Though a worldview is always more than a set of ideas, it is never less than a constellation of convictions which have a propositional dimension. To understand the character of someone’s convictions, at some point, requires an understanding of that person’s intellectual history, not only the books they have read and the settings in which they have studied, but also the books and settings of their teachers, and their teachers’ teachers. And on and on. Ideas do have a history.
But their history is never abstracted—it always has a “blood-stained face,” as Camus put it so poignantly. Ideas inherently have legs, human legs. And so we must understand that finding a mentor who incarnates the worldview is one side of a reality whose other side is that the ethic of character teaches that beliefs are most clearly seen in behavior. For a student to truly understand the content of his convictions he must see them lived. Both the history of reflection on the nature of pedagogy and the analysis of the interviews indicate that students need to see their worldview incarnated in the lives of their teachers, if it is to be grasped in a way that can make sense of life for life.
But our study also shows that teachers and mentors, on their own, are insufficient models. As crucial as they are, their role is to act as a bridge into a larger, more communal embodiment of the convictions the student is learning to live with. For those who take their university-framed ideas about what is real and true and right and deepen rather than discard them as they move into the responsibilities of adulthood, they have seen a social construction of their beliefs in the life of communities along the way. Often more stumbling than strategic, they have time and again found themselves among like-minded people whose own deepest beliefs are incarnated in a common life.
How does someone decide which cares and commitments will give shape and substance to life, for life? These bifocal lenses—developing a worldview, set alongside the history of ideas; being drawn into relationship with a teacher who incarnates that worldview, set alongside the ethic of character; seeing one’s worldview embedded in a community of character, set alongside the sociology of knowledge—provide depth and breadth as we continue to ask and answer that question which has wound its way through the book from beginning to end.
-Steven Garber in The Fabric of Faithfulness, p. 172-173.