From Bubble to Bridge: Educating Christians for a Multifaith World, By Marion H. Larson and Sara L. H. Shady alt

From Bubble to Bridge

Educating Christians for a Multifaith World

by Marion H. Larson and Sara L. H. Shady
Foreword by Eboo Patel

From Bubble to Bridge
  • Length: 223 pages
  • Published: December 13, 2016
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 9155
  • ISBN: 9780830891559

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Understanding our religious neighbors is more important than ever—but also more challenging.

In a world of deep religious strife and increasing pluralism it can seem safer to remain inside the "bubble" of our faith community. Christian college campuses in particular provide a strong social bubble that reinforces one's faith identity in distinction from the wider society. Many Christians worry that engaging in interfaith dialogue will require watering down their faith and accepting other religions as equally true.

Bethel University professors Marion Larson and Sara Shady not only make the case that we can love our religious neighbors without diluting our commitment, but also offer practical wisdom and ideas for turning our faith bubbles into bridges of religious inclusion and interfaith engagement. Drawing on the parables of Jesus, research on interreligious dialogue, and their own classroom experience, Larson and Shady provide readers with the tools they need to move beyond the bubble.

Interfaith dialogue is difficult, and From Bubble to Bridge is the timely guide we have been waiting for.

"Interfaith dialogue has been happening for a long time, whether or not evangelicals have participated. So what might evangelicals bring to the table, other than a guilty conscience for coming rather late? From Bubble to Bridge offers an answer: their activism! These evangelical scholars ask, can dialogue help people of differing faiths get along better as neighbors? If that is not a cardinal aim, they insist, then dialogue seems rather sterile. So the authors set out a model of interfaith engagement. They endorse dialogue, yes, but beyond that, cooperation—out of mutual caring for the common good. Given the conflicts, tensions, and passions of our day, this book is very timely, very much needed."

Joel Carpenter, Calvin College

"From Bubble to Bridge is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding the shaping potential interfaith engagement has on the development of an informed and inclusive Christian identity, especially within the context of a Christian institution. Grounded in Scripture, the authors extend theological considerations of inclusiveness as a means for equipping educators with the tools needed to engage students in productive dialogue concerning interfaith exchange without asking them to compromise their own religious beliefs and commitments. A difficult task to accomplish, the authors carefully and successfully negotiate the theological and the theoretical, the commitment within and the commitment toward, and the imagined and the practical. Quite simply, a must-read for anyone wanting to offer support in some of the many challenges facing today's college student."

Matthew J. Mayhew, William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Educational Administration, The Ohio State University

"From Bubble to Bridge arrives just in time. When fear and mistrust have grown in our national politics, we need to develop our understandings of each other in Christian love. Through these personal, thoughtful, and well-written essays, Larson and Shady have given us just what we need to grow our ethic of love across religious boundaries."

Brian Howell, professor of anthropology, Wheaton College, author of Short Term Mission

"In this well-researched book, authors Larson and Shady articulate why Christians should foster life together across multiple faith traditions. Their ideas are a bridge from biblical teaching and foundational Christian convictions to effective interfaith practices. Their suggestions can aid faculty, staff, and students in fostering a healthy campus climate and productive community engagement. This book was written for such a time as this."

Shirley J. Roels, director, Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, Council of Independent Colleges

"We live in a divided world where difference often leads to hostility and violence. Many times religion is at the heart of these divisions. From Bubble to Bridge is a thoughtful, field-tested approach that moves students and faculty from distance and distrust to engagement and hospitality with religious neighbors. Rather than losing their faith and understanding, students can become more confident in their own commitments while engaging peers from other faith traditions. Professors Larson and Shady write out of their own conviction, passion, and experience. It is hard to imagine a more thoughtful, practical resource in addressing the challenging issues of today's multifaith world."

Jay Barnes, president, Bethel University

"From Bubble to Bridge is an exceptional resource for an important task facing the church today. Larson and Shady describe with clarity the present landscape—one in which people of different faiths (or of no specific faith) live and work together, side by side. For this multifaith world, the authors provide resources to think Christianly about interfaith dialogue and to live hospitably across difference. They are masters at bridging thoughtful theoretical work with practical suggestions and exercises drawn from their significant experience in leading students at a Christian university along these paths. From Bubble to Bridge is essential reading for Christian educators, pastors, and other leaders committed to Jesus' call to love both God and neighbor."

Jeannine K. Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary, San Diego

"Marion Larson and Sara Shady offer an inspiring, informative, and practical guidebook for Christians seeking to navigate a world where contact between people of different religious faiths is rapidly increasing. They focus in particular on students living in the bubble-like existence of Christian colleges and suggest that these students have the potential to become interfaith bridge builders. Therefore, our future needs this book as required reading at all Christian colleges."

Curtiss Paul DeYoung, executive director, Community Renewal Society, Chicago, author of Living Faith

"How Christians live with and respond to people of other faiths is one of the great questions of our day. From Bubble to Bridge is a tremendous resource to help move toward right answers."

John Ortberg, senior pastor, Menlo Church, author of All the Places to Go

"Religious conflicts often dominate today's headlines, and Christian colleges are faced with the challenge of preparing students to live faithfully and graciously as followers of Jesus in a world where peace and good will among people of differing faiths is desperately needed. From Bubble to Bridge explains what's at stake, analyzes the difficulties, and maps a positive path forward. Engaging, well-organized, and overflowing with practical wisdom, this is the guide to interfaith relations that evangelical educators have been seeking."

Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, codirectors, Religion in the Academy Project

"From Bubble to Bridge has arrived at the perfect time. The authors shed light rather than heat on the question of how evangelical Christian colleges ought to engage religious diversity. They manage to take evangelical theology, Christian education, and other religions seriously—no mean feat! . . . Larson and Shady show, in a manner that is both intellectually compelling and practically useful, that evangelical colleges can be leaders in interfaith bridge-building. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this work."

From the foreword by Eboo Patel, founder and president, Interfaith Youth Core

"Because most of us are not likely to know much about the actual views of our religious neighbors, we too often live in fear of those who are different from us. At any moment of the day, we can see that our world is full of violence, hateful words and actions, prejudice, injustice, and oppression that are rooted in fear and ignorance regarding our religious neighbors. At the same time, we also glimpse individuals who are living peacefully with their religious neighbors and are speaking and acting in ways to support those neighbors, near and far. This book compels us to ask and act upon our answer to the question, what does it look like to act from love rather than fear when interacting with our religious neighbors? As a starting place for this work, Marion H. Larson and Sara L. H. Shady remind us of the biblical mandate to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. They have been the catalysts on our own campus for understanding what it means to love our religious neighbors. May this book inspire others to live in ways that promote the common good in our world."

Debra K. Harless, provost, Bethel University

"This book challenges the reader to move beyond the Christian college bubble and build bridges to the world around us so that we might better fulfill our mission of bringing hope, trust, and reconciliation to improve our common social places building understanding between communities."

John F. Easterling, Missiology, 2018, 46(3)


Foreword by Eboo Patel
Introduction: Out of the Bubble
1. Why Interfaith Engagement? A Civic Imperative
The World is a Really Big Place - Tanden Brekke

2. Why Interfaith Engagement? A Religious Imperative
I Want to Know My Neighbors - Janna B.

3. Aren't We Better Off in the Bubble? Remedies from Two Parables
You Don't Have to Water Down Your Identity - Amber Hacker

4. A Model for Interfaith Dialogue
Bearing Witness to the Love of Jesus - Rachael McNeal

5. Cultivating Virtues for Interfaith Engagement
Cultivating a Deeper Understanding of the Diverse Communities of Which I Am a Part - Anna Wilson

6. Inside the Bubble: Creating a Nurturing Learning Environment
There is Power in Stories and Face-to-Face Interaction - Amy Poppinga

7. Inside the Bubble: Sample Learning Activities
Why I'm Glad I Skipped Large Group - Greg Damhorst

8. Interfaith Engagement Beyond the Bubble
A Christian in the Muslim Student Association - April Lenker
Sometimes It Takes One - Ola Mohamed

Conclusion: Across the Bridge


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Marion H. Larson

Marion H. Larson (PhD, University of Minnesota) is professor of English at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has served as a visiting scholar and sat on the board of directors for the Collaboration for the Advancement of College Teaching & Learning. She also served six years as the arts and humanities editor for Christian Scholars Review, and has written on interfaith dialogue, faculty development, and hospitality as a metaphor for teaching, including a chapter in The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education (coauthored with Sara L. H. Shady).

Sara L. H. Shady

Sara L. H. Shady (PhD, University of South Carolina) is professor of philosophy at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to coauthoring several articles on interfaith engagement with Marion Larson, her writing is featured in the books Faith, Film and Philosophy, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education (chapter coauthored with Marion H. Larson), and Walking Together: Christian Thinking and Public Life in South Africa. Her interests include the construction of healthy communities and political societies, the role of religion in politics, especially interfaith dialogue, and early to mid-20th century Continental philosophy.