially Christian religion, has given me the moral compass and the eternal perspective that supersedes the laws of man—whether past, present, or of those still to come. This beautiful synthesis of religion and social science will no doubt help me to sift through the many ethical and historical dilemmas faced in the study and application of law.

Besides being an attorney I would also like to someday participate in politics. Having a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies has helped harden a growing conviction to integrate all that I have learned and to find balance in it all. Integrating social science, religion, biblical studies, theology and the study of law seems like the perfect preparation for a good politician (although perhaps not the most conventional of one). One who knows the Shepherd’s heart of God, and the pitfalls of human history, along with the complex interworking of human societies and relationships would be well prepared to lead the next faltering generation into the ever darkening and foreboding future.

I did not originally set out to major in INDS, but it seems as though this was God’s design all along. I can see how this major is a good description of exactly who I am, and how it has all prepared me for what I would like to do in the future. I can honestly agree with the Proverbs when they say “A man’s steps [are] of the LORD; How then can a man understand his own way? [Pro 20:24 NKJV]” and “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. [Pro 16:9 NKJV].” I did not know it, but God directed my steps and directed my studies. The synthesis of social science and religion go hand in hand, as one is the study of man and his societies and the other is the study of his Creator and how He relates to His creation. For me, Interdisciplinary Studies is not just a major, but a way to view learning and life in general. This is a lesson I do not think I would have set out to learn on purpose, but I am thankful to have learned the lesson nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

“Bachelor of Science in Religion” Liberty University Online. Accessed on August 11, 2016,   http://www.liberty.edu/online/bachelors/religion/.

“Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences (B.S.).” Liberty University. Accessed on August 11,      2016, http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=16630.

“INDS FAQ,” Liberty University Online, accessed August 11, 2016,             http://www.liberty.edu/online/index.cfm?PID=19157

Louth, Andrew. “Theology.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed on August 11, 2016.             https://www.britannica.com/topic/theology.

Martin, R. Glenn. Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society since 1500. Marion: Triangle          Publishing, 2006.

“Social Science.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. Accessed on August 11,      2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20science

“What Is an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree?” Learn.org, accessed on August 11, 2016,   http://learn.org/articles/What_is_an_Interdisciplinary_Studies_Degree.html

End Notes

[1] “INDS FAQ,” Liberty University Online, accessed August 11, 2016, http://www.liberty.edu/online/index.cfm?PID=19157

[2] “What Is an Interdisciplinary Studies Degree?” Learn.org, accessed on August 11, 2016, http://learn.org/articles/What_is_an_Interdisciplinary_Studies_Degree.html

[3] “Social Science,” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web, accessed on August 11, 2016, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20science

[4] “Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences (B.S.),” Liberty University, accessed on August 11, 2016, http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=16630

[5] Andrew Louth, “Theology,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed on August 11, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/theology

[6] “Bachelor of Science in Religion” Liberty University Online. Accessed on August 11, 2016, http://www.liberty.edu/online/bachelors/religion/

[7] Glenn Martin, Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society since 1500, (Marion: Triangle Publishing, 2006), page 17.

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