Even if you have been reading the Emerging Scholars Blog for a while, you may have missed some of the articles we originally published on emergingscholars.org. On an occasional basis, we’ll be republishing these articles here on the blog. This article, adapted from a talk given at the University of Tennessee, was originally published on the ESN website in December 2009. Many thanks to InterVarsity’s Julian Reese for obtaining permission for us to publish Dr. Wolterstorff’s remarks and, of course, to Dr. Wolterstorff for sharing them with us. ~ Mike
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University
Editor’s note from the original article: Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology Emeritus at Yale University, has been one of the leading voices in Christian philosophy for decades. In October 2009, he spoke at the Veritas Forum at the University of Tennessee, presenting a talk entitled “The Role of God in Social Justice” and debating David Reidy on the question “Good Without God? The Problem of Justice and Human Rights”. While he was there, Dr. Wolterstorff spoke to Christian graduate students, and he has graciously allowed us to publish his remarks here.
What advice can I give to you whose sights are set on becoming Christian scholars?
My first piece of advice is that you get clear on what you understand by the project of being a Christian scholar. When I travel around and talk to Christians in colleges and universities, and when I read what Christians say about the contemporary university, I over and over come up against one or another of the following three attitudes.
Some assume that what goes on in the contemporary university is pretty much OK as it is, and they look for ways of supplementing that with some distinctly Christian thought and activity. Sometimes this supplementation takes the form of Christian organizations, housed in the region of the university, inviting students to weekly Bible study, to Sunday worship services, to twice-a-year camp-outs, etc. Sometimes it takes the form of Christian scholars adding theology to what goes on in the university, adding biblical scholarship, adding philosophical reflections on the epistemology of religious belief, etc. This additive or supplemental approach was in fact the basic strategy of most Christian colleges in the U.S. until around thirty years ago.