Writing a Check to Solve Complex Problems

Writing a Check to Solve Complex Problems

All the easy problems have pretty much been solved. What’s left is complexity that requires more than a narrow lens. I pity the politicians who are asked to resolve complex issues in a 90-second time frame during a debate. The list is long: hunger, infectious disease, refugees, undocumented immigrants, climate change, transnational crime, human trafficking, gender identification, religious freedom, terrorism, widening income disparity, Wall Street, lobbying, purchasing the presidency.

The last thing we need is shark feeders—people who throw populist clichés into the jaws of a fearful public. Dealing with these issues requires grounding in multiple disciplines—history, science, psychology, politics, law, religion, and leadership. We should be suspect of solutions that rely too heavily on any one skill set.  A great Christian may know nothing about climate change. A successful business leader may be horrible at understanding the social implications of immigrants. A lawyer may not grasp the angst of income disparity or Wall Street privilege. No candidate can solve our complex problems. And to admit that would be the death knell of their campaign. A little humility would be a refreshing gift.

In the Christian university, we often tout our broad-based commitment to liberal arts, an education that is multi-disciplined while focusing in a specific direction. Many believe that the work of the university is critical thinking. We are here, they say, to give the world smarter people who can solve problems by using their knowledge. Intense mind-shaping comes first, they say. I beg to differ.

Rather than giving the world critical thinkers, I hope to give the world critical doers. When we prioritize the formation of the whole person over the mastery of facts, we are not calling for less academic rigor but for more. Because brainy ideas will never solve our most pressing problems, bodies will. Bodies learn what minds cannot. The student who scoops soup in a food line, visits a juvenile in jail, helps a victim of human trafficking find a job, meets an undocumented person for coffee, and builds a clinic in Haiti will “know things” that can never be grasped by the unengaged brain. We are called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and body.

James Smith writes,

The end of Christian education is action: the Christian university is the place from which students are sent as ambassadors of the coming kingdom of God. They are commissioned to undertake cultural labor that is redemptive and reconciling, reflecting Christ’s work of reconciliation. The alumni of Christian universities are primed and shaped to take up our task as God’s image-bearers, cultivating God’s good creation, working to renew a fallen world, bearing witness to how the world can be otherwise, bearing fresh olives to a world battered by the floodwaters of injustice.” (Imagining the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith, p.5)

So, if you want to solve complex problems, write a check to a Christian university instead of a political candidate.


  1. Teresa Hodge says

    Wow! I love the whole article, particularly the sentence, ” Rather than giving the world critical thinkers, I want to give the world critical doers”. This article evokes memories of a recent trip to the Dominican Republic where wide-eyed twenty somethings worked alongside seasoned contractors and craftsmen to finish a church that had been waiting seven years for someone to come and help them do the work they couldn’t finish on their own, then coming home to help neighbors in their own communities. I’m super excited about attending a baby shower Sunday afternoon for my young Kurdish “daughter in Christ,” then hurrying back to church to hear Ashley Huber, recent Trevecca grad, and cutting-edge missionary in Croatia. Thank God for the opportunity to have a small window on the world through the lives of these young “critical doers”!

  2. Pam McGraner says

    I certainly don’t have a college degree, but please, God, let me be a critical doer.

  3. Each of us must be “critical doers” – I really love that, especially in the context of what we teach our students in Christian universities as to what is most important. Those who have financial resources should certainly write checks, but many of us can’t. All however can *do* meaningful, tangible Kingdom work in service to Christ with heart, mind, body, and soul – whether it is picking up a pen, getting on our knees, or taking specific actions such with our bodies such as the examples you mentioned here, as we love The Least of These. Thanks so much for this post, Dan!

  4. A Fellow-Traveller says

    Phil says: “Each of us must be ‘critical doers’ – I really love that”

    You’re Exactly Right and hit the nail squarely on the head there!

    That’s because real faith is “Work” (Pisteou). True Faith as opposed to “Dogmatic-Belief” is Dynamic, “Operated or Operative.” A “Doer of the Work” (Faith, Pisteou) this man “shall be blessed in his deed.” As a ‘Sayer’ or ‘Doer;’ the carpenter, “mason,” (Gr. tekton, worker); long-haired; in Greek and in Hebrew, = Messiah, to Anoint (Christ); of gnosis, “a manifestor” in “spiritual phase.” (Perfected, like Paul’s Second Adam, Christ-like (or Spirit-man)

    Jame.01,22-23;25: But “be ye doers” of the word, and not hearers only,” deceiving your own selves.
    For if any be a hearer of the word, and “not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass”…But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but “a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

    LEARN “TO DO”…”TO WORK.” Paul exhorts Timothy, as a “Workman,” to hold a straight course. Romans 13:9-10 says, “Love under Divine-Will or Grace.” This is the Prime-Injunction and Great Work. Because Real-Faith is Work as opposed to mere cult of fundamentalist dogma-belief

    The Magnum Opus or “Great Work” is the Interior-Fermentation and Distillation of the Human-Spirit. Learning To Do and To Serve, To Be a Servant, “Serving Others,” Being Merciful and Kind, Helping Others, Doing the hard “INNER-WORK.”It is Learning “To Do” and “Doing Every Good Work,” in “Gentleness” showing all “Meekness” unto all People.”
    The Key Word here is MEEKNESS. MEEKNESS = CHRIST. CHRIST is Equivalent to CHARITY (Gr. Charis or Grace). They are also of “Equal-Value!” And like Christ, “Charity” is first of all “Meekness,” “Humblesness,” “Patience,” “Suffereth Long,” and “is Kind;” Charity Never Faileth! Ephe.04,2-3 says: With all “lowliness and Meekness” (egoless, death-less and selfless-ness), with longsuffering, “forbearing one another in Agape-Love” (or Brotherly-Love).

    So Compassion or Mercy, in the Christian Sense, is “EMPATHY,” it is the “OPEN-HEART” (as well as the “EMPTY-HAND.”) think you should ALWAYS Try to Embrace “ALL” of Life with Grace and the Open-Heart. In other words, you must “Shine From-Within.” But this also means lots and lots of “Hard Work.” And “PATIENCE,” which comes with the “Calm-Heart.” Be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, “Patient”: In Meekness-of Instructing (Doing and Working).

    PATIENCE. As 1Tim.06-11,18 says: “…follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, [Patience], “Meekness!” That they “Do Good,” that they be rich in good works, “Ready-to-Distribute,” willing-to-communicate!” As the “Beatles” rightly said, “All you need is Love.” (AND LOT’S OF PATIENCE TOO!) It takes lots and lots of Patience…”Ye have to have the of the Patience of Job!” James. 01,3-4 aptly says: That the “trying of your faith WORKETH-PATIENCE.

    Try To React by embracing with your heart, not by bracing your heart against all things, because such is the “Law of a Joyful-Life.” I think you should NEVER close your heart, whatever the trials, suffering, terrors and horrors in life encounters might be.

    Well that’s my two-cents worth.

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