Many intellectuals in university settings struggle to combine their faith with learning. Rolf Bouma wants to change that.
“It’s sometimes very difficult for us to reconcile faith with intellectual pursuits unless it’s in a theological context,” says Bouma, founder and director of the Center for Faith and Scholarship, a Home Missions-supported campus ministry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“There’s almost a fear among Christians that if we question too much or explore new ideas, our faith may be jeopardized. Our work at the center focuses on honoring intellect as a gift.”
The center’s mission is to promote the Christian intellectual tradition on the campus of an elite public research institution, as well as to encourage faculty, staff, and students to pursue scholarship and shape their own intellectual vision in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The center was born when the Campus Chapel, a long-established U of M campus ministry, saw a need to penetrate more deeply into the fabric of the university. While the Campus Chapel provides a community with opportunities for worship and fellowship, the center brings in nationally respected Christian lecturers, participates on university panels and committees, sponsors film series, and attracts guest scholars.
By injecting faith into academic conversations, research, classes, special projects, and advanced studies, Bouma says the center hopes to “become a valued part of the university community by helping students and faculty understand that their faith has intellectual integrity.”
Though always drawn to the ministry, Bouma also loves academics. After majoring in history at Calvin College, he decided to go to law school. But even that couldn’t quell the pull toward ministry. So rather than settling into a law practice, he went to seminary and spent nine years in the ministry before the itch set in to return to academia.
A smaller congregation at his second pastorate allowed him to study full-time at Boston University in the field of systematic theology, focusing on the doctrine of creation.
Today Bouma feels he’s found his calling in Ann Arbor. “This is a wonderful and very encouraging place to be,” he says. “Gifted, faith-filled students are entering their professions thoughtfully and carefully. They’re taking the connection they’ve made between faith and intellect into corporate, academic, and social settings around the world, creating a ripple effect that’s exciting.”