The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief & Behavior
By Steven Garber
Downers Grove, IL
10.2 (Fall 1999) : 294-295
In a recent survey of college freshman, only 40.8% considered the “development of a moral philosophy of life” as an objective that was essential or very important during their time in college or university (“Attitudes and Characteristics of Freshman, Fall 1997," Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac 45/1 [August 28, 1998]:22). Tragically, it is frequently within these formidable years that college students formulate a “world view” that will mark them the rest of their lives. The de facto “moral philosophy of life” of the university or college culture will offer its relativistic siren cry to these young people, many of whom will be shaped by it without the awareness of its influence.
Garber’s The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief & Behavior during the University Years is a challenge to consider the importance of these foundational and formative years in shaping an individual’s “moral philosophy of life.” Steven Garber is on the faculty of the American Studies Program sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities. The popularity of the text among Coalition college faculty indicates Garber has struck a nerve regarding the meaning of collegiate education in the relativistic and fragmentary flux of modern university culture.
The volume builds around eight chapters that address seminal challenges to students in the modern university. The author begins by asking the student to answer the simple question “Why do you get up in the morning?” The answer reveals one’s motives, life purpose, and world view. Though it is a simple question, the accompanying response will both define and determine how one’s views will play out in the post-collegiate era. Recognizing the importance of this four-year window, Garber hopes to reshape and reconsider the aforementioned answer. Garber’s thesis is, “The years between adolescence and adulthood are a crucible in which moral meaning is being formed, and central to that formation is a vision of integrity which coherently connects belief to behavior . . .” (20).
Subsequent chapters address probing questions concerning the relationships between belief and behavior, between telos and praxis. Clearly, the author desires the reader to see beyond lectures and textbooks to the real heart of the intellectual issues that swirl around a college campus and define purpose and life. Questions concerning the meaning of education, morals, and “world view” surface and are discussed.
The text is rich with the literary and cultural musings. Some who have read the work felt the volume of literary quotes and cultural references is, at times, distracting from the central message, or in some situations, overshadows or confuses an understanding of the point. Ironically, biblical citation is largely absent, in spite of the plethora of other literary sources. Illustrations from the author’s own experiences in working with college students appear in abundance, giving the work a personal and human dimension.
The book claims, “Professors, campus ministers, parents, youth pastors and others who are concerned with college students face an immense challenge. How do you help Christian students during one of the most eventful and intense periods of their lives learn to connect what they believe about the world with how they live in the world?” Garber offers some direction amid the fragmentation of the contemporary college. Students should consider their education carefully, should face the reality of “world view” construction, and look beyond degrees to purpose and meaning in life, rather than to some materialistic fulfilment through career attainment that comes only with a college degree.
This reviewer felt that The Fabric of Faithfulness might be digestible to a college faculty rather more than an eighteen-year-old college freshman. The popularity of the book among the Coalition faculty and its use as a discussion tool seem to support this notion. Students in the later years of the college experience might benefit, but students starting their college program are seldom attuned to the pending realities that they will face.
The Fabric of Faithfulness is a welcome interaction with the issues and challenges that confront today’s university students as they correlate belief and behavior. For the 40.8% of entering college freshman who desire a “moral philosophy of life” and the 59.2% who will get it regardless of conscious effort, those who work with this generation must look beyond lectures, textbooks, and examinations to the formation of the students’ world view.