A Model for Christian Academic Engagement

One path to winning respect from the Academy is to research, promote and parrot the ideas which dominate the scholarship of the moment. This method, along with hard work, of course, is the quick way to become respected and important in the academy. As Christians, however, we are not seeking respect and importance as an ends, our goal is to be a prophetic and transformational voice. At minimum, we should seek to be “salt and light” which slows the slide of the world toward nihilistic and Godless thought.

If we do so under the banner of being “Christian” we are immediately ruled out and “ghettoized” however. The premise of the modern academy is secular. Therefore we must engage it according to its secular rules if we hope to be successful there. We have three things working in our favor.

  1. First, the truth is on our side. Careful research will always demonstrate and validate a Christian perspective of the world.
  2. Secondly, we have a guide for what that truth is from the outset, from the Scriptures. Although the Bible does not answer some complex questions directly, it provides the proper framework for answering any question.
  3. Third, our ideas will usually be novel, because they cut against the current of the prevailing thought.

In addition, if you are a student in the academic arena, you have the advantage of being motivated. Many or most students passing through the university are there to get a degree and move on, not for academic purposes. That means they are often not particularly engaged, which is frustrating for professors. If you are highly engaged, your professors will often take interest in your work just for that fact.

If we refuse to label our work as Christian and to make Christianity the overt theme, what approach can we use? The perspective of this blog is that we identify those thinkers, regardless of their religious background, who are defending a Christian truth, and use their work as a basis for developing it further. You as a Christian are easily dismissed as biased, but the elite members of the academy past and present are not.

Wading around to find those thinkers and ideas which are Christian is difficult, however. It takes serious orientation, developed over many years to sift the various notions of a field for their Christian and un-Christian elements, because the terms and papers elaborately disguise the simple ideas and agendas of those who write them. Your instructors will have you drink at a trough that promotes their perspective, which is often not informed by God at all. If you do not have any other source of information, you will be hard pressed to argue back in the language of the discipline.

That’s why we are here. Our job is to give you the “big ideas” of each subject from a Christian perspective, and then to help you find the scholars who are far ahead of you in advancing those ideas or sympathetic ideas. This includes both Christian resources to orient you, and scholarly resources to build on. You will be surprised at how much progress you can often make with this approach. If you do it right, your professors might even open up to you, despite your differing perspective. At the very least you will receive a true education, learning to wrestle with the ideas of the time .

Too often Christian students have their faith undermined by professors, books, and classmates who are presenting the arguments over something that seems not to have direct bearing on religion. Very rare are the ideas that have no bearing on religion, however. Each idea is a component of how we see the world. Our Christian worldview is comprised of an entire array of these ideas. As these views are removed one by one, we wake up one morning and find ourselves with an empty faith, comprised of nothing but clinging on to a long held belief and community. Essentially, we can get propagandized out of our faith. Christian belief is much more than an empty faith, it is the most rational and coherent way of explaining the entire world. Instead of tearing down our faith with each idea, we should be reinforcing it.

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