Thursday, May 30, 2013

Christian Librarianship Part 2

Christian Librarianship: Essays on the Integration of Faith and Profession, edited by Gregory A. Smith. McFarland, 2002.

In chapter two of this book, Smith discusses "The Cultural Mandate, the Pursuit of knowledge, and the Christian Librarian." Smith uses Genesis 1:26-28 to argue for the cultural mandate. The idea of the cultural mandate is that men and women have been given the responsibility to develop the creation. This would support cultural activities like the arts and sciences. Joseph McDonald observed, "The creation-mandate to unravel and develop what God has placed in this world implies that much is going to be discovered and that a great deal of information about things and relationships will be produced. Unrestricted and orderly access to information about creation is fundamental and utterly necessary if the creature is to move ahead in 'subduing' the creation. And library science, by comprehensively organizing, making accessible, and interpreting the 'written' human record, is pivotal in assuring this unrestricted and orderly access" (29). Smith in this chapter discusses the "implications" of the cultural mandate "for research, library science, and the Christian mind." He thinks the cultural mandate "legitimizes" the work of Christian librarians.

Smith discusses implications for four areas: "intellectual activity," "research," "Library Science," and the "Christian mind." The cultural mandate "calls us to manage creation's resources so as to bring glory to God and ultimate benefit to the human community" (30). We need knowledge of this world if we will do this effectively. This calls for studying all the branches of knowledge: the natural sciences, the social sciences, and  the humanities. Smith states, "The information thus generated must be disseminated, stored, and retrieved if cultural progress is to continue" (30). The need for these tasks requires librarians and libraries. Smith writes, "while not overtly commissioned by God, librarians accomplish his purposes to the extent that they support the research component of the cultural mandate" (30-31).

The second implication is research. Smith asserts that two "features" of research is part of the cultural mandate. The first is "that research is necessarily cumulative" (31). The second is that it is "expected to contribute to new knowledge" (31). The author notes that there is probably not any new knowledge that is completely original. Smith states, "it should offer something not directly or fully treated in any one source. It will be a new arrangement consisting of tested facts and fresh thought" (310). The "pursuit of learning" is a necessary part of the cultural mandate.

A third implication of the cultural mandate is for the field of library science. Smith discusses three major tasks of librarians: "intellectual freedom," "preservation," and "organization." Researchers need intellectual freedom to access previous knowledge. Scholars must have the opportunity to discuss ideas with other scholars. Smith states, "Yet human civilization knows of no way to promote the discovery of new knowledge other than to create a community where ideas can be freely proposed, discussed, challenged, tested, and modified, leading finally to their confirmation or rejection" (31). Librarians collect previous studies and make them available to scholars. Smith notes, "libraries collect books and other sources to document various positions on a given issue, affording researchers the opportunity to weigh the evidence and come to their own conclusion" (31). In addition to intellectual freedom, libraries must preserve resources for future use.  Smith notes, "It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that wherever ancient civilization reached a high degree of development, there were facilities dedicated to the preservation of legal documents, literary texts, and other written records" (31). The last task discusses is the organization of information. Without organizing the information, it is not accessible to the researcher.

The last implication concerns the life of the mind. The scriptures teaches that "the whole of our intellectual life is to be brought into submission to God" (35). The author notes that there is no divide between sacred and secular knowledge because God is the author of all truth. Smith makes three points about the life of the mind. First, the Christian mind acknowledges two sources of truth, natural and divine revelation. These two sources complement one another. Second, the Christian mind "operates under the influence of the Holy Spirit." The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide the believer into all truth. Third, the Christian mind "takes account of the moral implications of truth" (36). In other words, truth is connected to morality. The intellectual virtues are connected to the intellectual truth. A Christian education is a moral education.

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