For the most part, the Emerging Scholars Network serves students and faculty at secular universities, and the majority of our posts and articles are written for that audience. When we’ve touched on the subject of “being open about your faith,” it’s generally dealt with the idea of evangelism — such as Rick Mattson on witness in the academy or myself on “thresholds of evangelism” — or with the ability to speak and work as an explicitly Christian scholar on the secular campus. A few weeks ago, we published a talk by Nicholas Wolterstorff on this topic, and at the 2008 ESN gathering, Ken Elzinga spoke on “Being Open About My Faith Without Turning People Off.” The Related Posts section below has a few more suggestions on this same topic.
Working and studying as a faithful Christian on a secular campus can be a challenge, but it’s not the only one that ESN members face. For many of us, we live with one foot in two worlds — the academy and the church — without belonging fully to either. Because of our commitment to Christ and our (in most cases) evangelical theology, we are a distinct minority in the academy. Our academic perspectives, meanwhile, often mean that we don’t fit perfectly with our fellow evangelicals. James Bielo touched on this tension, which takes different forms depending on your own church and theology.
Most of our discussion of these issues has centered on secular universities, but what about Christian colleges? How open should you be about your theological commitments at a Christian college?
A few weeks ago, I received an email from an ESN member seeking advice about applying for jobs at religious colleges:
I’d love to know your thoughts on how to delicately share your religious faith when applying to teach at religious colleges not exactly the same as your faith tradition. For example, I was raised Catholic, attend an evangelical church, but still believe much Catholic doctrine…. and I’m applying to a few more traditionally conservative evangelical colleges. Is it better to share less? What are others’ thoughts on the ethics of this?
I have a few thoughts, but I’d like to see what others say first. What’s your advice to younger scholars applying to Christians schools whose theology doesn’t exactly fit their own?