As part of my work at Following Christ 2008, I had the privilege of assisting the Humanities track, chaired by Michael Murray and Dora Rice Hawthorne, and joined by Mark Noll of Notre Dame, Hal Bush of St. Louis U., and Paul Moser of Loyola U. Chicago. The final session of the track addressed the question “How Can We Be Agents of Human Flourishing in the Church and the World?” Michael Murray identified three threats to Christian scholars that hinder their role to the church and the world: specialization, fear of “popularizing,” and fear of being “outed.” He also offered thoughts about how to counter these.
Specialization: Michael noted that this is necessary in the academic world, but it can also lead to pride and vanity. He gave the example of Christian philosophers chasing after the accolades of the academy rather than focusing on more important issues.
Popularizing: Michael noted that being called a “popularizer” is often viewed with disdain in the academy, and is also a source of competition and jealousy. (E.g. Professor A gets acclaim for being good on TV, even thought Professor B considers himself the real expert in the field.) Michael emphasized following your calling and giftedness (whether to popular audiences or academic audiences), and also called on us to encourage Christian scholars who are good popularizers to pursue that gift.
Outing: Michael noted that we shouldn’t use our academic positions as soapboxes for our faith, but that many of his colleagues aren’t even looking for opportunities to confess their faith in Christ. He advised academics to be bolder in their faith, rather than fearing what others will think of them.
Audio from the tracks was recorded, though I’m not sure about the schedule for releasing them. If audio from Michael’s discussion is posted online, I’ll add an update.
What do you think of his analysis? Anything to add or modify?
The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.