Following his move to The Big Apple to serve with InterVasity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministry at NYU this fall, David is back to wrap up his series onÂ Why You Must Be Dying to be a Christian Scholar. For earlier posts in the series click here and here. Take it away David! ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director ofÂ ESN, editor of ESNâ€™sÂ blogÂ andÂ Facebook Wall
4.Â We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.Â In his lucid (though acerbic) book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), David Bentley Hart summarizes the â€œsimple but thoroughly enchanting taleâ€ underlying modern attitudes toward the Christian Tradition:
Once upon a time, it went, Western humanity was the cosseted and incurious ward of Mother Church; during this, the age of faith, culture stagnated, science languished, wars of religion were routinely waged, witches were burned by inquisitors, and Western humanity labored in brutish subjugation to dogma, superstition, and the unholy alliance of the church and state.Â Withering blasts of fanaticism and fideism had long since scorched away the last remnants of classical learning; inquiry was stifled; the literary remains of classical antiquity had long ago been consigned to the fires of faith, and even the great achievements of â€œGreek scienceâ€ were forgotten till Islamic civilization restored them to the West.Â All was darkness.Â Then, in the wake of the â€œwars of religionâ€ that had torn Christendom apart, came the full flowering of the Enlightenment and with it the reign of reason and progress, the riches of scientific achievement and political liberty, and a new revolutionary sense of human dignityâ€¦.Â (33)
Hart goes on to note that the sole defect of this â€œsimple and enchanting taleâ€ is â€œthat it happens to be false in every identifiable detail.â€ (34)Â Nevertheless, most modern Western people have swallowed this tale hook-line-and-sinker. [Read more…] about Why You Must Be Dying to be a Christian Scholar (Wrap Up)
Last week I began to introduce myself and my understanding of the Christian scholarâ€™s vocation by briefly outlining the controversy which marked my time as a student at Westminster Theological Seminary.Â (You can read last weekâ€™s post here.)Â This week I would like to share what I think were some of things I learned about the challenge of Christian scholarship from my time at Westminster.Â I should make it clear that my interest is not specifically in the challenge of doing serious scholarship within a confessional institution like a Westminster or a Wheaton.Â Nor is my interest (in this post, at least) in the peculiar challenge of doing serious, faithful Biblical scholarship.Â While confessional institutions and the field(s) of Biblical studies both present unique challenges for Christian scholars who venture into them, my purpose here is to share some of what I have learned from my experience at Westminster about being a Christian scholar in general:
1.Â Now we see through a glass, darkly.Â Christian scholars in any field must be prepared for their studies to transform not only their conceptions of the world, but of God.Â When I arrived at Westminster I thought I more or less already had all the answers and that I was there to learn how to better articulate and defend what I already â€œknew.â€Â I thought Christian scholarship was simply a matter of bringing my theological assumptions to bear upon the study of a particular field.Â I did not expect to have those assumptions challenged by my studies, much less for me to undergo the theological equivalent of what Thomas S. Kuhn calls a paradigm shift. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival at Westminster I began encountering information and evidence for which my working theological theory simply could not accountâ€”I encountered â€œanomalous data,â€ to again put it in a Kuhnian idiom.Â [Read more…] about Why You Must Be Dying to be a Christian Scholar (2/2)
What am I, a nice campus minister, doing on a blog like this? I am neither a scholar nor the son of a scholar. I occupy no endowed chairs. I will be presented with no festschriften upon my retirement.
Why, then, have I been asked to be a regular contributor here on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog? The short answer is that I am doing what I can to help Christian scholars to integrate their faith with their scholarship. I am an InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministries staff person serving the students and faculty of New York University. So while I may not be a scholar per se, I am a pastor for scholars â€” for graduate students, faculty, and others engaged in post-graduate education. My calling is to help scholars and aspiring scholars to live out their callings by inviting and encouraging them to allow their faith to enrich their scholarship and to allow their scholarship to inform their faith.
The full story of how I got into the Christian scholarship business is a long one, stretching back through my graduate schooling at Duke and Westminster, my time as a philosophy major at a secular state college, and into my years as a bookish Christian teenager. But in many ways, my sojourn in Christian learning really began when I went to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I had long had aspirations of becoming a Christian scholar and I even had some fairly fleshed-out ideas about what that was supposed to mean â€” ideas largely influenced by George Marsdenâ€™s The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)Â andÂ Nicholas Wolterstorffâ€™s Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). However, I really had not even begun to understand the challenges involved in actually doing Christian scholarship â€” actually giving oneself to the serious study of a particular field, following the evidence wherever it leads, and thinking things through from a self-consciously Christian vantage â€” until I was put through the wringer in seminary. [Read more…] about Why You Must Be Dying to be a Christian Scholar: David Williams Intro (1/2)
Today is official the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which means, of course, it’s time for summer reading lists.
Before I get to my own list:
What’s on your summer reading list?
I tend to follow Alan Jacobs’ advice and read according to whim, but here are a few books or series that I want/hope to read this summer. I’m notoriously bad for failing to follow through on reading commitments and for losing focus partway through a book, so view this list as merely aspirational.
Photo credit: Mark Hamilton via Flickr
Emerging Scholars Related
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. This book (in actuality, a long monograph) has been the talk of the town among higher education pundits. Arum and Roksa analyzed various datasets for approximately 2,300 freshmen and sophomores at 24 colleges and universities around the country, and their findings aren’t terribly encouraging if you think students should learn something by going to college. I’m about halfway through, but it’s a fairly slow read for me – lots of numbers and charts.
Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities by Mark C. Taylor. This seems like a logical follow-up to Anthony Kronman’s Education’s End. Taylor is the chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia, so I look forward to seeing how his analysis and proposals differ from Kronman’s.
Finding God Beyond Harvard: The Quest for Veritas by Kelly Monroe Kullberg. A personal, intellectual, and spiritual memoir by the founder of The Veritas Forum â€” who is now an InterVarsity colleague working with Women in the Academy and Professions. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read it yet, so if you see Kelly, don’t tell her. [Read more…] about What Will You Be Reading This Summer?